Black History Month on Kanopy

In honor of Black History Month, we have curated a collection of films that offer various perspectives on the Black experience in America. These films, both narrative and documentary, highlight the history and culture of the Black community while noting the trials and tribulations endured during periods of racial injustice. By telling the stories of leaders and those working behind the scenes to improve civil rights, as well as displaying facets of Black identity, these cinematic works provide valuable commentary of race relations across several generations.

The films highlighted are a subset of the larger Black History Month collection available on Kanopy. Additionally, we are excited to announce that Subjects of Desire (2021) will also be made available as a part of our Black History Month collection when it launches on February 22, 2022.

Kevin Sayar
Kanopy CEO
 Black Boys
(2020) on IMDb

Black Boys

This documentary explores the body, mind, voice, and heart of Black boys and the double-edged sword of having to build up their own self worth while knowing the world is not built for them. As various Black men and boys open themselves up to the camera, the emotional landscape of racism and its effects on them are revealed.

 Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
(2003) on IMDb

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

On November 20, 2013, Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Who was this man? He was there at most of the important events of the Civil Rights Movement – but always in the background. Brother Outsider asks “Why?” It presents a vivid drama, intermingling the personal and the political, about one of the most enigmatic figures in 20th-century American history.

 Daughters of the Dust
(1991) on IMDb

Daughters of the Dust

At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.

 The French Way
(1940) on IMDb

The French Way

A farcical romantic-comedy set in WWII France, about young lovers forbidden to marry by their respective families. Baker, as “Zazu,” the owner of a nightclub, inherits a job restoring harmony between the two families and allowing the young lovers to ‘se marier.’

 Fresh Dressed
(2015) on IMDb

Fresh Dressed

A fascinating chronicle of hip-hop, urban fashion, and the hustle that brought oversized pants and graffiti-drenched jackets from Orchard Street to high fashion’s catwalks and Middle America shopping malls. Director Sacha Jenkins’ music-drenched history draws from a rich mix of archival materials and in-depth interviews with rappers, designers, and other industry insiders.

 Jayhawkers
(2014) on IMDb

Jayhawkers

Directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Willmott, Jayhawkers tells the powerful fable of how a small group of unlikely allies modernized college sports and changed a small Midwestern town, serving as a parallel to the Civil Rights movement that would transform an entire American society.

 King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis
(1970) on IMDb

King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery To Memphis

Constructed from a wealth of archival footage, King: A Filmed Record is a monumental documentary that follows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1955 to 1968, in his rise from regional activist to world-renowned leader of the Civil Rights movement. Rare footage of King’s speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause, punctuated by heartfelt testimonials by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

 Prince: Purple Reign
(2017) on IMDb

Prince: Purple Reign

The music world was stunned by the sudden and tragic news that Prince, the legendary musician, died at his home in Minneapolis at the age of just 57. He was one of the most naturally gifted artists of all time, and also one of the most mysterious. His influence is unparalleled, and his legacy will live on through his inspirational music. In this fascinating documentary, we take an in depth look into the life and times of one of music’s greatest performers…Prince.

 Sounder
(1972) on IMDb

Sounder

Set in rural Louisiana during the Depression, this heartfelt story tells of a sharecropper family struggling to overcome adversity. After stealing to feed his family, Nathan is sent to a prison camp. In their fight for survival, his determined wife and their eldest son hold the family together. Once the boy becomes an adult, he searches for his father but instead discovers manhood.

 Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
(2004) on IMDb

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson—the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World, whose dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century—enters the ring once again in Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson a provocative PBS documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns.

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