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Black American Documentary Films in Streaming: History


The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross
"Written and presented by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the six-hour series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds"

  1. The Black Atlantic:1500 - 1800 "explores the global experiences that created the African-American people. Beginning a century before the first documented '20-and-odd' slaves who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, the episode portrays the earliest Africans, slave and free, who arrived on these shores... "
  2. The Age of Slavery: 1800-1860 " illustrates how black lives changed dramatically in the aftermath of the American Revolution. For free black people, these years were a time of opportunity, but for most African Americans, the era represented a new nadir..."

  3. Into the Fire: 1861 - 1896 "examines the most tumultuous and consequential period in African-American history: the Civil War and the end of slavery, and Reconstruction's thrilling but brief 'moment in the sun.' ."

  4. Making a Way Out of No Way 1897-1940 "portrays the Jim Crow era, when African Americans struggled to build their own worlds within the harsh, narrow confines of segregation..."

  5. Rise: 1940 - 1986 " examines the long road to civil rights, when the deep contradictions in American society finally became unsustainable. African Americans who fought fascism in World War II came home to face the same old racial violence. But mass media - from print to radio and TV - broadcast that injustice, planting seeds of resistance. .."

  6. A More Perfect Union: 1968-2013 "After 1968, African Americans set out to build a bright future on the foundation of the civil rights movement's victories, but a growing class disparity threatened to split the black community. As African Americans won political office across the country and the black middle class made progress, larger economic and political forces isolated the black urban poor... ."


And Still I Rise: Black America Since MLK
"...looks at the last five decades of African American history since the major civil rights victories through the eyes of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., exploring the tremendous gains and persistent challenges of these years ..."

  1. Out of the Shadows: "The series begins at a crucial turning point in American history: the Selma marches that led to the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the urban rebellion that broke out in Watts just a few days later. Watts marked a new phase in the black struggle, revealing that our nation's racial issues were not confined to the Jim Crow South — and that true equality would not come through laws alone..."
  2. Move On, Up:  "The second hour dramatizes the diverging paths for African Americans that emerged in the 1970s and early '80s, as well as the outbursts of white backlash that marked these years. We see how the civil rights era propelled a growing portion of black America into true upward mobility, allowing them to join the middle class and move to affluent suburbs — like the Oliver family, who Gates visits in Laurelton, New York..."
  3. Keep Your Head Up: "The third hour reveals profound fissures within the country — and within black America — that deepened through the 1980s and '90s, just as African Americans were becoming more visible than ever. Gates visits his old friends Oprah Winfrey and Bob Johnson, who blazed astonishing trails during this era, reaching levels of success that Dr. King would never have imagined possible. Yet he also talks with Reverend Al Sharpton, who recalls the desperate fight mounted within poor black communities against a terrifying new scourge that was tearing lives and families apart: crack cocaine.... "
  4. Touch the Sky: The final hour brings the story up to the present day. As the 21st Century dawned, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina came as a wake-up call, revealing that the black poor were still grappling with issues that the civil rights movement set out to resolve decades earlier. After this sobering revelation, Senator Barack Obama's announcement that he would run for President sparked a wave of hope that the country might at last be ready for real change. .."


In Search of the Dream: A Story of the African American Experience: "This 'living documentary' series examines the social, political, cultural, and economic life of African Americans from the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619, through the civil rights movement and its aftermath, to the present. Combining documentary footage, interviews, personal testimonials, and analyses of social and political developments, the series provides personal and historical perspective on the African-American experience..."

  1. Resurrection: "This program opens in Haskell Ward’s hometown of Griffin, Georgia. A prominent African American with vast experience in government, Ward narrates a personal story of accomplishments, struggle, and joy...."

  2. Stirrings: "College students played a pivotal role in the protest movement of the ’50s and ’60s. Haskell Ward recalls his own college years, discusses new trends and developments with students at Morehouse, Spelman, Morris Brown, and Clark Atlanta University, and evaluates African-American progress with student activists, elected representatives..."

  3. Origins:: "This program begins with the arrival of 20 enslaved Africans brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 and examines the impact of slavery on African Americans. C. Eric Lincoln, professor of philosophy and religion at Duke University and a noted authority on African-American religion, explains why African roots are important to African Americans."

  4.  Saviors: This program provides insight into the role of the federal government in legislating and enforcing rights for African Americans. It tells the story of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, a landmark in the battle to end segregation in public schools. Rep. William Gray, William Coleman, Rev. Jesse Jackson,".

  5. Inspirations: "In economically disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the nation, local leaders, working through formal and informal groups, are pulling together to improve the quality of life by addressing such critical problems as child care, urban violence,'"black on black"'crime, housing, teenage pregnancy, economic inequities, and community develop.."

  6. Liberty: To what extent should African Americans strive to maintain their unique cultural heritage, and to what degree should they seek to become assimilated into the hegemonic culture? Rep. Charles Rangel provides perspective on Washington, D.C., and Harlem, and psychologist Kenneth B. Clark assesses the terrain and the hurdles ahead. Participants in previous programs in this series, and black and white high school and college students, discuss the broad spectrum of race relations in the 1990s.


Through a Lens Darkly
"The first documentary to explore the American family photo album through the eyes of black photographers, Through a Lens Darkly probes the recesses of American history to discover images that have been suppressed, forgotten and lost. From slavery to the present, these extraordinary images unveil a world confronting the difficult edges of citizenship and what it means to be human."

Woman in the Iron Coffin
"In 2011, construction workers uncovered the remains of a woman in an abandoned lot in Queens, New York. This program follows a team of historians and scientists as they investigate this woman’s story."




((Into the Fire)