10 Black history films and docs to watch right now

TheGrio has you covered with various films and documentaries perfect during Black History Month

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Black History Month is underway, and the top streaming services and channels have compiled hours and hours of content for viewers to consume all throughout February.

Having trouble weeding through all of your options? Look no further as theGrio has the top Black history films and documentaries to put on your viewing lists for the next few weeks.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew Visits Marian Anderson Residence Museum Discussing Her Inclusion On 5 Dollar Bill
Marian Anderson is displayed as Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew visits the Marian Anderson Residence Museum to discuss her inclusion on the $5 bill Oct. 21, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

American Masters – Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands (PBS)

A refreshing look at one of Black history’s greatest singers, American Masters – Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands explores the life, career, art, and legacy of the African American contralto and civil rights pioneer.

Telling the story in her own words through archival interviews and recordings of her voice, the documentary takes a deep look at the woman behind the music.

The description reads, “Spotlighting Anderson’s voice and point of view, the documentary draws from 34 cassette tapes of interviews recorded in the 1950s, when she was preparing to write her memoir, My Lord, What a Morning, and other archival interviews.

Anchored by key performances in her career, American Masters – Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands shows how her quiet genius and breathtaking voice set the stage for Black performers in classical music, and a louder voice for civil rights.”

The doc premieres Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. on PBS.

Soul of a Nation Presents: Screen Queens Rising (Disney+)

The contributions of Black actresses in Hollywood takes center stage in Disney’s newest special, Soul of a Nation Presents: Screen Queens Rising. With appearances from Halle Berry, Regina Hall, Tessa Thompson, Debbie Allen, and more, the special, “explores how Black actresses, a historically overlooked and undervalued group in Hollywood, have in recent years begun to ascend to the top echelons of entertainment and American culture.”

While it first aired Thursday night on ABC, it is available to stream now on Disney Plus. Check out the teaser for the special below:

Clotilda: Last American Slave Ship (National Geographic/Hulu)

When it premieres later this month, Clotilda: Last American Slave Ship will certainly be a must-watch. The documentary examines the Clotilda, the most intact slave shipwreck found to date.

The Clotilda is the only slave ship for which we know its entire story, including the voyage, passengers, and their descendants. Though slave traders burned and sunk the ship to conceal their crimes, the special follows maritime archaeologists as they enter the wreck.

The documentary also checks in with descendants of the passengers as they, “share how their ancestors turned a cruel tragedy into an uplifting story of courage and resilience.”

Clotilda: Last American Slave Ship airs Feb. 11 on National Geographic.

Race: Bubba Wallace (Netflix)

Bubba Wallace is getting the documentary treatment. A six-part project follows Wallace during the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season and his journey to becoming the only full-time Black driver in NASCAR.

“With exclusive access to Wallace during the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, his first with Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin’s 23XI Racing, the six-episode series traces his rise to the elite ranks of NASCAR as the only full-time Black driver and the turbulent aftermath that followed his decision to speak out about racial injustice,” the official description explains.

TheGrio reported the announcement of the series last year, which came almost a year after Wallace made national headlines when a noose was found in his garage stall after he spoke out about racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement. Race: Bubba Wallace premieres Feb. 22 on Netflix.

Lincoln’s Dilemma (Apple TV+)

Set to premiere Feb. 18 on Apple TV +, Lincoln’s Dilemma is another historical documentary that should be on everyone’s lists this Black History Month. 

“With never-before-heard stories about Lincoln, as well as close-up perspectives of him as a man, the docuseries shines a light on a side of Lincoln rarely seen – and provides a fresh perspective on a story that feels more timely and relevant than ever when explored alongside the events that Americans are living through today,” the press release details.

The documentary also features big names voicing some of the biggest faces in American history, with Leslie Odom, Jr. as Frederick Douglass and Bill Camp as President Abraham Lincoln. The project is narrated by Jeffrey Wright, and will also “give voice” to the enslaved people at the center of that particular moment in American History.

Watch the trailer below:

Uprooted: The Journey of Jazz Dance (HBO Max)

HBO Max is delivering with Black History Month content as well, and theGrio recommends Uprooted: The Journey of Jazz Dance as one of the strongest picks to watch this year. Taking viewers into the rich world of jazz dance, this documentary “traces the origin in Africa and follows the evolution through each decade and genre while exploring and commenting on the political and social influences that shaped the artistry of today.”

Debbie Allen, George Faison, Chita Rivera, Camille A. Brown, and Thomas F. DeFrantz appear in the special as well, contributing to what they call, an “honest conversation” about the history of Jazz dance and the contributions of Black people to this American art form.

Lynching Postcards: Token of a Great Day (Paramount+)

Short on time to watch two hour-long documentaries? There are plenty of excellent shorts to watch as well, including Lynching Postcards: Tokens of a Great Day on Paramount+. An Oscar-shortlisted short documentary, the project centers on lynching postcards, horrific mementos used to remember and commemorate lynchings for decades in this country.

The project, “tells the story of how Black activists subverted these souvenirs, which were celebrations of white supremacy, in the fight against lynching.” 

Lynching Postcards: Tokens of a Great Day is available to watch now on Paramount+.

everything’s gonna be all white (Showtime)

From Emmy-nominated filmmaker Sacha Jenkins, everything’s gonna be all white is a provocative three-part documentary that explores the history of race in America, specifically from the perspective of people of color.

With Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Jemele Hill, Amanda Seales, Favianna Rodriguez, Tamika Mallory to name a few contributors, the project “delves deeply into the root causes of racial inequities in this country.”

When discussing the project, Jenkins shared, “We are living in a time where people believe what they believe based on what they want to be true. Somehow, journalism has become the enemy. People are living in glass houses that resemble fun houses – mirrored rooms that distort the faces of both loved ones and foes.

But this scribe will say that what you are about to witness is the embodiment of the collected feelings of folks of color in America. An undistorted view of our collective truth. This is how America has treated us. This is how we feel. Freedom of speech and all of that jazz, buddy! America is all about that.”

everything’s gonna be all white premieres Feb. 11 on Showtime.

Whitney’s Anthem (ESPN)

Taking a deep dive into one of the greatest musical moments of our time, ESPN E60 will air Whitney’s Anthem this month, focusing on her performance from Super Bowl XXV. The official description reads, “The story, told by those who were intricately involved in one of the most iconic moments in sports history, explores how – set against the backdrop of the Gulf War – her performance that night helped unify the country, and why nearly 10 years after her tragic passing, Houston’s iconic rendition still resonates today.”

Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants v Buffalo Bills
Whitney Houston sings the national anthem prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on Jan, 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Whitney’s Anthem will air Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. ET.

Oscar Peterson: Black + White (Hulu)

From director Barry Avrich (Made You LookThe Reckoning), Oscar Peterson: Black + White centers on Oscar Peterson, jazz icon and composer. Described as a “docu-concert,” the project “delves into his days as a child prodigy, the development of his signature sound on recordings with his trio, his collaborations with huge stars and his shifts to brilliant solo performances around the world, as well as his tenacious experiences confronting racism and segregation while touring in the United States, which culminated with his epic composition, “Hymn to Freedom,” per its description via Deadline.

Opening Night of Eve Ensler's "The Good Body" - After Party
Oscar Peterson attends the Recording Academy Grammy Tribute to Jazz at the Music Box at Henry Fonda Theatre on Feb. 3, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Oscar Peterson: Black + White will premiere Feb. 15 on Hulu.

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