Black History Month – and Beyond – Watch List

Audrey Carroll
February 11, 2021 

During Black History Month, we honor and celebrate the history and contributions of Black people in our country. Whether in politics, art, sports, or pop culture, Black people have continually overcome racism and bigotry to become national heroes and international icons. These films recognize the central role of Black Americans in U.S. history during Black history month and beyond:

American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free

This PBS documentary tells the stories of trailblazing Black female entertainers Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier. The film explores how the women overcame racism and sexism in their careers and has commentary from contemporary Black entertainers such as Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, and Alicia Keys. Available for free on PBS until February 16, 2021.


Partly based on her memoir, Becoming is an intimate look at the life of former first last Michelle Obama. The documentary follows Obama on her book tour and features footage of her travels, talk-show appearances, and work during her eight years as First Lady. Streaming on Netflix.

Black Art: In the Absence of Light

Inspired by the 1976 exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” this documentary explores the erasure and exclusion of Black artists. Despite making some of the most captivating, conceptual American art, Black artists are rarely featured in major museums and exhibitions. The film includes interviews with artists and showcases their work and stories. Streaming on HBO Max.

Black Is King

This visual album by Beyoncé reimagines the morals from Disney’s The Lion King. The film tells the story of a young African prince who is exiled after his father’s death. The prince’s journey is an allegory for the African diaspora, reclaiming culture and heritage, and explores Black identity. Streaming on Disney+.


From director Spike Lee and producer Jordan Peele, Ron Stallworth, the first Black police officer in Colorado Springs, infiltrates the local Ku Klux Klan group in with the help of his Jewish counterpart. Together, they attempt to take down the hate group from the inside-out. Based on a true story. Stream on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video.

Black Panther

Based on the Marvel comics, Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, who is crowned king of Wakanda after his father’s death and is challenged to abandon the country’s isolationism and begin a revolution. Black Panther earned seven Oscar nominations and is the third highest-grossing film by a Black director. Streaming on Disney+.

I Am Not Your Negro

Filmmaker Raoul Peck looks at modern institutionalized racism through the lens of the James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript of a personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends — Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. Stream on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Kanopy.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Starring Daniel Kaluuya, this film tells the story of the betrayal of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s by William O’Neal, an informant for the FBI. The long awaited Hampton biopic explores the themes of oppression and revolution with a stark relevancy to present day America. Based on a true story. Streaming on HBO Max.

Just Mercy

Young lawyer Bryan Stevenson moves to Alabama to represent people who have been wrongfully condemned. One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian, an innocent man on death row. Despite enduring racism in America’s justice system, Stevenson perseveres with the McMillian case and goes on to found the iconic Equal Justice Initiative. Based on a true story. Streaming on HBO Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. The Equal Justice Initiative also has a discussion guide for the film available to download.


Disney and Pixar’s Soul follows the journey of Joe Gardner, a middle school jazz teacher whose soul becomes separated from his body on the day he lands the gig of a lifetime. Soul explores what it means to be human and find your “spark” in life.  This is the first Pixar film to feature a Black protagonist. Streaming now on Disney+.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Nobel-prize winning writer Toni Morrison reflects on her life and journey in publishing some of the most important books in history such as “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon.” The film features interviews with Angela Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sanchez, and more. Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song

This series reveals the 400+ year history of the Black church and discusses its role as the bedrock of African American survival, resilience, and freedom. The series includes interviews with faith leaders such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. William Barber II, Pastor Shirley Caesar, and more. Premieres February 16, 2021 on PBS.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

After sitting in the basement of a Swedish television studio for 30 years, some of the most iconic footage and material of the Black Power movement was recovered and compiled. The documentary contains some of the most candid interviews ever given by thought leaders such as Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Kathleen Cleaver, and Bobby Seale. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The Hate U Give

Based on the Angie Thomas novel, The Hate U Give tells the story of teenager Starr Carter, who lives in a poor, Black neighborhood but attends a mostly-white, wealthy prep school. The worlds collide when Starr witnesses her best friend get fatally shot by a police officer. Available on Hulu and YouTube Movie.

The Tuskegee Airmen

In 1942, a group of Black college graduates were selected to train as pilots in the Army Air Corps in Tuskegee. Despite facing racism and prejudice from their peers and the general population, the Tuskegee Airmen would go on to become the first African-American pilots in the US military, flying missions in Europe. Based on a true story. Available on HBO Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Whose Streets?

This documentary tells the story of the murder of Michael Brown and the Ferguson uprising. The film is composed of interviews with activists and community leaders who played key roles in the Ferguson protests and explore what needs to happen next in the movement for justice. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Kanopy.