Movies to watch about Race in America



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People: Mz. Debo

After the recent killings of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and others, America has seen a rise in protest against police brutality and racism. Protests are also taking place worldwide over the same issues about police brutality, systemic racism and social injustice against Black Americans. Movie Studios have stepped up this week to announce they will be making some films rent free through the month of June on digital streaming services such as AppleTV, FandangoNow, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, Redbox, the PlayStation Store, Vudu, Microsoft and YouTube.

While there are plenty of movies to watch while at home during the Covid-19 crisis, here’s a list of movies that you can watch for free that shows a look into the life of some Black Americans throughout history.

“Selma” is based on how the American southern states discriminated against Black Americans rights register to vote after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which legally desegregated the south. This shows the historical events in Selma, Alabama with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading peaceful protests, the push back against protests, police brutality and the developments that lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP” shows rare archival film and interviews about Civil Rights attorney Thurgood Marshall work to end segregation in America’s public school. It covers Thurgood Marshall life over 20 years leading up to his triumph in 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. He won more Supreme Court cases than any lawyer in American history, making the work of civil rights pioneers like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks possible.

“I Am Not Your Negro” is a documentary based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, “Remember This House.” Baldwin reminiscences and recounts about civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and his personal observations. This documentary illuminates the civil rights movements in the 1950’s and 1960’s for Black Americans.

“Just Mercy” is based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson who works to free Walter McMillian, a wrongfully convicted Black American man, after his imprisonment on death row in Alabama.

“Burn Motherfucker, Burn!” documentary starts from 1962, firsthand accounts of police brutality, the 1965 Watts Riots and what lead up to the protests and riots in Los Angeles in 1992, after LAPD officers beat an Black American man, Rodney King.

  • “16 Shots” is based on the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17 year old Black American, who was shot by a Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke and the cover-up of the shooting.
  • “Twilight: Los Angeles” is based on a one-woman play written and originally performed by Anna Deavere Smith about the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
  • “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” is based on Kalief Browder, a 16 year old Black American, who was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. Two out of three years he spent in Rikers Island jail was in solitary confinement. The case was never prosecuted and the charges against him were dropped.
  • “Brian Banks” is a documentary about an Black American high-school football star who is wrongfully convicted and sentenced to a decade in prison. This documentary shows his path of dealing with the justice system and getting his named cleared with the help of the Innocence Project.
  • “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” is a documentary about a 16 year old Black American, Emmett Louis Till, in the 1950’s who is from Chicago, Il and visits his great-uncle in Mississippi. While there is whistles at a white woman and afterwards he is kidnapped and brutally murdered.
  • “Emanuel”
  • “Birth of a Movement”
  • “Marshall”
  • “Daughters of the Dust”
  • “Down in the Delta”
  • “Portrait of Jason”
  • “Black Panthers”
  • “Losing Ground”
  • “Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored”
  • “Whose Streets?”
  • “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” 

While these movies are free to view for the month of June, you will have to search for them on digital streaming services such as AppleTV, FandangoNow, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, Redbox, the PlayStation Store, Vudu, Microsoft and YouTube. Some digital streaming services have the movies highlighted on their front pages, others do not. The best way to find them may be to use a search engine, like Google, that will show you the which digital streaming services the movie is available on.

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