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Give “Roots” a rest and explore black history through films that capture more than just certain moments.

“Roots” plays on repeat on just about every television at some point during Black History Month. Yes, Black history includes chattel slavery, and stories about the Middle Passage and such. And, yes, “Roots” depicts the era better than any other film could — it’s just not the only film about Black history that’s been made in the modern age. Sitcoms like “Blackish” have created shows with historical points as themes. There have been several films that depict people and events that are pivotal to the liberation of Black people as well as cinematic documentation of how a people demanded and received equal rights as white Americans enjoy. Here’s a list that will take you from slavery to modernity in Black history. You can find them on Amazon Video, Google Play, Hulu, Vudu, and YouTube.

Marathon-Worthy History

This is the era of streaming several episodes in one sitting, or straight-up watching a whole season. Fortunately, there’s some exciting content that you can stream for Black History Month. “Underground” is a show that ended abruptly in 2017 but is a thrilling look at the life of slaves and the Underground Railroad. Enjoy 20 hour-long episodes that are based on historical events and include a historic character that will keep you glued to the screen. Go back further in Black History with “The Book of Negroes”, a Canadian show based on a real journal of Black slaves who fought for the British during the American Revolution and were rewarded land in Nova Scotia for their loyalty. The miniseries follows a slave who was taken from her village as a young girl and follows her as she becomes the voice for the loyalists and their interests. Marathon the six episodes over a weekend or space them out throughout the month.

Movies About Famous Black People

From the women who formulated the first trip to the moon to the men who courageously flew bombers in World War II, Black people have made their invisible marks in history. Through the magic of modern cinema, those invisible deeds are exposed in movies that are dramatic, thrilling, and just as entertaining as they are educational. The most recent of this list is “Hidden Figures” about the Black women mathematicians whose work was vital to the program in the early days. “Red Tails” follows a group of Black pilots during World War II as they bravely fought for a country that was drowning under Jim Crow governance at the time. “The Butler” is a look inside the White House during the vital Civil Rights era. The point of view, however, is through the eyes of the Black man who served the Presidency and knew all its secrets. “Glory” goes a bit further back to capture the torment and the bravery of Union soldiers in the Civil War. “Southside with You” is a light-hearted look at the epic first date of the most beloved Black couple today — the Obamas.
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“Proud Mary” is definitely not perfect, but it damn sure deserves better than it's been given.

[This essay contains very minor spoilers for “Proud Mary”] Don't believe anyone who fixes their lips, or their fingers, to bad mouth “Proud Mary” and paint it as an irredeemable disaster. It may not be as sleek and polished as similar projects like last year's horribly convoluted “Atomic Blonde” or other various action-packed features that other actresses like Charlize Theron have starred in, but it's still a damn good watch. It is beyond refreshing to see Taraji P. Henson in a role that would typically be given to actresses like Theron, Milla Jovovich, Angelina Jolie, or Scarlett Johansson, but frankly, “Proud Mary” was not made with the kind of resources, care, and attention that Sony Entertainment should have given it. It had a 14 million dollar budget. Compare that to the 30 million for “Atomic Blonde”, 40 million for “Lucy” (2014), and 110 million for “Ghost in the Shell” (2017). Sony intentionally sabotaged this film, and hurt its own box office numbers. There were no critic screenings held or Thursday night premieres, both of which have become standard at this point. Most egregiously, the few Thursday night premieres that were scheduled were hastily canceled only an hour before the film was set to be screened for early audiences after they had already purchased their tickets. This not only impacts the box office, but also ratings. Keep in mind that Sony is the studio at the center of the 2014 email hack that revealed the blatant racism and anti-Blackness of Hollywood that audiences and performers of color already knew existed. From insensitive jokes made about former President Obama’s movie preferences — with “Django Unchained”, “12 Years A Slave”, and Kevin Hart films among their insincere guesses — to an attempt to blacklist Denzel Washington from leading roles because “pictures with an African American lead don’t play well overseas, ” a long-held myth that has been disproven again, and again, and again.
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