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I love films, in case you hadn’t noticed by now. It’s almost like an entire other language that I speak. So it shouldn’t surprise you that I think movies can play a role in teaching our children about all sorts of things. I came up with a list of 10 movies featuring Black stories (either characters or historical events) that I think would be wonderful to watch with your little ones to help them see the strength, intelligence, and courage of our black brothers and sisters.
- Hidden Figures – I featured this movie previously in my 10 Movies to Get You Motivated post. I love this film because it not only is it a true story showcasing three brilliant women but also it is a story about the space race and how African-Americans contributed to help the United States reach the stars. Had it not been for their considerable contributions we might never have made it. Show your kids that everyone has gifts and everyone can contribute to a project.
- Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – This film used humor to discuss the changing attitudes towards interracial relationships. It also addressed how it’s up to you to break the generational lies that hold you back, even if it means defying your parents. I think this movie is a good introduction for slightly older children that love can look all sorts of ways and if you love someone you fight for them. If you find this movie a little bit too pointed for your kids, the 2005 remake ‘Guess Who’ starring Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac is another good option.
- Remember the Titans – This is movie is based on the true story of the integration of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA in 1971. I watched this movie this week with my son Rigel and I can tell you even though he’s just shy of one year old he was mesmerized by Denzel Washington’s performance as Head Coach Herman Boone and could not keep his eyes off the screen. Sports stories are great vehicles for teaching children about overcoming obstacles. In real life sports have proven to be great catalyst for change because once people start playing together they realize that they’re not so different after all. I especially like the friendship that’s highlighted in this movie between Julius and Gerry. Watch this one with your kiddos and remind them that “attitude reflects leadership.”
- Something the Lord Made – Unfortunately we don’t learn nearly enough about our medical pioneers, which not only includes inventing wonder drugs and vaccines but also developing miraculous surgeries. This is the true story of Vivien Thomas and Dr. Alfred Blalock and their work at John Hopkins University. Vivien Thomas was an African-American lab assistant that has been credited with developing many of the surgical techniques that are currently used in thoracic surgery. I love this story because it shows us that education does not equal ability and is no guarantee of intelligence. Watch this one with your kids and remind them not to judge people by the education they may or may not have.
- The Princess and the Frog – Just to be clear anyone can be a Disney Princess. If you’re having doubts about that fact then watch the Princess and the Frog. But in this fairy tale, the Princess (Tiana) is a goal-oriented young woman with big plans to open her own restaurant, while the Prince is a lazy self-absorbed poser. Girls can be heroes, entrepreneurs, and whatever else they want to be. Watch this one with future (s)heros and with your little boys so that they learn that not everything is what it seems.
- The Wiz – Kids need to know about Diana Ross and if you got a young Michael Jackson in there too well that’s a bonus. Watch this adaptation of the Wizard of Oz and show your kids that everything’s better with some funk on it. The grand scale of the sets and the costumes may mean that you’ll need to stay close to the kiddos while they watch it to explain and help them digest but believe me this one is going to make their imaginations go wild, while tapping into some important social topics.
- 42 – This is the true story of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball. This story is important. Some historians credit the integration of baseball as being the catalyst for starting the entire civil rights movement. While historians may disagree, what we do know is that Jackie Robinson playing baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers got a whole lot of people thinking, that maybe things COULD be different. Watch this one with your little one after they’ve had a bad day.
- Akeelah and the Bee – It doesn’t matter where you start it just matters where you’re going. This is the story of a young African-American girl that defies expectations to participate in the spelling bee. Watch this movie with your kids and teach them that intelligence doesn’t have anything to do with what any one looks like or their parent’s net worth. Watch it and let’s make correct spelling cool again.
- Queen of Katwe – This movie is based on the true story of Ugandan chess player Phiona Mutesi. I love this movie because it makes chess club an option but also because it provides an opportunity to discuss global social and economic issues with your children. They’ll likely have questions about how the main character lives and why she’s not going to school. So use it to teach them that there’s other places in the world besides their own country.
- The Pursuit of Happyness – This is my favorite movie on the list. I love this movie so much that I own it! I mean Will Smith is in it. I love him so much that I even watched retro-twin Will Smith in ‘Gemini Man’ (if you haven’t seen that one I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say it’s not anything like this movie). This movie is based on the true story of Chris Gardner. I cry at least four times every time I watch it and then go start a project because I’m not working hard enough. This is a story of persistence and resiliency; may we raise children with both of those qualities.
While all of these movies should be just fine for little ones a couple of them do have scenes depicting mild violence and sensuality (kissing mostly). It’s best to watch all of these with your children so you can direct discussion but if you’re concerned about language or other content there is a great service called Vidangel that allows you to skip the bits that you may find questionable. The service works for video watched through Prime Video and Netflix, among others.
So plop down in the front of the television and watch one of these movies with your kids because the movie theaters are still closed and you need to start these conversations and teach them these stories as early as possible. They deserve to see the world through a beautiful colorful lens where everyone is valuable and capable.
Let me know in the comments if there’s any movies you’ve been watching with your kids that didn’t make it on this list. Or if you watch one of the movies on this list let me know what you and your kids thought.
It takes the WHOLE village,