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Black History Month Streaming and DVD Resources

Background

Why Celebrate Black History Month?

In 1915, in response to the lack of information on the accomplishments of Black people available to the public, historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.  From these roots, Black History Month has become a nationally observed month of celebration and remembrance for important people and events within the Black community of the United States. Originally chosen for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th and Frederick Douglass' birthday on February 18, since 1926 Black history was officially celebrated for a week each year before being expanded in 1970 to encompass the whole month of February. It is an opportunity not only to commemorate great figures in Black history, but also to turn gazes towards the future and a better tomorrow for people of the African diaspora around the world.

Images of Films in Black History

Collage of Ground Breaking Films

Photo courtesy, imdb.com.  Titles include: Do the Right Thing, Sorry to Bother You, Eve's Bayou, Tongue's Untied, and Watermelon Woman.

Super Fly. Dir. Gordon Parks, Jr. Early Blaxploitation Film, 1972.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. Dir. Xavier Burgin. Distributor: Icarus Films, 2019. Docuseek2. Web. 11 Feb 2021

Scene from Birth of a Nation. Dir. D.W.Griffith. Early Exploitation Film, 1915 (Public Domain)

The Birth of a Nation. Dir. Nat Parker, 2016. Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising.

IUB Streaming Titles

The following resources require IUB CAS Authentication.

Black America since MLK. Part One. Out of the Shadows (55min., 2016) The series begins at a crucial turning point in American history: the Selma marches that led to the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the urban rebellion that broke out in Watts just a few days later. Watts marked a new phase in the black struggle, revealing that our nation's racial issues were not confined to the Jim Crow South - and that true equality would not come through laws alone. African Americans wanted access to better jobs, housing and education, and an end to police brutality, and they felt emboldened to try new strategies for achieving those goals. Gates travels from Watts to rural Alabama, where he learns how Stokely Carmichael helped African Americans form their own political party - the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which ran an all-black ticket and sought political power in the face of white terror. In Chicago, activist Prexy Nesbitt tells Gates how Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired by the changing times, waged war on housing segregation and economic injustice in the urban north, meeting fierce resistance.

Civil Rights:  Demanding Equality (27min., 2003) This program looks at the nature of the guarantees of political and social equality, and the roles that individuals and government have played in expanding these guarantees to less-protected segments of society, such as African Americans, women, and the disabled. 

Daughters of the Dust (113min., 1999)  Tells the story of a large African-American family as they prepare to move North at the dawn of the 20th century. Explores the unique culture of the Gullah people, descendants of slaves who lived in relative isolation on the Sea Islands off the Georgia coast. As the generations struggle with the decision to leave, their rich Gullah heritage and African roots rise to the surface. Originally produced as a motion picture in 1991.

Don't Shout Too Soon (1917-1940) (55min., 2002) In the aftermath of World War I a new round of race riots and lynching broke out, yet this was also a time of increasing strength for black resistance movements. Don't Shout Too Soon chronicles the years between the wars as a time of massive black migration out of the South and continuing conflict within it. 

From the Library of Black History: Black Hollywood (29min., 1989) Between 1910 and 1950, over 150 independent film companies were organized for the specific purpose of producing all-black cast films.  Of the 400 black-produced films that were made, Oscar Micheaux produced 10 percent of them.  This program from Tony Brown's Journal examines them.

Harriet (125min., 2019) The incredible true story of Harriet Tubman, and her quest to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

The History of Black Music. Part 1 (25min., 2003) Historically Black colleges create a unique music history lesson in this special vocal extravaganza. Choirs, groups and soloists from the nation's Black colleges showcase their talents in riveting stage performances.

The History of Black Music. Part 2 ( 26min., 2003)  The vocal extravaganza continues in part two of this unique music history lesson. Choirs, groups and soloists from the nation's Black colleges showcase their talents in riveting stage performances.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (83min., 2019) Starting with The Birth of a Nation, this film traces the history of African Americans in horror, from roles as passive victims, to terrifying monsters, to full-fledged protagonists. Filled with clips, sometimes juxtaposed with powerful images from civil rights marches to Rodney King, to Black Lives Matter protests, the film shows how popular horror films of each era reflect changing social norms.

Hughes' Dream Harlem (60min., 2002) Known as "Harlem's poet laureate," Langston Hughes was one of the most prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance. This lyrical program celebrates Hughes' life and work, offering a vision of the esteemed poet in present-day Harlem and making a case for his impact on hip-hop music and the contemporary spoken-word community. Narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, the multilayered presentation includes roundtable discussions of Hughes' contributions with poet Sonia Sanchez, music producer Damon Dash, and others, and a tour of his New York City haunts.

The Jackie Robinson Story (76min., 1950)  The Jackie Robinson Story stars the baseball legend himself in a biographical drama about the player and man who integrated major league ball. The story begins with Jackie's early years, profiling the successful young athlete who excelled in a variety of collegiate sports. It follows him to his momentous meeting with Branch Rickey of the no-less-legendary Brooklyn Dodgers who brought Robinson in as a professional player to the previously all-white sport.

Malcolm X (201min., 1992) A biography chronicling the life and death of assassinated civil-rights leader Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett.

The Mystery of Black Survival in Sports ( 25min., 2005) In this program from Tony Brown's Journal, educators Dana Brooks and Ron Althouse, editors of Racism in College Sports, provide a scholarly approach to the issue of racism in college athletics.

Race the Power of an Illusion:  The Difference Between Us  (56min., 2003)  It's not uncommon to attribute differential group outcomes for SAT scores, musical ability, or athletic performance to innate racial traits-yet there are no characteristics, not even one gene, that distinguish all members of one "race" from another, as this program explains. The video follows a dozen students, including African-American athletes and Asian-American violin players, who sequence and compare their own DNA, only to discover their closest genetic matches are as likely to be with people from other "races" as their own. While it's true that certain gene forms are more common in some populations than others, the students learn that these reflect ancestry, not "race.

Race the Power of an Illusion: The House We Live In (56min., 2013) Virginia law once defined a black person as someone with 1/16th African ancestry; in Florida, it was 1/8th African ancestry. If you can cross a state line and literally, legally change race, what does race really mean? This program argues that the idea of race was developed and reinforced through politics, economics, and culture. Real estate practices as well as federal regulations kept new neighborhoods segregated after World War II, and it was the white families awarded mortgages whose assets accumulated, creating a legacy of opportunity for their children and grandchildren. With the starting line for the next generation drawn at different points on the field, the racial divide could only grow larger.

Race the Power of an Illusion: The Story We Tell (56min., 2003)  Ironically, it was the notion of political liberty and the natural rights of man that led to the ideology of white supremacy. Ancient peoples stigmatized others on the basis of language, class, and religion, but they did not sort people into races. As the Founding Fathers grappled with the hypocrisy of slavery in the new democracy, Thomas Jefferson was among the first to discuss "the natural inferiority of Africans"- a convenient justification for social inequality, and the same type of thinking that rationalized the seizing of Native American lands. In this program the history of the concept of "race" is explored, along with the 19th-century science that legitimized racism.

Selma (128min., 2014) African American filmmaker Ava DuVernay depicts the civil-rights activists march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery to secure voting rights for black Americans in this docudrama, which focuses on the actions of Martin Luther King Jr.

Tongues Untied (55min., 1989) Pioneer African American filmmaker Marlon Riggs' experimental/essay film gives voice to communities of black gay men, presenting their cultures and perspectives on the world as they confront racism, homophobia, and marginalization.

Unnatural Causes...Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (240min., 2008) The documentary sounds the alarm about the extent of our glaring socio-economic and racial inequities in health and searches for their root causes. But those causes are not what we might expect. While we pour more and more money into drugs, dietary supplements and new medical technologies, Unnatural Causes crisscrosses the country investigating the findings that are shaking up conventional understanding of what really makes us healthy or sick. 

IUB DVD/Video Films

During Covid, only IU faculty, staff and students can borrow materials from Media Services with a valid IU crimson card.  Face masks are required. Be sure to check with Media Services for hours.  VHS titles are housed off-site at ALF, and can be requested via IUCAT. Suggested keywords in IUCAT: Civil Rights, Black History, African Americans. Limit to film & video, dvd/videodisc, Bloomington campus. 

A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde (53min, 1996) Audre Lorde, poet and lesbian-feminist talks about being lesbian and black in New York in the 1950s and her social/political activity. Includes conversations and readings by Lorde and comments by other writers and family members.

Akeelah and the Bee (112min., 2006) Eleven year-old Akeelah Anderson's life is not easy: her father is dead, her mom ignores her, her brother runs with the local gangbangers. She is a smart girl, but her environment threatens to strangle her aspirations. Responding to a threat by her school's principal, Akeelah decides to participate in a spelling bee to avoid detention for her many absences. Much to her surprise and embarrassment, she wins. Her principal asks her to seek coaching from Dr. Larabee, an English professor, for the more prestigious regional bee.

American Red & Black: Stories of Afro-Native Identity (38min., 2006) This intimate film follows six Afro-native Americans from around the U.S. as they reflect upon the personal and complex issues of Native and African heritage, ethnic identity and racism within communities of color.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975: a Documentary in 9 Chapters (96min., 2011) The film mobilizes a treasure trove of 16mm material shot by Swedish journalists who came to the US drawn by stories of urban unrest and revolution. Gaining access to many of the leaders of the Black Power Movement -- Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver among them -- the filmmakers captured them in intimate moments and remarkably unguarded interviews. Thirty years later, this lush collection was found languishing in the basement of Swedish Television.

The Color Purple (154min., 1985) The story of a young black girl in the early 20th century who is forced into a brutal marriage and separated from her sister.  Based on the novel by Alice Walker.

Eve's Bayou (108min., 1997)  Roz Batiste is a beautiful and dedicated mother of three, who is forced to admit that her family is falling apart due to her philandering husband Louis. Her younger daughter, Eve, witnesses one of her father's infidelities. Struggling to make sense of what she has seen, Eve turns to her older sister Cisely, who dismisses her in fear of the truth, and then to her Aunt Mozelle, a known psychic and rumored black widow. Unable to find the understanding she is looking for Eve decides to take matters into her own hands.

The Great Debaters (124min., 2007) Melvin B. Tolson is a professor at Wiley College in Texas. Wiley is a small African-American college. In 1935, Tolson inspired students to form the school's first debate team. Tolson turns a group of underdog students into a historically elite debate team which goes on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.

Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights (81min., 2013) Archival footage and in-depth interviews with former members of organizations including Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Black Panther Party reveal how black women mobilized, fought for recognition, and raised awareness of how sexism and class issues affected women of color within and outside The Black Power Movement and mainstream feminism.

Soundtrack for a Revolution: Freedom Songs from the Civil Rights Era (83min., 2011) On picket lines, in organizational meetings, even in police wagons and jail cells, songs of protest and inspiration helped drive the civil rights movement. Showcasing many of those songs, this stirring documentary explores the history of the era through archival footage, interviews with key civil rights activists, and performances by contemporary artists assembled specifically for the film. Includes footage from Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, freedom rider Hank Thomas, and more.

Sorry to Bother You (105min., 2018) When telemarketer Cassius Green discovers the key to professional success, he finds his life at work becoming more and more bizarre.

The Spirit Moves:  A History of Black Social Dance on Film, 1900-1986 [the African American Jazz Tradition] (3 discs, 118min., 2008) A survey of 100 years of social dance created by Black Americans to include ragtime, jazz, Cakewalk, Charleston, Black Bottom, Suzie Q and so much more.  

The Watermelon Woman (90min., 1996) Set in Philadelphia, The Watermelon Woman is the story of Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye), a twenty-something black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, a beautiful and elusive 1930s black film actress popularly known as "The Watermelon Woman.

 

Internet Resources

Public Access to free streaming titles:

Online Resources:

  • African American Women's History --  Black women in America, from slavery through Reconstruction, Harlem Renaissance, civil rights and black liberation movements. Includes biographies, organizations, events and movements.
  • Black Filmmaker Foundation - BFF, the non-profit media arts organization founded in 1978 as the Black Filmmaker Foundation, is a product of the social and artistic consciousness that developed in the late sixties and early 1970s. BFF designs and administers programs that address the institutional disenfranchisement of black filmmakers and black audiences. As a result of this effort, BFF has for more than for two decades played a pivotal role in the emergence of the contemporary Back film movement. Now in its third decade of service, BFF has expanded its mission and constituency to include all filmmakers of color and include digital media, as well film and television.
  • GLAAD - highlights BHM resources for the African American LGBQTA+ community.
  • National Archives - celebrating the rich resources of the African American community
  • National Geographic Kids - teaching resources for young adults to learn more about the African American community
  • National Museum of African American History & Culture - a new addition to the D.C. Mall, The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.