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Black American Documentary Films in Streaming: Literature


The Flowering of African American Poetry Today
"...offers the unprecedented opportunity to watch thirty-two of today’s leading African American poets reading from their work and discussing the critical issues shaping this vibrant poetic tradition..."

 For My People: The Life and Writing of Margaret Walker
" the long-overdue recognition to one of the seminal figures of American literature. Margaret Walker has been described by scholar Jerry Ward as 'a national treasure' and by Nikki Giovanni as the 'most famous person nobody knows.. Her signature poem, For My People, written when she was 22, set a tone and a level of commitment which African American literat'ure has been responding to ever since."

Hughes' Dream Harlem
"Langston Hughes was one of the most prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance and is often referred to as Harlem's poet laureate. This film shows how Hughes successfully fused jazz, blues and common speech to celebrate the beauty of Black life. Hughes' Dream Harlem presents a vision of the esteemed poet in present-day Harlem and makes an important case for Hughes' impact on hip-hop and the spoken-word community. This multi-layered documentary includes roundtable discussions of his contributions and a tour of Hughes' Harlem hang-outs..."

i Am Not Your Negro
"An Oscar-nominated documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro explores the continued peril America faces from institutionalized racism. In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends--Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin's death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript...."                                                                                                                                                                                  (Kanopy)

In Black and White: Six Profiles of African American Authors; "This is the first video series devoted to the life and work of contemporary African American authors. It introduces students and general readers to six of America's most talented and challenging writers:

  1. Charles Johnson:: "Charles R. Johnson stirred controversy when he criticized Alice Walker’s portrayal of African-American men in The Color Purple. A former political cartoonist, he is the recipient of a MacArthur 'Genius Grant”'Fellowship, and his Middle Passage won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.
  2. Gloria Naylor: “'I don't believe that life is supposed to make you feel good, or make you feel miserable either,' says Gloria Naylor. 'Life is just supposed to make you feel.' This insight into life’s subtle rhythms suffuses Naylor’s critically acclaimed work The Women of Brewster Place..."
  3. Toni Morrison: "Winner of numerous awards, most notably the Nobel Prize for Literature, Toni Morrison made it possible for a new generation of African-American writers to have a voice in the mainstream literary dialogue. Her evocative, multilayered tales illuminate the black experience and have the power to change how readers look at American history. In this program, Morrison explains her statement that 'American literature is incoherent without the contribution of African-American writers.'"
  4. Alice Walker: "Perhaps best known for The Color Purple, which won both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, Alice Walker has a varied body of work that includes novels, short stories, poetry, essays, and nonfiction—much of it informed by her experience of growing up under Jim Crow laws in Georgia, where her parents fought for the right to teach..."
  5. August Wilson: "In 2005, playwright August Wilson published the final installment of his ten-part magnum opus, Pittsburgh Cycle—ten separate but thematically linked plays about African-American life, each set in a different decade of the 20th century..."
  6. John Wideman: "'I would find myself very angry about something, or very unhappy about something and not really know why, and the writing was a way to put some perspective on those very powerful emotions..'  says John Edgar Wideman...."


James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket
"James Baldwin was at once a major 20th-century American author, a civil rights activist, and a prophetic voice calling Americans, black and white both, to confront their shared racial tragedy. This film biography of Baldwin’s life captures the passion of his beliefs with stirring excerpts from his novels and striking archival footage dating from the Harlem Renaissance through to the author’s commentary on civil rights to his writing retreats in Istanbul and Europe. Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and William Styron provide insight as the program skillfully links excerpts from Baldwin’s major works to different historical stages in black-white dialogue."

The Revival: Black Lesbian Poets and Feminist Thinkers
This documentary chronicles the US tour of a group of Black lesbian poets and musicians, who become present-day stewards of a historical movement to build community among queer women of color. Their journey to strengthen their community is enriched by insightful interviews with leading Black feminist thinkers and historians...."  (Kanopy)

Ralph Ellison: An American Journey
"An introduction to the complex author of Invisible Man including the first-ever dramatized scenes from that book."

Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sea
"Zora Neale Hurston, path-breaking novelist, pioneering anthropologist and one of the first black women to enter the American literary canon (Their Eyes Were Watching God), established the African American vernacular as one of the most vital, inventive voices in American literature. This definitive film biography, eighteen years in the making, portrays Zora in all her complexity: gifted, flamboyant, and controversial but always fiercely original.Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun intersperses insights from leading scholars and rare footage of the rural South (some of it shot by Zora herself) with re-enactments of a revealing 1943 radio interview. Hurston biographer, Cheryl Wall, traces Zora's unique artistic vision back to her childhood in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black incorporated town in the U.S..



(I Am Not Your Negro)