Black History Month

35 Films for Black History Month and Beyond

We’re more than halfway through Black History Month, but it’s not too late to start engaging with Black media and culture. This celebration was created in 1925 by historian Carter G. Woodson and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), and was originally named Negro History Week. After spreading across America throughout the 20th century, Negro History Week was expanded into Black History Month in 1976. To learn more about the history of this celebration, visit

American University Media Services is celebrating Black History Month by sharing 35 films (and series) from our collection that center Black stories. Whether you watch these films in February or beyond, these movies are all available on DVD for members of the AU community. Don’t have a DVD player at home? Don’t worry! You can borrow one from the library or view these films right here in one of our many screening rooms.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Still from "I Am Not Your Negro" featuring James Baldwin smoking while sitting at a typewriter

Director: Raoul Peck

Based on James Baldwin’s manuscript Remember This House and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this documentary uses Baldwin’s memories of prominent civil rights leaders and personal observations to take a look at the history of racism in the United States.

Available on DVD or streaming

Belle (2013)

Still from "Belle" featuring a mixed race woman in period clothing looking towards the camera while a white woman leans into her

Director: Amma Asante

This period drama is inspired by the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race West Indian daughter of a British aristocrat in the 18th century.

Available on DVD or streaming

Rosewood (1997)

Still from "Rosewood" featuring a man surrounded by children looking off screen at night

Director: John Singleton

A man rallies the Black residents of Rosewood, Florida to defend themselves from a racist white mob in this film inspired by the 1923 Rosewood massacre.

Available on DVD

Within Our Gates (1920)

Still from "Within Our Gates" featuring a woman turned away from a man leaning over her

Director: Oscar Micheaux

The oldest known surviving film made by an African-American director, this silent film tells the story of a Black woman who travels to the North to raise money for a rural school in the Deep South.

Available on DVD or streaming

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Still from "BlacKkKlansman" featuring a Black man and a white man looking at a Ku Klux Klan card

Director: Spike Lee

Loosely based on a memoir by Ron Stallworth, this film depicts Stallworth’s experiences as a Black detective in the 1970s infiltrating and exposing the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Available on DVD

Bessie (2015)

Still from "Bessie" featuring a singing woman in the early 1900s

Director: Dee Rees

Starring Queen Latifah as renowned blues singer Bessie Smith, this biopic depicts her journey from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues.”

Available on DVD

Serafina! (1992)

Still from "Sarafina!" featuring a crowd of students raising their fists in the air

Director: Darrell James Roodt

Students in the Soweto Uprising in South Africa fight against the implementation of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools in this musical drama.

Available on DVD

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)

Promotional image from "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" featuring children looking off at the sunset behind a line of trees

Director: RaMell Ross

This non-linear documentary follows the daily lives of Black residents of Hale County, Alabama.

Available on DVD

Glory (1989)

Still from "Glory" featuring a Union army regiment holding flags and guns during a night battle

Director: Edward Zwick

This historical war drama tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the earliest African-American regiments in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Available on DVD

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)

Poster for "A Questlove Jawn: Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)" featuring blurry images of Black musicians

Director: Questlove

Questlove’s independent documentary explores the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival using professional archival footage of the festival, stock news footage, and modern-day interviews.

Available on DVD or streaming

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

Image for "What Happened, Miss Simone" featuring a shot of Nina Simone holding a microphone inside of a silhouette of Nina bowing her head

Director: Liz Garbus

This biographical documentary chronicles the life of singer and activist Nina Simone.

Available on DVD

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Still from "Judas and the Black Messiah" featuring a member of the Black Panther Party staring towards the camera

Director: Shaka King

Starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, this biographical crime drama depicts the betrayal of Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton by FBI informant William O’Neal.

Available on DVD

Blindspotting (2018)

Still from "Blindspotting" featuring two men in mover's outfits staring inquisitively at something off camera

Director: Carlos López Estrada

A parolee with three days left on his sentence witnesses a police shooting and is forced to reexamine a lifelong friendship.

Available on DVD

Black Panther (2018)

Still from "Black Panther" featuring two men in ritual combat

Director: Ryan Coogler

One of Marvel’s most successful movies, this Afro-futurist superhero film features the conflict between T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, and Killmonger, an American-born challenger for the throne who wants to use Wakanda’s resources to spark a global revolution.

Available on DVD

Get Out (2017)

Still from "Get Out" featuring a man staring into the camera with tears streaming down his face

Director: Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut follows a Black man who discovers shocking secrets and danger when he meets the family of his white girlfriend.

Available on DVD

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Still from "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" featuring six different Spider-People

Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman

Miles Morales, a young Afro-Latino who becomes his universe’s new Spider-Man after the death of Peter Parker, learns what it means to be a hero with the help of other Spider-People from various parallel universes.

Available on DVD

Malcolm X (1992)

Still from "Malcom X" featuring Malcolm sitting in front of an array of microphones

Director: Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s biopic of Malcom X stars Denzel Washington as the Black activist and leader.

Available on DVD

Fences (2016)

Still from "Fences" featuring a man and a woman sitting on a stoop

Director: Denzel Washington

This film is an adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a working-class father trying to raise his family in 1950s Pittsburgh.

Available on DVD

The Color Purple (1985)

Still from "The Color Purple" featuring three women standing out front of a house

Director: Steven Spielberg

Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this coming-of-age film shows the life of a young girl trying to survive through extreme hardships.

Available on DVD

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Still from "Hoop Dreams" featuring basketball players sitting in a locker room

Director: Steve James

This documentary follows the story of two Black high school students in Chicago hoping to become professional basketball players.

Available on DVD or streaming

Black Dynamite (2009)

Still from "Black Dynamite" featuring a man pointing a gun while two women hold onto his legs

Director: Scott Sanders

In this parody and homage to 1970s blaxploitation films, a former CIA agent called Black Dynamite must avenge his brother’s death while ridding the streets of a new drug.

Available on DVD

Blue Collar (1978)

Still from "Blue Collar" featuring three men leaning on the hood of a car

Director: Paul Schrader

This film examines working-class life in the Rust Belt as three Michigan auto workers face mistreatment from both the auto plant management and the corrupt union.

Available on DVD

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

Still from "Devil in a Blue Dress" featuring Denzel Washington staring at something off screen

Director: Carl Franklin

Starring Denzel Washington, this neo-noir follows a World War II veteran in desperate need of a job who gets drawn into a search for a mysterious woman.

Available on DVD

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Still from "Sorry to Bother You" featuring a disheveled man with a bloody bandage on his head making a phone call

Director: Boots Riley

A young Black telemarketer is advised to adopt a white accent to do well at his job and is subsequently swept into a corporate conspiracy due to his newfound success.

Available on DVD

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Still from "In the Heat of the Night" featuring a man leaning on a police officer's desk while talking on the phone

Director: Norman Jewison

Sidney Poitier stars as a Black police detective involved in a murder investigation in a small Mississippi town.

Available on DVD

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

Still from "A Raisin in the Sun" featuring a woman looking at a man who is reading a letter with a concerned expression

Director: Daniel Petrie

A Black family dreams of a better life in a nicer neighborhood but faces backlash from their new white neighbors.

Available on DVD or streaming

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)

Still from "When the Levees Broke" featuring two men rowing a boat through a flooded highway

Director: Spike Lee

This four-part documentary explores the devastation of New Orleans following the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina.

Available on DVD or streaming

Moonlight (2016)

Still from "Moonlight" featuring two teenage boys gazing into each other's eyes

Director: Barry Jenkins

This coming-of-age film shows the main character in three stages of his life: childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.

Available on DVD or streaming

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Still from "The Watermelon Woman" featuring two women in a video store

Director: Cheryl Dunye

A Black lesbian working a day job at a video storetries to make a film about Fae Richards, a Black actress from the 1930s known for playing stereotypical “mammy” roles.

Available on DVD or streaming

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Still from "If Beale Street Could Talk" featuring a young couple leaning their foreheads against one another on the subway

Director: Barry Jenkins

A young woman tries to clear her lover’s name of a crime he didn’t commit before their baby is born.

Available on DVD

Small Axe (TV Mini Series 2020)

Still from "Small Axe" featuring a British courtroom

Created by: Steve McQueen

This British anthology film series tells the stories of West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Available on DVD

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement (TV Documentary 1987–1990)

Still from "Eyes on the Prize" featuring a crowd of people marching

Created by: PBS

This multi-part documentary about the civil rights movement spans topics from Brown v. Board of Education to the Selma to Montgomery marches.

Available on DVD

Atlanta (TV Series 2016–2022)

Still from "Atlanta" featuring three men walking outdoors

Created by: Donald Glover

This comedy-drama series created by and starring Donald Glover follows a college dropout turned music manager and a rapper as they explore the Atlanta hip hop scene.

Available on DVD

Insecure (TV Series 2016–2021)

Still from "Insecure" featuring two women laughing on a bench outside

Created by: Issa Rae

Based on Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl, this comedy-drama series follows an awkward Black woman navigating daily life in South Los Angeles.

Available on DVD

Queen Sugar (TV Series 2016–2022)

Still from "Queen Sugar" featuring three individuals dressed in white holding hands at a funeral

Created by: Ava DuVernay

Three siblings deal with the aftermath of their father’s sudden death and must decide what to do with his 800-acre sugarcane farm in rural Louisiana.

Available on DVD

Looking for more films and TV series by, about, and/or starring African Americans? Check out Media Services’ African American Cinema and TV collection. All movies and shows listed there are available on DVD for members of the AU community to check out. Happy Black History Month!

Posted in Black History Month, News, Recommendations, Top Picks.