Friday, July 21, 2017

TOPIC CONVERSATION: Five Films To Watch To Help Understand the African-American Experience Part 1 (MY EDITION)

 I mentioned on my posting of "You Can't Touch My Hair" by Phoebe Robinson (review here) that I would post some important African-American media (movies and television shows) that can help showcase the experiences of African-Americans. These are films that I either want to watch or have seen before. Even though I am not African-American I know that these films speak to that experience based on not only my own perceptions of the films that have helped to start to educate me on these matters, but also due to hearing their importance in that community. This are not in any order or any importance order either. These are also just a limited number of the possible films you can watch. These are just the ones that immediately come to my own mind that you can view to better understand these experiences. Without further ado:


1. Dear White People (2014)

Reason for Inclusion Here: This film tells the story about how college students that just so happen to be African-American experience different aspects of the college experience. This film is within the last ten years, so it is pretty focused on racial issues that are currently occurring within our society. I have personally yet to see the movie, but have watched the Netflix series that has been developed from this film. If this film is anything like the Netflix series it is vital viewing to help educate yourself on these experiences. 

2. Set it Off (1996)

Reason for Inclusion Here: While this film is just a great film, the realities that each of the four main characters encompass about the African-American experience is also important. They each showcase different experiences of how these four women have had to live as African-American women to survive within our society, which ultimately leads them to decide to become bank robbers. This is a very serious movie, so don't think that premise of bank robbers is a comedic element. It isn't. This is about the realities of the world making you do something that you never thought you would do because of racial issues that are contained within our society. This is a film that may not seem like it would educate you, but if you understand those underlying messages it will make you understand these experiences very concretely. 

3. The Long-Walk Home (1990)

Reason for Inclusion Here: To understand the African-American experience in American society you have to look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement as well. You have to begin to grasp that slavery did not end racial prejudices within our society. This film focuses on racial issues that were alive and well in the south. This is done in a more approachable manner than some other films in this particular film wheelhouse. This film would be a good starting point for someone from my own race (white) to start off with, since one of the main characters is this. This, however, should not be the only film that you view related to these experiences because it will present a limited view. It coupled with another couple of movies will greatly aid you towards understanding the issues we have with racism in our country and that they were prevalent in our past as well. 

4. Fruitvale Station (2013)

Reason for Inclusion Here: While I have never seen this film myself. I am aware of the contents because I know what caused this film to be made. This film is based on a real life occurrence where an African-American male was killed by a transit officer. I used to live in San Francisco, so many friends made me aware of this particular incident. Cell phone footage was taken of this incident and showcased horrifically how African-American people can be treated by those in authority. This is a much watch film and as I type this I realize I will need to watch this soon as well. 

5. The Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) 

Reason for Inclusion Here: This film focuses on important historical elements of racism as well. This one focuses mostly on the trial of the killer of Medgar Evers, a prominent civil rights leader. For years, the gentleman was tried for his death, but had two hung juries. This film showcases what happens when someone steps up to help the widow of Evers and it ultimately showcases the experiences of African-Americans within the judicial system. It is another important film to begin to grasp some of the racial issues we have still within many American society.

What I would like to do with this particular blog posting is pose a question to the readers: What are some films that you may be aware of that shine some light on the experiences of African-American individuals in American society? Television shows are acceptable as well. In a month or two (depending on how many comments are given) I will try to watch these films and discuss why they are important to the overall conversation about African-American experiences. 


  1. This is so important! Too often we don't understand the power and importance of representation in the media.

    1. Agreed! It is vital to see media representations of a variety of experiences, not just our own experiences.

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful post!