Films

Driving While Black (PBS)

Discover how the advent of the automobile brought new mobility and freedom for African Americans but also exposed them to discrimination and deadly violence, and how that history resonates today. Chronicling the riveting history and personal experiences – at once liberating and challenging, harrowing and inspiring, deeply revealing and profoundly transforming – of African Americans on the road from the advent of the automobile through the seismic changes of the 1960s and beyond – “Driving While Black” explores the deep background of a recent phrase rooted in realities that have been an indelible part of the African American experience for hundreds of years – told in large part through the stories of the men, women and children who lived through it.

Quest

Filmed with vérité intimacy for nearly a decade, QUEST is the moving portrait of the Rainey family living in North Philadelphia. Beginning at the dawn of the Obama presidency, Christopher “Quest” Rainey, and his wife, Christine’a “Ma Quest” raise a family while nurturing a community of hip hop artists in their home music studio. It’s a safe space where all are welcome, but this creative sanctuary can’t always shield them from the strife that grips their neighborhood. Epic in scope, QUEST is a vivid illumination of race and class in America, and a testament to love, healing and hope.

Soul Food

This film focuses on a family in the 1990s, held together by the affectionate Mama Joe. Every Sunday she makes the family get together for dinner. She and her three daughters prepare the meal. Unfortunately, Mama Joe slips into a diabetic coma and the 40-year tradition comes to an end. Without the attentions of Mama Joe, the family slowly begins to come apart. Lem cannot find a job, and eventually becomes enraged with his wife Bird when he finds out how she got him a job. Terri, furious with Lem because she thinks he attacked Bird, has a goon beat him up. Lem eventually winds up in jail. Terri’s husband Miles has an affair with her cousin Faith. This leads to a rather funny scene in which Terri first chases her husband with a butcher knife and then Faith while they are all at a party. Mama Joe dies and Terri decides to sell Mama Joe’s house against the wishes of her family. In order to reunite the family Ahmed lures the family back to Mama Joe’s for a Sunday dinner.

Afro-Latinx Revolution: Puerto Rico

Latin America and the Caribbean received 95 percent of the Africans stolen during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. But what does it mean to be a descendent of those Africans today, in a world where more voices are calling out racism in Latin America? Why do some Black Latinos call themselves “Afro-LatinX” and why do some others dislike the term? And do Afro-Puerto Ricans face similar struggles with policing, discrimination, and economic inequality as Black Americans outside of the island?

In this new original documentary from theGrio, senior correspondent Natasha S. Alford (@natashasalford), traveled to Loiza, Puerto Rico during the 2019 summer of political unrest, where protesters ousted their governor. Through interviews with locals residents, scholars, and historians, Alford tells the story of an “Afro-LatinX Revolution.”

This series was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

Paris is Burning

This iconic 1990 documentary looks at the ballroom scene in New York City during the 1980s. The featured interviews brought ball culture to greater mainstream consciousness through lessons on vocabulary, as well as painting an intimate portrait of the scene and its members. Paris Is Burning highlights the importance of chosen families, as well as creativity and community borne amid struggles with poverty, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and access to health care.

See other suggestions for LGBTQ films here

Selected videos from C-SPAN archives

  • Juneteenth and Free Black Marriage: Author Tera Hunter spoke with the co-editors of the Journal of the Civil War Era about the significance of Juneteenth and her book Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century. Ms. Hunter explained the difference between the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth, as well as how freed people navigated family ties and relationships after the war. The Journal of the Civil War Era provided this video.
  • Wandering in Strange Lands: Author and journalist Morgan Jerkins looked at her family history through the lens of the Great Migration, when 6 million black Americans left the South from 1916 to 1970. This was a virtual event hosted by the Strand Bookstore in New York City.
  • African Americans in Spokane: Jerrelene Williamson, author of African Americans in Spokane, shared the life stories of the black families who arrived in Spokane, Washington, in 1899.
  • The Black Calhouns: Gail Lumet Buckley talked about her book The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights with One African American Family, in which she examines American history through the lens of her ancestry. This was part of the 9th annual Savannah Book Festival. 
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