Celebrate Black History Month with Family Movies!
Black History Month offers opportunities to expand our understanding of the world around us: its beauty and diversity. Family movie nights offer opportunities for learning, inspiration, engagement and joy. As a mother of a tween and teen who are Black, Latino and white, I deeply understand the power of media and the importance of watching movies together as a family as an opportunity to bond or open up important discussions about both the past and present, about our children’s hopes and dreams. These family movies for Black History Month are films you should consider any time of year!
Narrative Films for Black History Month
Akeelah and the Bee is a family favorite that we return to again and again. The film features Keke Palmer, as Akeelah, and Laurence Fishburne, as her spelling bee coach. It traces Akeelah’s unlikely journey to the U.S. National Spelling Bee. Additionally, it was included in a short found up of coming of age films in a post I wrote for Edutopia.
The Great Debaters is one of two films featuring Denzel Washington that make this list. This film is on our family’s to-be-watched list as my 13 year-old has recently joined a debate club that he is loving. Importantly, it tells the true story of the Wiley College’s first ever debate club, formed in 1935, and the challenges and triumphs the team faces together.
Hidden Figures is a film my kids never want to pass up. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson life stories come to life in this hit film. These women, known as “human computers,” worked for NASA in Langley, Virginia. Hidden Figures both inspires and engages viewers. Journeys in film features both a FREE curriculum guide and discussion guide for this popular film.
The Last Holiday, starring Queen Latifah and LL Cool J, is a film of pure joy. Once we discovered this film, it quickly became a family holiday tradition. However, it can be enjoyed any time of year. Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd, a clerk at a department store who loves to cook. A misdiagnosis sends her on a trip of a lifetime. Ultimately, she discovers how incredible she truly is as she reaches for her dreams.
Narrative Films Set in Africa
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is inspired by a memoir of the same name. This film tells the inspiring story of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian boy. Against all odds, William finds an unexpected way to help his village as it faces severe drought and starvation. Further, for homeschooling families like ours, I’m sharing some of the free learning resources available from Journeys in Film as part of a homeschooling social studies experience: https://journeysinfilm.org/product/the-boy-who-harnessed-the-wind/. (These materials are geared for middle school students, but I adapted some easily for my sons when they were in 4th and 5th grade).
Directed by Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe tells the true story takes viewers to Uganda to follow Phiona Mutesi’s unexpected rise as an international chess star. Lupita Nyong’o stars in this uplifting film. Journeys in Film has a free discussion guide available for this film.
Sports Narrative Films We Love
As a parent of one highly athletic boy, sports films are always hit in our family. Additionally, they are often inspirational and uplifting.
Not technically a film, but a series, I still had to recommend Colin in Black and White, from director Ava DuVernay. This series follows the high school experience of Colin Kaepernick, tracing his road to the NFL and beyond. As a parent of multiracial children, having a series that tells the coming of age story of a biracial teen in the U.S. felt invaluable. You can read my review of the series for Video Librarian here. Moreover, Array 101, DuVernay’s company, created a learning companion for the series.
From the Rough is a lesser known film starring Taraji P. Henson as Catana Sparks. She was the first woman to coach a collegiate men’s golf team as she leads her band of misfits has a record-making season.
King Richard features Will Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor in 2022 for his role as “King Richard.” This film tells the inspirational story of Serena and Venus Williams as they take the tennis world by storm.
Remember the Titans is another film that gets repeat viewing from our family. Centered on a Virginia football team’s journey to a championship season, this film also highlights one town’s journey of discovery and growth in the first year of integrated education at the high school. Starring Denzel Washington, a young Ryan Gosling and an even younger Hayden Panettiere, the film is certain to move your heart. Teach with Movies has an educational guide for this film.
Documentary Films for Black History Month
A Ballerina’s Tale follows Misty Copeland and her rise to become the principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater. Notably, Copeland is the first African-American to take on this prodigious role in American Ballet.
Narrated by Common, A Most Beautiful Thing chronicles first African-American rowing team in the U.S. The team is based in Chicago and the film has inspired viewers across the nation. Winning the 2021 Gracie Award and nominated for an NAACP Image Award, this is one not to miss.
Why not have a short film on the list? Golden Age Karate is a short documentary film about a high school student who decides to reach out and help senior citizens in his community. How? By teaching them karate!
Finally, 2022 Oscar Winner for Best Documentary Summer of Soul brings the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 to life and the incredible performances it featured: Nina Simone, Fly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and so many more iconic performers take the stage in this documentary directed by Questlove, of The Roots. It is a powerful film that captures a powerful moment in time. Journeys in Film has a free curriculum guide for this film.
Of course, there are many more films that could be added to this list. I hope that for you and your family, this list is just the start as you explore family movies for Black History Month. Join in and add to this list in the comments! We’d love to know what you are watching this month and all year! Please share your top family movies for Black History Month.
Looking for more movie magic? Check out our post on Global Learning Through Film or for music inspiration, how about we’ve got World Music for Kids.by
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