We are here and here we ARE; Black History Month!!! If you’re anything like me, you’ve allocated time to watch a movie or two (or more) revolving around a Black theme, an all-Black cast or something else to celebrate Black achievement. Me? In addition to attending COVID-safe events and conducting my own research, much of my month is dedicated to reading and television or movie viewing. Case in point, my annual 28-day DVD binge.
Now before you start complaining about what is or isn’t on the list, keep in mind that this is NOT a “Best Of” or “Top 28” listicle. Some of these movies are for my boys, who’ve never seen them. Some are movies that I’ve seen maybe 3 or 4 times, but want to watch them again. Some remind me of sitting next to my parents in the living room back in the 70s. Some, just because of their significance, magnificence or plain ol’ common sense. In other words, don’t concern yourself with what I’ve selected and decide what YOU intend to watch, if anything. Still, if any of the movies on my list serve to inspire, fantastic.
This month’s viewing includes and is dedicated to the memory of Cicely Tyson, one of my favorite actresses of all time – who never once compromised her integrity for a role, yet still lasted a millennium in film and television.
28 Days Of Black Cinema
Movie synopses provided by the IMDb.
- The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman (1974) Cicely Tyson, Eric Brown
The story of a Black woman in the South who was born into slavery in the 1850s and lives to become a part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
- Three The Hard Way (1974) – Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly
Blaxploitation film about three martial-arts specialists who prevent White supremacists from tainting the U.S. water supply with a toxin that’s only harmful to Black people.
- Selma (2014) – David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo
A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.
- Claudine (1974) – Diahann Carroll, James Earl Jones
In the 1970s Harlem, garbage collector Roop feels intimidated by the idea of dating Claudine who is a single mother of six on welfare.
- The Learning Tree (1969) – Kyle Johnson, Alex Clarke
The story, set in Kansas during the 1920s, covers less than a year in the life of a Black teenager and documents the veritable deluge of events which force him into sudden manhood. The family relationships and enmities, the fears, frustrations and ambitions of the Black teenager in small-town America are explored with a strong statement about human values.
- The Tuskegee Airmen (1995) – Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne
The true story of how a group of African American pilots overcame racist opposition to become one of the finest US fighter groups in World War II.
- 42 (2013) – Chadwick Boseman, T.R. Knight
In 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and faces considerable racism in the process.
- The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976) – Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor
Tired of the slave-like treatment of his team’s owner, charismatic star Negro League pitcher Bingo Long takes to the road with his band of barnstormers through the small towns of the Midwest in the 1930’s.
- Greased Lightning (1977) – Richard Pryor, Beau Bridges, Pam Grier
The true life story of Wendell Scott, the first Black stock car racing driver to win an upper tier NASCAR race.
- Stormy Weather (1943) – Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway
The relationship between an aspiring dancer and a popular songstress provides a retrospective of the great African American entertainers of the early 1900s.
- Cleopatra Jones (1973) – Tamara Dobson, Bernie Casey, Brenda Sykes
During the 1970s, U.S. Special Agent Cleopatra Jones proves to be an invaluable asset to the local police forces in the war on drugs.
- Lady Sings The Blues (1972) – Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor
The story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday.
- Soul Of The Game (1996) – Delroy Lindo, Mykelti Williamson (my brother Terrance is an extra in this film)
Black baseball greats, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, vie to be the first Afro-American major leaguer, only to see the outspoken rookie, Jackie Robinson, be chosen.
- Detroit (2017) – John Boyega, Anthony Mackie
Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers respond to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds.
- Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970) – Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques
Two Harlem cops investigate a robbery, believing that a reverend has staged it in order to steal the money he’s collected for a local fundraiser.
- The Great White Hope (1970) – James Earl Jones, Jane Alexander
A Black champion boxer and his White female companion struggle to survive while the White boxing establishment looks for ways to knock him down.
- Sounder (1972) – Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield
The oldest son of a loving and strong family of Black sharecroppers comes of age in the Depression-era South after his father is imprisoned for stealing food.
- Lillies Of The Field (1963) – Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala
A travelling handyman becomes the answer to the prayers of nuns who wish to build a chapel in the desert.
- Coffy (1973) – Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw
A sexy Black nurse takes vigilante justice against inner-city drug dealers after her sister becomes their latest victim.
- Bojangles (2001) – Gregory Hines, Peter Riegert
The life of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, African-American tap-dancing star of stage and screen.
- Carmen Jones (1954) – Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge
Contemporary version of the Bizet opera, with new lyrics and an African-American cast.
- Black Orpheus (1959) – Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn
A retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set during the time of the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.
- Cornbread, Earl & Me (1975) – Moses Gunn, Rosalind Cash, Bernie Casey
A 12-year-old is traumatized by the murder of his friend, a star basketball player.
(This is the film debut of Laurence “Larry” Fishburne)
- Minstrel Man (1977) – Esther Shapiro, Glynn Turman, Richard Alan Shapiro
During the early 1900’s, 2 Black brothers who work in a traveling minstrel have different goals; one’s determined to succeed in a field which is dominated by White performers in blackface, whilst the other is a composer, fighting to break away from the stereotypes associated with Black minstrel performers.
- Black Girl (1972) – Brock Peters, Claudia McNeil, Leslie Uggams
An aspiring dancer and her wicked sisters resent their mother’s love for a foster daughter.
- The Long Walk Home (1990) – Sissy Spacek, Whoopi Goldberg
Two women, Black and White, in 1955 Montgomery Alabama, must decide what they are going to do in response to the famous bus boycott led by Martin Luther King.
- Beloved (1998) – Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover
Based on the book by Toni Morrison, in which a slave is visited by the spirit of a mysterious young woman.
- A Woman Called Moses (1978) – Cicely Tyson, Jason Bernard
A film about the life and career of the African American abolitionist and slave escape leader, Harriet Tubman.
…and that’s it! What are some movies that you intend to watch this month? Please share in the Comments section below. I’d love to know. And don’t forget to sign up for email notification of new and future posts.
Thanks for reading!