Films to Watch in Honor of Black History Month

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In 1926 historian Carter G. Woodson started “Negro History Week” in the second week of February. It has since blossomed into Black History Month. During this month, bus-boycotter Rosa Parks was born, feminist and writer Alice Water was born, the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People was founded, feminist and poet Audre Lorde was born, the Anarchist People of Color was founded and writer W.E.B. DuBois was born. To celebrate Black History Month, this is a list of movies from black directors, writers and actors that are perfect to watch in celebration, or during any month throughout the year. Some of these are my old favorites, others discovered with help from Media Studies professor Teresa Moore.

1) Within Our Gates from director Oscar Micheaux starring Evelyn Preer, Alma Prichard, Flo Clements, James D. Ruffin, Jack Chenault (1920). A story about the plight of the African-American community, this film is the oldest surviving film from a black director. It is a silent film that chronicles an African-American woman’s journey North to find enough funding to keep a school for poor black students open.

2) Eve’s Bayou from director Kasi Lemmons starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jurnee Smollett, Meagan Good, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan (1997). This film chronicles the turbulent family life of a black family in 1960s Louisiana with an all star cast.

3) Do the Right Thing from director Spike Lee starring Danny Aiello, Ruby Dee, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, John Turturro (1989). Racial conflict hits an all time high on a single street in Brooklyn neighborhood Bedford-Stuyvesant on the hottest day of the year.

4) Malcolm X from director Spike Lee starring Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Al Freeman Jr., Sonny Jim Gaines, Albert Hall (1992). “Malcolm X” presents a mesmerizing story about the life of black American hero Malcolm X from his days as a hustler to his embrace of Islam.

5) The Color Purple from director Steven Speilberg starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Willard E. Pugh (1985). Based on the novel by African-American novelist Alice Waters, this film shows a poor black woman from the South that overcomes abuse through friendships.

6) Boyz N the Hood from Director John Singleton starring Laurence Fishburne, Angela Basset, Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr. (1991). Set in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980’s, this Academy Award nominated film explores the interplay of race, poverty and violence.

7) New Jack City from director Mario Van Peebles starring Wesley Snipes, Ice T, Judd Nelson, Chris Rock, Vanessa Williams (1991). Controversial and viewed by some as exploitative and glorifying the drug world, “New Jack City” presents a gritty view of the underground cocaine industry.

8) Daughters of the Dust from director Julie Dash starring Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbaro, Trula Hoosier, Umar Abdurrahamn (1991). Three generations of Gullah (from the Sea Islands in the South) women migrate to the American mainland in the early 1900s and risk losing their cultural identity.

9) One False Move from director Carl Franklin starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thorton, Michael Beach, Earl Billings (1992). An all star cast gets wrapped up in a crime thriller when drug deals, murder and law enforcement collide in Arkansas.

10) 4 Little Girls from director Spike Lee (1997). This Academy Award nominated documentary focuses on the racially related bombing of a Baptist church in 1963 that’s responsible for the death of four young girls and the expansive cultural impact.

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