Black History Month has come again and one way to honor the time is take notice of black empowerment in the media. Over the years, various black icons have come to light, many in front of the camera, some behind the camera and others whose stories are what is being told. We’ve collected 10 different movies that have a message of black empowerment in some faculty that you can watch, all from different genres and time periods. You can enjoy with the whole family, with your friends or just by yourself.
Top 10 Black Empowerment Films
Within Our Gates
Oscar Micheaux was an African American writer and film producer who developed over 40 films. His second silent film was Within Our Gates, produced in 1920. Telling the story of a mixed-race school teacher who tries to raise money for a rural school in the Deep South. Although it is not Micheaux’s first film, it is believed to be the oldest known surviving film made by an African-American director.
Body and Soul
Okay, okay, black-and-white movies might not be your cup of tea, but this film was the debut of Paul Robeson, legendary performer and civil rights activist. The film tells the story of an escaped prisoner who disguises himself as a preacher and his more heroic twin brother who both fall in love with the same woman. A good chunk of the film turns out to have been a dream, but it at least allows for a happy ending.
To Sir With Love
Sidney Poitier starred in a variety of films that reflected racial conflicts and empowerment, all the while helping to prove that a black man could be the leading star. In To Sir With Love, he showed that issues could happen all around the world. More importantly, it shows what can be overcome. Based off of E. R. Braithwaite’s autobiographical novel, Poitier plays Mark Thackeray, a teacher dealing with social and racial issues in an inner-city school in London.
Lady Sings The Blues
Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown and one of the first black producers in Hollywood, told the real-life story of singer, Billie Holiday, as portrayed in the film by Diana Ross, one of Gordy’s biggest stars.
In the 1970’s, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz took on Manhattan with an all-black cast. No really, New York City turned into Oz for this film and it is breathtaking to watch. Based on a popular stage show, it is actually much more faithful to the original Baum book than a certain MGM musical. In other words, silver shoes are just classier than ruby slippers! Finally, this is a film for the whole family. Although I will admit to one thing, Stephanie Mills was robbed!
George Tillman Jr. based the story of Soul Food partially off of his own family and helped to craft a more positive image of an African American family in Hollywood. Teaching the importance of family, the Joseph family of Chicago comes together every Sunday night for a family dinner hosted by Josephine “Big Mama” Joseph, who grows to have an angelic presence over her family even after her passing.
The Josephine Baker Story
When Josephine Baker realized she wouldn’t be able to make it as a respected performer in the States due to the color of her skin, she did the only sensible thing a person in her position could do…she moved to Paris and became the star she deserved to be. Becoming an icon of the 1920’s, she later aided the French Resistance during the Second World War and fought for the Civil Rights Movement in her former country, even adopting children of various backgrounds into her family. Lynn Whitfield portrayed the icon in The Josephine Baker Story, which showed that even in France, Baker’s life was more complicated than a mere Cinderella story.
12 Years a Slave
Based off of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, the film tells the story of an African American man who was born free, but had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. Northup was brought to life by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Queen of Katwe
Telling the story of a Ugandan girl who changes her life by learning to play chess and taking on competitions, this Disney film was based on the real-life story of Phiona Mutesi. Emphasizing the importance of education, this is a film the whole family can enjoy.
Don’t forget that documentaries combine all the fun of a movie with a real-life story. Serena Williams has shown the world that she could be a triple threat: working hard as an athlete, designer and businesswoman. In fact, Williams herself also narrated this documentary of her life.