The 4 Best Documentaries on Black America in the Last 10 Years

documentaryWhether you are trying to build a curriculum, or simply looking to learn a little more about the black civil rights movement, it can be daunting to know where to start. Sure, some things are easy: one of the first things you should do is listen to the audio of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which MLK perfectly captured the hopes and dreams of an entire centuries-long struggle.

But after that? It can be easy to get lost in the plethora of documentaries and literature that has been produced on the subject. Some, like the documentary Malcolm X by Arnold Perl, have stood the test of time. Others simply haven’t.

With the resurgence of the black civil right movement, led by groups like Black Lives Matter, there has been an increased interest in the original movement and the black experience in the United states.

To help with your search, we’ve gathered four of the best documentaries to come out in the last decade.

The Black Power Mixtape (2011)

The Black Power Mixtape tells the story of the black power movement like it hasn’t been told before. By editing recently discovered footage that had been shot by Swedish journalists in the 1960s and 1970s, director Goran Olsson is able to shape the footage in order to give a compelling look at the rise and the fall of the black power movement, and its tension with MLK’s civil rights movement.

Dark Girls (2011)

Dark Girls is different from some of the other documentaries on this list, as it is more a sociological exploration of colorism. Colorism is the belief that even among black and brown peoples, lighter skin is preferable. The film explores the way colorism pervades the community, creating a $10 billion skin lightening industry worldwide.

13th (2016)

13th explores the eponymous constitutional amendment and its ramifications, especially in the industrial prison complex. The documentary takes care to show the ways that black communities are affected by political actions such as the war on drugs. It does not shy away from the sad fact of black American life, where the average family is 13% poorer than the average white family, or where you are significantly more likely to go to jail for a crime a white person would not be charged for.

I Am Not Your Negro (2017)

Based on an unfinished manuscript of black master author James Baldwin, this documentary is a rumination on the lives and deaths of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medger Evers, as well as an exploration of the discrimination at the time and why it persists to this day.

While these four documentaries are fantastic, they are in no way a comprehensive list. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of your discovery.

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