Special Screening Of "Strong Island" one of the best Black history documentaries

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Black history has been criminally underrepresented and often misrepresented in books and educational institutions – the very places people are supposed to rely on to learn the truth. Only now are figureheads and educators publicly speaking out about this troubling reality. And it’s been happening as recently as the 21st century, as detailed in MADAMENOIRE’s conversation with a family who was not taught about Juneteenth in school.

Where news channels and more official outlets for information have consistently let people down, creatives have always stepped in to shine a light on the truth. It is no secret that documentary makers are some of the most important artists of our time. Many have made eye-opening documentaries about different and critical stories of Black history that need to be told. Here are some you can watch on Netflix right now.

 

13th

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

The 2016 documentary 13th explores the systemic racism that runs deep through the web of mass incarceration in America. The concept that director Ava DuVernay portrays is that slavery, though officially abolished, has been perpetuated through the ways our judicial system encourages the mass incarceration of Black people and even free labor through convict leasing. In addition to examining the war on drugs and how it disproportionately impacts the Black community, DuVernay also exposes how the prison system earns large corporations millions in profits every year.

 

Grass Is Greener

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

The well-executed and educational Grass is Greener takes a comprehensive look at the history of cannabis in America and how it has impacted and even driven culture. Additionally, it shows how cannabis has been been a pivotal piece of systemic racism. The timeline spans all the way back to the 1920s when greats like Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday were victims of racist policies pertaining to cannabis. It moves through the ages interviewing prominent figures in the cannabis world like Snoop Dogg and renowned attorneys who have had a complicated relationship with cannabis and the legal system.

 

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Marsha P. Johnson was a Black drag queen and a gay and transgender rights activist in the 1960s through the 1990s. Johnson is known by many for her role in the Stonewall riots that sparked Pride month. Johnson’s death in 1992 was ruled a suicide, however, suspicious circumstances surrounding it left many questioning the validity of that ruling. This documentary follows activist Victoria Cruz’s investigation into the real story behind Johnson’s death.

 

Strong Island

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Strong Island tells the devastating story of the events and trial surrounding the murder of 24-year-old William Ford, a Black teacher in New York. A white mechanic killed Ford and was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. Directed by the victim’s own brother, Yance Ford, the film takes a hard look at the all-white jury that did not indict William’s killer.

 

Amend: The Fight for America

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Amend: The Fight for America stars Will Smith, Bryan Stevenson and Larry Wilmore. This docuseries looks into the historically-controversial 14th amendment, which formed the basis for Roe v Wade, was the founding block of ending racial segregation and fueled the legalization of same-sex marriage. The 14th amendment has a complicated relationship with the fight for equality in America. This show takes a comprehensive look at that relationship and the legacy of the 14th amendment during important moments in Black history.

 

High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

“Black food is American food” is the descriptor for this docuseries on Netflix. And it perfectly describes what’s to come in each episode. Chef and writer Stephen Satterfield takes viewers on a culinary and historical journey, tracing Black food through the south and back to Africa showing how so many of the dishes we’ve come to love today have deep connections to Black history. Satterfield delves into the nuanced and often dark history of how certain dishes rose to popularity. There’s a complicated past behind that tasty bite on your fork and Satterfield tells the story.

 

Becoming

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Right now Michelle Obama’s story feels too fresh to be considered a Black history documentary. However, one day Becoming will be one of the most important Black history documentaries. This documentary, directed by Nadia Hallgren, is based on the former first lady’s bestselling memoir that shares the same title. It masterfully brings the book to life with footage from Michelle Obama’s tenure as the first lady. Moreover, the documentary provides an intimate experience of Obama and explores her true hopes and dreams during her years in the White House.

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