Black History Month is an especially good time to reflect on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that African-Americans have experienced throughout U.S. history. More importantly, it is necessary to recognize and celebrate black people and history-making icons that overcame past discriminations to achieve their goals.
In honor of Black History Month, we have chosen a selection of movies that cover a variety of issues and historic figures.
Released in 2014, Race tells the story of the late, great Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in track and field at the 1936 Olympics. The movie examines the intense pressure Owens was under to perform (and not perform) at the Olympics in the face of Hitler's attempt to promote Aryan supremacy.
The film also explores the political tensions that Owens faced in the United States as a black athlete, and how Olympic glory and athletic supremacy still couldn’t bridge many of the racial divides he encountered.
Selma was released in 2013 to critical acclaim. The film intimately explores the tumultuous state of affairs between Dr. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon B. Johnson over discriminatory voting practices. Through non-violent protest, MLK and his followers held three marches from Selma to Montgomery, which eventually lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma is a powerful and critical film that should be made a priority movie to watch during Black History Month.
Deemed by the Los Angeles Times as a "social phenomenon," Waiting to Exhale is the story of four black women as they navigate love and life. Featuring an all-black cast with the likes of Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon, Waiting to Exhale made over $80 million at the box office and also served as Forest Whitaker's directorial debut.
Boyz N the Hood is a teen hood drama film that explores the day-to-day life of living in inner-city Los Angeles as a young black man. Featuring Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Morris Chestnut, and Laurence Fishburne, Boyz N the Hood was a runaway success that inspired numerous films.
The success and power of the movie also lead John Singleton to be nominated for Best Director at the 64th Academy Awards. This made Singleton the first black director, as well as the youngest director, to be nominated.
Written and directed by Spike Lee—one of the most successful black directors in the film industry—School Daze is a musical that takes a deep dive into the complex relationships and perceptions at a historically black college. The film is also notable for its willingness to touch on discrimination and other aspects that impact racial relations, as well as its all-black cast.
From Julie Dash, who is the first African-American woman to have a feature film distributed in US movie theaters, comes Daughters of the Dust. The film follows a black family that is moving from a southern island to further up north for new opportunities, and it does so through the eyes of an unborn child.
The film’s creative use of imagery and its emotionally-charged story does a wonderful job of exploring the culture of the Gullah people, as well as the trials and tribulations they experienced in the past.
Ray is a powerful movie that dives deep into the life of rhythm and blues legend Ray Charles. Starring the talented Jamie Foxx, who won five major lead actor awards for this performance, Ray explores how a man who lost his eyesight at age six became a pop legend. It also doesn’t shy away from the many obstacles Ray Charles overcame, such as his difficult upbringing and battles with drug addiction.
What other movies are you watching for Black History Month? Let us know!