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Family-Friendly Black History Month Movies

Even when he was five years old, our son A.J. was keenly aware of race and his brown skin. Although he’s always attended schools where there are people who look like him – and people who don’t – he knows that Black Americans in this country have a history of coming to this country as slaves and later fighting for equal rights. His public school does a great job of discussing significant moments in Black history all year round, not just during February. Family-friendly Black History Month Movies are an engaging way to reinforce that for your family.

Letters to Our Children

One way to make those moments from slavery and civil rights come to life is by watching movies. Here’s a great list of movies to watch with kids for Black History Month that also features black achievers, which I think is so important to balance out the negative media messages. You can stream these films if you have Amazon Prime or a service like Hulu, Netflix, etc. But I like the idea of buying DVDs as well because our son loves to read the credits and see photographs of the actors. I’m also giving away a $100 Netflix Gift Card with fellow Georgia Bloggers, so be sure to scroll down and enter!

Slavery

“The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman” is a fictional movie, but nevertheless is praised for the way it captures the life of a Black woman over a span of 110 years. Cicely Tyson is the lead actress who takes us on a physical and emotional journey from slavery to civil rights.

Civil Rights

“Selma Lord Selma” also tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.is told from the perspective of a girl played by Jurnee Smollett who’s writing a school assignment about the civil rights leader.

“Red Tails” is a movie I saw in theaters in 2012 and was glued to my seat. Although Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. are the most well-known actors in the film, it’s the brand new stars like Nate Parker and David Oyelowo and who play the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Let me warn you, there are war scenes and death in the movie. Depending on your child’s age you can decide whether they can handle it.

“Eyes on the Prize” is a documentary series produced by PBS and tells the story of civil rights from 1954-1965. I’d probably wait until A.J. is 10 or 12 years old to watch this series because of the police dog and fire house scenes. I think they could be disturbing to him at this moment and we’d need to discuss it first.

“The Watsons go to Birmingham” takes the fictional book of a Black family from Flint, Michigan who travels South in 1963 to see their family in Alabama. The Watson experience the stark contrast between living up North with no segregation and the fight for rights in the South.

“Selma” also features David Oyelowo and earned him a Golden Globe award and an NAACP award for portraying Martin Luther King, Jr. This film follows “the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition.” This effort led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Black Achievement

Akeelah and the Bee” is another fictional film that had me in joyous tears by the end. Maybe because I remember what it was like to be one of a handful of students in gifted classes in elementary school, I could identify with Akeelah and her pursuit of winning the National Spelling Bee. It stars Keke Palmer and Laurence Fishburne. Perfect for kids of ALL ages!

“Something the Lord Made” tells a heart-stopping true story of Black achievement. A White surgeon recognizes the talent and interest of  Black janitor who wants to work in medicine. Together, they break down barriers and save lives. Considering A.J.’s interest in science, I can’t wait to show him this film.

“Pursuit of Happyness”  with Will Smith and his son, Jaden caught international attention when Chris Gardner was featured on The Oprah Show. The single father went from homelessness to multimillion-dollar brokerage firm owner. The film is based on Garnder’s autobiographical book.

“The Great Debaters” is based on a true story of a Texas professor at a historically Black college who formed its first school debate team. While coping with discrimination and The Great Depression, the debaters went on to beat more well-known schools. Fans of Denzel Washington, Nate Parker and Jurnee Smollett will love this one.

“Pride”  chronicles the story of the city of Philadelphia’s first Black swim team. With no experience and a swim facility that’s set for demolition, the team fights its way to the state championship.

Family Friendly Black History Month Movies

Disney & Dance Films

“Ruby Bridges” is another book that became a film but tells a true story. Ruby was just five when she became the first Black child in the U.S. to attend a white school in New Orleans. I haven’t seen this film YET – but I think it’s one of the first ones I’ll show A.J. I want him to remember that his grandparents were just like Ruby and told to attend separate schools.

The Disney film “Polly” features The Cosby Show actors Keshia Knight-Pulliam and Phylicia Rashad in an updated version of the novel, Pollyana. Polly goes to live with her affluent aunt and copes with life in the South. The dance and music scenes are perfect for kids.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is the first to feature a Black cast with the late Whitney Houston and Brandy.

Talk back to me in the comments! Are there any Black History Month Films I missed and should add to the list? Do your children have any favorite films about civil rights or Black achievement?

 

2018 and 2019 were groundbreaking years for film and Black characters. I shared my personal adoration for how Dark Skin and Natural Hair are the Beauty Standards in Black Panther’s Wakanda. Then when I attended a screening of Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse featuring an Afro-Caribbean lead character, I spoke with actor Shameik Moore about his sense of responsibility playing the role.

About Joyce Brewer

Creator & Host of Mommy Talk Show. Emmy award-winning TV journalist.Wife & Mommy; Mom Blogger; Social Media Coach; Long Island, New York transplant living in Atlanta, GA. Follow Joyce on Twitter @MommyTalkShow Author of Use What You Know: A Business Idea Guide for Moms featuring interviews with mompreneurs who created businesses using their skills & backgrounds.

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23 comments

  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    This is a great list of movies. I will be sure to watch some with my kids.

  2. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    These all sound like great ways to introduce kids to black history in a way that isn’t too much for them. I think we should all remember to honor the folks who contributed to black history no matter what color we are.

  3. Seattle Travel Blogger

    I think this article is full of good insights.
    However, I look forward to a day when there will be NO race prejudice or even distinctions.
    Maybe someday, if only in the United States even, there could be a day of race equality.

  4. These are some awesome recommendations. We saw Selma a few weeks ago! I remember my kids loving Akeelah and the Bee when they saw it years ago.

  5. You have listed some amazing suggestions here! I think it is important for all children to understand and respect black history.

  6. Toni | BoulderLocavore

    I’m glad to hear your son’s school instructs about Black History Month. I feel like the US is such a melting pot now it’s important to recognize the role in our history all the ethnic groups play. Great movie list. Akeelah and the Bee is one of my favorite movies of all time.

  7. This does bring up the race prejudice that sadly still goes strong, but also shows a great method you’ve created. Definitely a really good list of movies! Keep it up

  8. Those all sound like great choices. I would love to start with the Disney & dance movies so I can share them with my family.

  9. I entered the giveaway because I am such a Netflix junkie! So many great movies and exciting for a child to discover on Netflix…I loved Selma Lord Selma and cant wait to meet Jurnee this month too!

  10. These are movies worth watching, I enjoy learning about all history and this is very important as well. Thanks for sharing the list!

  11. I love watching Netflix. There are so many great movies and shows to choose from. This is a great giveaway.

  12. You’ve got some good movies on the list. And that is a fantabulous giveaway!

  13. I will make it a point to see The Watsons Go to Birmingham. Thanks for the great list of films.

  14. Kirstin N. Fuller (@thetravelindiva)

    Great list of movie recommendations. I think Selma was fantastic.

    • I haven’t seen Selma yet. but I really want to show our son Akeelah and the Bee. He’s a great speller and I can see him doing well in them!

  15. Love this list!

    I also loved the movie Gifted Hands, the autobiographical story of Ben Carson. Whether or not you agree with his politics, he has an incredible rags-to-riches story.

  16. I am so excited to have won!!! Thank you!!

  17. Thanks for sharing this list of black history movies. Will bookmark this page.

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