February is Black History Month, so I wanted to incorporate some celebratory movies into our regularly scheduled couch surfing. I should have posted this Watchlist on the first of the month, but I had a hard time finding a family-friendly movie to recommend. Since the history of African Americans includes many afflictions, most of the movies I wanted to include are not appropriate for little eyes. I finally found a good one today, so I am writing this post as fast as I can.
Starting with the oldest released film, I recommend Do The Right Thing released in 1989. This is not just a movie about a Brooklyn pizza delivery guy and his friends sweating it out on a sweltering summer day. It’s about how deeply ingrained racism is in our society. People are not good or bad but good and bad. Writer/director/actor Spike Lee was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and Danny Aiello was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 1990 Academy Awards. Do The Right Thing is available for rent on Amazon Instant.
You probably watched 12 Years a Slave when it was released in 2013 or after it was nominated for practically every award at the 2014 Oscars and won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. However, it’s still worth a mention. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir of the same name, 12 Years a Slave shows the horror and struggles of a free-born New York man who is captured and sold into slavery in Louisiana. If you haven’t seen this brilliant movie, you should. I may or may not have cried at the end of this movie. 12 Years a Slave is available on DVD at Netflix.
Please do not watch the aforementioned R-rated movies with your toddlers. (Or at least don’t blame me if they don’t like them.) It was not an easy task to find a film about Civil Rights for children, much less a well-made one. This film is based on the children’s book of the same name by Christopher Paul Curtis, which won several awards including the Newbery Honor. This movie might be a little slow for younger viewers, but it is still appropriate to watch with all ages. Your kids also might recognize the voice of the mom from The Princess and the Frog. That’s right. Princess Tiana is now a mom of three.
This movie is about a family from Michigan who goes to visit their grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama during the tumultuous year of 1963. I have a special place in my heart for Civil Rights movies that include Birmingham and the 16th Street Baptist Church because I visited the church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute when my husband and I relocated to Birmingham in 2012.The most heart-breaking part of the Institute was the portion dedicated to the little girls who died in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. There can be no greater evil than the murder of innocent children.
I learned a lot while I was in Birmingham. Did you know that Asian American children were segregated in schools too? Chinese American children were segregated, but Indian American children were declared to have the same ancestor as Scandinavians and therefore declared white. I learned about it at the Civil Rights Institute. It’s weird because the 60’s were not that long ago. It could have been me attending a colored-only school or having to sit at the back of the bus. I feel very grateful to everyone who was part of the Civil Rights Movement, and I celebrate the proud history of African Americans.