Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 27° Cloudy
A&E >  Movies

Water Cooler: Celebrate Black History Month with these nine films

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 1, 2021

A screencap from “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” a 2015 film directed by Spike Lee.  (Fancaps)
A screencap from “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” a 2015 film directed by Spike Lee. (Fancaps)

Yesterday marked the beginning of Black History Month, dedicated to remembering and learning more about the people, events, contributions and history of those from the African diaspora. In the United States, it also serves as a reminder that African American history is American history.

Black History Month evolved from a weeklong celebration proposed by historian Carter G. Woodson and enacted in 1926.

The celebration grew in popularity over the following decades, but it wasn’t until 1969 that Black educators and the Black United Students of Ohio’s Kent State University proposed that the week-long celebration be extended to the whole month of February. A year later, the first Black History Month celebration took place at Kent State. President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976 during a celebration of the United States Bicentennial.

Today, Black History Month is recognized across the nation and resources for learning more about Black history have proliferated. One of the most accessible ways to learn more is through film, both narrative and documentary. Kanopy has more than 60 films curated for Black History Month, all available to stream for free with a local library. Here are a few highlights from their selections. Stream them and find other films at Kanopy.com.

Narrative films

“Daughters of the Dust”: A multigenerational family of former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions are caught in a struggle between wanting to maintain their cultural heritage and a desire to migrate to the mainland and be further removed from their roots. Directed by Julie Dash. 1991. 113 minutes.

“Born in Flames”: An independent science-fiction film that follows a diverse coalition of women that emerges to up end The System after the mysterious killing of the founder of the Woman’s Army. Directed by Lizzie Borden. 1983. 81 minutes.

“Personal Problems”: Originally made for television in 1980, this film featured an ensemble cast and crew of pioneering Black artists, went unseen for years. The original tapes have now been recovered and restored by Kino Lorber, making the full-length version available for the first time in decades. The film follows the characters as they deal with the gritty details of life, from romance to chores and everything in between. Directed by Bill Gunn. 1980. 93 minutes.

“Da Sweet Blood of Jesus”: Dr. Hess Green revives a curse after finding an ancient African artifact and finds himself with a puzzling, newfound thirst for blood. Directed by Spike Lee. 2015. 124 minutes.

Documentaries

“Slavery and the Making of America”: A PBS documentary series narrated by Morgan Freeman that examines the integral role of slavery in shaping the United States. Directed by Dante J. James. 2019.

“Agents of Change”: The story of the longest student strike in U.S. history and its success in establishing the first Black and Ethnic Studies departments at San Francisco State and Cornell. Directed by Abby Ginzberg and Frank Dawson. 2016. 67 minutes.

“Tongues Untied”: A film essay that focuses on communities of Black gay men, offering their perspective on the world by mixing performance art, music, poetry and personal stories. Directed by Marlon Riggs. 1989. 55 minutes.

“The Same Difference”: A documentary about controversy between Black lesbians based on gender roles. Directed by Nneka Onuorah. 2015. 67 minutes.

“Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise”: A PBS documentary series that reviews the previous five decades of African American history through eyewitness accounts, analysis and archival footage. Directed by Leah Williams, Leslie Asako Gladsjo, Sabin Streeter, Talleah Bridges McMahon. 2016.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.