Best documentaries and series to watch for Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month with these docs and shows exploring Black culture and achievements worldwide.

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13th Netflix

Black History Month is here, celebrating the history and achievements of the Black community worldwide.

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Originating in the United States, Black History month began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

While it’s celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom it is observed in October.

RadioTimes.com has put together a list of documentaries and shows which you can tune into this month and thereafter.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Best series for Black History Month

When They See Us

When They See Us on Netflix
Netflix

Based on the true story that gripped the nation, When They See Us captures the notorious case of five teenagers of colour, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit.

In 1989, the five teenagers from Harlem – Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise – were first questioned about the incident.

Spanning over 25 years, the four-part film tells the heartbreaking story of how they were wrongfully accused and jailed before being exonerated in 2002 and reaching a settlement with the city of New York in 2014.

How to watch? The series is available to watch on Netflix.

Seven Seconds

Seven Seconds - Netflix
Netflix

This crime drama explores the events after a 15-year-old Black cyclist Brenton Butler dies in a hit-and-run accident with a white police officer behind the wheel.

With racial tension exploding in Jersey City, the 10-part series looks at how the case is dealt with. While the police department attempt to cover up the case, assistant prosecutor KJ wants to prosecute the hit-and-run as a hate crime, in addition to a negligent homicide.

How to watch? The series is available to watch on Netflix.

Self Made

Octavia Spencer plays Sarah Breedlove in Self Made
Netflix

Starring Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer as Madam CJ Walker – the trailblazing African American haircare entrepreneur who was America’s first female self-made millionaire – Self Made brings the story of the cultural icon to the screen for the first time.

Against all odds, Walker overcame post-slavery racial and gender biases and business rivalries to build a ground-breaking brand that revolutionised Black haircare.

The four-part limited series explores how she fought for social change and came to be the icon that is Madam CJ Walker.

How to watch? The series is available to stream on Netflix

Dear White People

Dear White People
Netflix

Dear White People is set against the backdrop of a predominantly white Ivy League university in the US, where racial tensions bubble just below the surface.

The satirical series – which picks up where the acclaimed 2014 film off the same name left off – follows a group of Winchester University’s students of colour as they deal with a plethora of issues, including social injustice, cultural bias, political correctness and sometimes misguided activism in the millennial age.

Educational, informative, and seriously funny, Dear White People makes for vital viewing.

How to watch? Volume 1-3 are available to stream on Netflix.

Pose

Pose
FX

Set in the 1980s in New York City, Pose is the phenomenal US series about the world of ball culture right at the centre of the AIDS epidemic.

It is written by Ryan Murphy – known for Glee, American Horror Story and new drama Ratched – and takes inspiration from revolutionary 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, which explores African-American and Latino culture between 1986 to 1989.

Pose also features the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, as well as the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever, for a scripted television series.

How to watch? Season 1-3 is available to watch on BBC iPlayer. Season 1 is also available on Netflix.

Best Films

Harriet 

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman
Glen Wilson / Focus Features/ NBCUniversal

In an Oscar-nominated performance by Cynthia Erivo, Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes.

How to watch? The inspirational film is available to watch on Sky Cinema and with the Sky Cinema pass on NOW TV.

Just Mercy 

Just Mercy
Sky

A powerful and thought-provoking true story, Just Mercy follows young lawyer and Harvard graduate Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B Jordan) in his history-making battle to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx) a man condemned to die for the murder of an 18 year old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence.

How to watch? Just Mercy is available to watch on Sky Cinema and with the Sky Cinema pass on NOW TV.

Brian Banks

Brian Banks
Sony

The 2018 biographical film tells the story of a high school football linebacker, Brian Banks, who was falsely accused of rape. Upon his release, he attempted to fulfil his dream of making the National Football League but was met with many struggles.

The gripping film chronicles how he managed to get his case overturned with the help of Innocence Project lawyers.

How to watch? Brian Banks is available to watch on Netflix.

Best documentaries

13TH

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.

The title itself refers to 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”

The documentary is made up from a mixture of archival footage and testimony from an array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men.

How to watch? The 2016 film is available to stream on Netflix.

Becoming 

Becoming (Michelle Obama) - Netflix
Netflix

Becoming gives us an intimate look  at the life of the former FLOTUS,  Michelle Obama, during a moment of profound change in the United States when she and her husband Barack became the first ever Black couple to serve in the White House.

It offers a rare and up-close look at how she came to be the First Lady, and follows her as she embarks on a 34-city tour, revealing the media scrutiny she faced during the eight years they served in the White House.

How to watch? The film is available to stream on Netflix

Time: The Kalief Browder story

Time: Kalief Browder
Netflix

The six-part series tells the tragic story of Kalief Browder – a Black teen from the Bronx – who spent three horrific years in jail, despite never being convicted of a crime.

Kalief was charged for allegedly stealing a backpack containing valuables between 2010 and 2013. His family was unable to post his bail and he was kept in solitary confinement for two years.

How to watch? Time: The Kalief Brodwer story is available to stream on Netflix

Black is King

Beyoncé and Blue Ivy in Black is King
Disney

Black is King is Beyonce’s visual album. It tells the story of a young king who embarks on a journey to reclaim his throne and is a companion for the music from The Lion King: The Gift – the soundtrack album curated by the US superstar for last year’s live action remake of animated classic The Lion King.

How to watch? Black is King is available on Disney+

You can sign up for £59.99 a year or £5.99 a month.

TOGETHER WE RISE: The Uncompromised story of GRM Daily

Featuring interviews from the the likes of Stormzy and Dizzee Rascal, the docuseries tells the story of a generation through the game-changing channel, GRM Daily and its founder Posty – the young, Black, British entrepreneur who helped contribute towards giving a new generation of talent opportunities via a global platform which in turn became a benchmark for their success.

Other cast members include: Skepta, Giggs, Stormzy, Julie Adenuga, Kano, Tiffany Calver, Aitch, Ms Banks, JME, D Double E, and Zane Lowe.

How to watch? The docuseries is now available to watch on YouTube.

John Lewis: Good Trouble 

The documentary provides an intimate account of legendary US Representative John Lewis’ life and legacy – charting more than 60 years of extraordinary activism.

 As one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s closest allies, Lewis organised Freedom Rides that left him bloodied or jailed, and stood at the front lines in historic marches on Washington and Selma.

How to watch? Sky Documentaries, available on the NOW TV Entertainment pass.

Rise Up: The Movement that changed America 

Rise-Up
Sky

This one-hour documentary explores the key battles in the Civil Rights Movement that transformed American society – from the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 to the Chicago Campaign which led to the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The special uncovers what it took to translate protest into real legislative change.

How to watch? Sky Documentaries, available on the NOW TV Entertainment pass.

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You can sign up to Disney Plus for £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year.  Check out our lists of the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide.