Think Pieces

10 Documentaries & Books That Will Help You Understand The Black Lives Matter Movement

Top 10 Documentaries To Help You Understand The Black Lives Matter Movement

News outlets are covering less and less of protests and social media outlets are configuring their algorithms so important information won’t show up on your timeline. We are here to tell you that Black lives still matter, and will always matter.

With that being said, we know there are thousands of people out their who are allies and are protesting on the front line with us and we thank you. However, we want you to know that oppression towards the black community did not being with George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, or even Rodney King. There has been decades of oppression that you have to be knowledgeable about in order to truly understand the pain and anger that the black community has been suffering from for years.

Below you will find a list of books and documentaries that will give you a better understanding of what has happened and is still happening in our communities today. Please keep in mind that these sources are in no particular order and that there are thousands of other resources that can help educate you as well.

13th by Ava DuVernay

1. 13th

13th is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. The film explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States;” it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime.

DuVernay contends that slavery has been perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchingsand Jim Crow; politicians declaring a war on drugs that weighs more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. She examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, discussing how much money is being made by corporations from such incarcerations.

You can watch 13th on Netflix and YouTube.

The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison

2. The Origin of Others

“America’s foremost novelist reflects on the themes that preoccupy her work and increasingly dominate national and world politics: race, fear, borders, the mass movement of peoples, the desire for belonging. What is race and why does it matter? What motivates the human tendency to construct Others? Why does the presence of Others make us so afraid?

Drawing on her Norton Lectures, Toni Morrison takes up these and other vital questions bearing on identity in The Origin of Others. In her search for answers, the novelist considers her own memories as well as history, politics, and especially literature. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Camara Laye are among the authors she examines. Readers of Morrison’s fiction will welcome her discussions of some of her most celebrated books―Beloved, Paradise, and A Mercy.

If we learn racism by example, then literature plays an important part in the history of race in America, both negatively and positively. Morrison writes about nineteenth-century literary efforts to romance slavery, contrasting them with the scientific racism of Samuel Cartwright and the banal diaries of the plantation overseer and slaveholder Thomas Thistlewood. She looks at configurations of blackness, notions of racial purity, and the ways in which literature employs skin color to reveal character or drive narrative. Expanding the scope of her concern, she also addresses globalization and the mass movement of peoples in this century. National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates provides a foreword to Morrison’s most personal work of nonfiction to date.”

You can purchase this book online here.

The New Negro by Alain Locke

3. The New Negro

The New Negro: An Interpretation (1925) is an anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays on African and African-American art and literature edited by Alain Locke, who lived in Washington, DC, and taught at Howard University during the Harlem Renaissance. As a collection of the creative efforts coming out of the burgeoning New Negro Movement or Harlem Renaissance, the book is considered by literary scholars and critics to be the definitive text of the movement. “The Negro Renaissance” included Locke’s title essay “The New Negro,” as well as nonfiction essays, poetry, and fiction by writers including Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Eric Walrond.

The New Negro: An Interpretation dives into how the African Americans sought social, political, and artistic change. Instead of accepting their position in society, Locke saw the new negro as championing and demanding civil rights. In addition, his anthology sought to change old stereotypes and replaced them with new visions of black identity that resisted simplification. The essays and poems in the anthology mirror real life events and experiences.

The anthology reflects the voice of middle class African American citizens that wanted to have equal civil rights like the white, middle class counterparts. However, some writers, such as Langston Hughes, sought to give voice to the lower, working class.

You can purchase this book online here.

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

4. Between The World And Me

Between the World and Me is a 2015 nonfiction book written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and published by Spiegel & Grau. It is written as a letter to the author’s teenage son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being Black in the United States. Coates recapitulates American history and explains to his son the “racist violence that has been woven into American culture.” Coates draws from an abridged, autobiographical account of his youth in Baltimore, detailing the ways in which institutions like the school, the police, and even “the streets” discipline, endanger, and threaten to disembody black men and women. The work takes structural and thematic inspiration from James Baldwin’s 1963 epistolary book The Fire Next Time. Unlike Baldwin, Coates sees white supremacy as an indestructible force, one that Black Americans will never evade or erase, but will always struggle against.

You can purchase this book online here.

Waiting For “Superman” by David Guggenheim

5. Waiting For “Superman”

This film by director Davis Guggenheim investigates the public school system in the United States, and uncovers the many ways in which education in America has declined. Rather than relying largely on statistics and expert opinions, Guggenheim focuses on five students — Anthony, Bianca, Daisy, Emily and Francisco — portraying their own individual struggles and triumphs within problem-plagued academic settings where there are no easy solutions to the myriad issues that affect them.

You can watch Waiting For “Superman” on YouTube and Hulu.

When They See Us by Ava DuVernay

6. When They See Us

In 1989 a jogger was assaulted and raped in New York’s Central Park, and five young people were subsequently charged with the crime. The quintet, labeled the Central Park Five, maintained its innocence and spent years fighting the convictions, hoping to be exonerated. This limited series spans a quarter of a century, from when the teens are first questioned about the incident in the spring of 1989, going through their exoneration in 2002 and ultimately the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.

You can watch When They See Us on Netflix.

The Innocence Files by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck

7. The Innocence Files

The Innocence Files dives deep into three major causes of wrongful conviction: the use of flawed forensic science, in this case the debunked “science” of bite mark evidence; the misuse of eyewitness identification; and prosecutorial misconduct. The series’ three parts — The Evidence, The Witness and The Prosecution — devotes three episodes to each topic. The series also explores the roles that race and racism play within the criminal justice system.”

You can watch The Innocence Files on Netflix.

LA 92 by Simon Chinn, Dan Lindsay, TJ Martin, and Jonathan Chinn

8. LA 92

“Examining the tumultuous period following the verdict in the Rodney King trial in 1992. The acquittal of four police officers for beating a black motorist saw several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles.”

You can watch LA 92 on Netflix and YouTube.

Pedagogy of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire

9. Pedagogy of The Oppressed

“First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm.”

You can buy this book online here.

I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin

10. I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro is a 2016 documentary film directed by Raoul Peck, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, the film explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin’s reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as his personal observations of American history.”

You can watch I Am Not Your Negro on YouTube.

In conclusion, we hope that you read the books and watch the documentaries listed to not only educate yourself, but to also help educate those around you. Note that all links to the books mentioned above will redirect you to a Black owned bookstore in the Washington, D.C. are, please support them and provide them with as much love as possible.

Remember, All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter too.

1 comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: