15 Must-Watch African-American Documentaries


Unflinching, powerful, and raw – these captivating documentary films shine a spotlight on the Black experience, from the struggles against organized racism to the triumphs of resilience and culture.

The 13th (2016)

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The 13th” is a tour de force, a searing exposé on the insidious intersection of race, politics, and mass incarceration in the United States. Ava DuVernay’s masterful direction peels back layers of institutional racism, leaving audiences grappling with the harsh truths of a system designed to perpetuate oppression.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

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Director Raoul Peck builds up James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript in  “I Am Not Your Negro,” crafting a poignant and dogged examination of America’s enduring legacy of racism. With Baldwin’s poetic words and archival footage, this film is a haunting reminder of the ongoing fight for equality.

When They See Us (2019)

When They See Us/Facebook

Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” is a gut-wrenching miniseries that exposes the flaws in the criminal justice system through the harrowing true story of the Central Park Five. With raw emotion and unflinching honesty, DuVernay shines a light on the devastating impact of racial profiling, reminding us that innocence is no shield against injustice.

Whose Streets? (2017)

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“Whose Streets?” is a raw and visceral documentation of the grassroots movement ignited by the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. This documentary immerses viewers in the heart of the uprising, capturing the raw emotions and unwavering determination of a community fighting for fairness and equality.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975/Facebook

Using never-before-seen clips, this documentary captures the rise of the Black Power movement in America. It’s a compelling chronicle of activism, resistance, and the quest for Black liberation, showcasing the passion and resilience of those who dared to challenge the status quo.

The Loving Story (2011)

The Loving Story/Facebook

A remarkable tale of love and resilience, this documentary recounts the account of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple whose marriage sparked a landmark Supreme Court case. This documentary is a testament to the power of love to overcome prejudice and a stirring reminder of the sacrifices made in the pursuit of equality.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am/Facebook

“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” celebrates one of America’s most revered literary voices. via intimate interviews and archival scenes, this documentary offers a captivating glimpse into the entity and legacy of Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, whose groundbreaking work has left an indelible mark on American literature.

Let the Fire Burn (2013)

Let the Fire Burn/Facebook

Using archival extracts and interviews, “Let the Fire Burn” is a haunting and undaunted portrayal of the tragic events surrounding the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia. The documentary reconstructs a chilling narrative of cop brutality and government overreach, leaving audiences groping with the harsh realities of regularized bias.

O.J.: Made in America (2016)

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This Oscar-winning documentary delves deep into O.J. Simpson’s life and trial, exploring race, celebrity, and objectivity themes in America. It’s a riveting saga that offers new perspectives on a notorious case that transcended the courtroom and exposed the fault lines of a nation grappling with its prejudices.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015)

The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution/Facebook

This is a riveting portrait of a movement that shook the foundations of America. It traces the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, capturing the idealism, complexities, and enduring impact of a group that dared to challenge the status quo.

Whitney: Can I Be Me (2017)

WHITNEY ‘Can I Be Me’/Facebook

This documentary is a candid and touching glimpse into the entity of music icon Whitney Houston. With unflinching honesty, this documentary explores the pressures she faced as a Black woman in the entertainment industry, reminding us of the human cost of fame and the tenacity required to navigate a world that often sought to diminish her light.

Strong Island (2017)

Strong Island – 2017/Facebook

Director Yance Ford looks into the murder of his brother and the failures of the criminal justice system to deliver impartiality, crafting a documentary that is both intimate and universal in its examination of the structured violence faced by Black communities. “Strong Island” is a powerful and personal exploration of grief, race, and the pursuit of accountability.

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station/Facebook

Based on Oscar Grant’s true account, this film chronicles the events leading up to his tragic death at the hands of authority. This film is a heartbreaking reminder of police cruelty and a poignant nudge to the systemic violence that continues to plague Black communities.

Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (2018)

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This documentary examines Sandra Bland’s case, a Black woman who died in police detention in Texas. It is a powerful call to action for fair shake and accountability, exposing the harsh realities of cop brutality and the ongoing struggle for reform.

Is that Black Enough for You? (2022)

Is That Black Enough for You Movie/Facebook

With infectious enthusiasm, Elvis Mitchell’s “Is That Black Enough for You?!?” celebrates the pioneers and innovators of Black cinema. A passionate ode to representation, this revelatory film pays homage to the visionaries who carved spaces for Black stories through the camera’s lens. It is a true masterclass in film appreciation and cultural preservation!


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