12 Black History Movies for Kids of All Ages
February is Black History Month and a celebration of the African-American experience in the United States and Canada. This makes it a perfect time to learn and grow as a family by watching movies that celebrate Black stories and African American history. This February, kids, and students will learn about important moments and people in black history, and movies and media are a great way to teach them through entertainment. Many of these films feature great role models, both fictional and historical! It's important for young Black kids to see themselves on screen, whether that's as a princess, a hero, or a crusader for justice. We've chosen a diverse list of films ranging from cartoons to sports films to historical dramas, and stories covering the Civil Rights Movement.
Representation matters, and taking the time to watch these movies and discuss them as a family is important. Check out our list of Black history movies for kids and choose a few options based on the age of your children:
Black History Movies: Preschool and Up
This animated classic gave children their first Black Disney princess and a story about compassion, hard work, and big dreams. It’s hard not to fall in love with Tiana and her dream of opening a restaurant in New Orleans. This movie is also a beautiful celebration of Black stories in New Orleans.
This is an animated Disney movie that compliments the TV series about the African-American Proud family with the two main characters being 16-year old Penny and her dad, Oscar. There is an interesting twist in this story as the evil Dr. Carver villain turns out to be the great-great-grandson of Washington Carver, one of the most famous Black scientists of the 20th century known for his work with peanuts.
Black History Movies: Elementary School and Up
Ruby Bridges is a hero of the civil rights movement. As the first African-American student to be integrated into a local elementary school in New Orleans, Ruby’s story is accessible and relatable for children who are in elementary school themselves. It is important for children to understand the racism that six year old Ruby faced during this historic time, and Disney does a good job with making this movie family friendly.
This is a true story that originally appeared on the Disney Channel. It’s the story of a friendship in 1977 between a Black girl living in Washington D.C. and a white girl living in South Africa. This movie will captivate kids who will learn about race relations and stereotypes all while feeling invested in the friendship of these two characters. The film does a good job not shying away from the issues of racism and racially motivated violence while still feeling powerful and appropriate for children.
This movie is a true story and especially popular with sports fans. It tells the story of a football coach and his high school football team in Alexandria, Virginia during 1971 when an all Black school was forced to integrate with an all white school. The themes of distrust and stereotypes being conquered for unity is one that will stay with kids of all ages.
Hidden Figures is an unforgettable true story about African-American women. This team of Black female mathematicians, including Katherine Johnson, played a vital role in the early space program at NASA. This movie is an especially powerful choice for young girls.
Black History Movies: Middle School and Up
Inspired by a true story, Denzel Washington directs and stars in this inspiring movie along with Forest Whitaker during the time of segregation. This movie emphasizes the power of words as it depicts the story of an underdog African-American debate team led by a Black man who takes on a group of Harvard elite. The setting is Texas in 1935 where racial tension is high. This is a powerful movie for tweens and teens.
Available on Netflix
This thought provoking documentary by Ava DuVernay delves into the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. This film is heavy and filled with important information that is most appropriate for teens. It pairs America’s challenging racial history with modern day observations in a way that you can’t look away from. This film includes graphic scenes of racial violence, so this documentary may be best watched as a family to allow for feelings and discussion to be shared.
This Spike Lee film is a tribute to the influential Black activist leader, Malcom X. This biopic shares the power of change as the title character evolves from a small town gangster to a leader in the Nation of Islam. This struggle for Black liberation is both gritty and poignant and a must watch for teens.
Selma chronicles the time period in 1965 when Martin Luther King, Jr. led a campaign for equal voting rights against violent opposition. This historic moment is something that all children should learn about as Dr. King led an epic march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. This led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This movie will help every teen to understand why the Civil Rights Movement was necessary,
Harriet tells the story of an extraordinary woman in American history, Harriet Tubman. Junior high and up students will be amazed by this hero’s journey from slave to leader as she saved hundreds of slaves via the Underground Railroad. This movie is inspirational and unforgettable and a tribute to the power of Black women.
This is a must-watch true story for all kids age 13 and up. Bryan Stevenson is an African-American Harvard graduate who heads to Alabama to defend those who have been wrongly convicted or cannot afford other representation. This is first and foremost a story of injustice as Mr. Stevenson defends Walter McMillian who has been wrongly convicted of murdering an 18 year old girl. It would be great to follow up watching this movie as a family with spending some time learning about the Equal Justice Initiative.
Looking for ways to teach your kids about not only Black History Month, but also race? Check out 25 Books for Kids About Race and Racism.
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