Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Black American Documentary Films in Streaming: Urban Life

Urban Life

70 Acres in Chicago: Cabrini Green
"Filmed over a period of 20 years, 70 Acres in Chicago chronicles the demolition of Chicago's Cabrini Green public housing development, the clearing of an African-American community, and the building of mixed-income communities on the valuable land where Cabrini once stood. More than a specific portrait of a single housing development, 70 Acres in Chicago illuminates the layers of socio-economic forces and the difficult questions behind urban redevelopment and gentrification taking place in cities throughout the United States today." (Kanopy)

Brownsville: Black and White
"This poignant and powerful documentary explores the complex history of interracial cooperation, urban change, and social conflict in Brownsville, a neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, from the 1930s to the 2000s. A case study of the tragedy of urban American race relations, the film recounts the transformation of Brownsville from a poor but racially harmonious area made up largely of Jews and blacks to a community made up almost entirely of people of color. In the 1940s Brownsville was famous for its grass-roots integration. But it later achieved notoriety for one of the most divisive and bitter black-white confrontations in American history..."

God's Alcatraz
"New Lots, a little north of Howard Beach in East Brooklyn, NY was a community plagued with unemployment, drug abuse and violence. Two generations of fractured African-American families, children who had never met their fathers, never had jobs, had been written off as a community of despair. Eighteen years ago, Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood arrived in New Lots - God's Alcatraz - to infuse new life into the community through his parish, St. Paul's Village....:"

July '64
"The night of Friday, July 24th, 1964 started off normally enough in Rochester New York, stiflingly hot and humid; but by the next morning no one would look at race relations in the North the same again. July '64 takes a penetrating look at the underlying causes of the riots or urban insurrections that swept through Black communities like wildfires that summer and in years since. To many whites it must have seemed odd that it started in Rochester. To them Rochester was the ideal small city; it had low unemployment and thousands of high paying, skilled manufacturing jobs in "clean" companies like Kodak, Bausch and Lomb and the future Xerox..."

L.A. Burning
"An original two-hour documentary marking the 25th anniversary of the infamous L.A. riots that reexamines the intense and life-changing events through the eyes of those who lived it."

South Central Los Angeles: Inside Voices
"This is a powerful documentary that honestly and directly exposes issues of prejudice, racism and class as they effect multicultural communities. Filmed by the people living and working in the areas affected by the L.A. riots, it is a vivid portrayal of the complex urban tapestry,,,,"

We Are Not Ghosts
"...presents an eye-opening portrait the abandonment of Detroit and gives voice to the on-going struggles of residents to maintain a livable city through locally directed initiatives including urban gardening, the support of locally owned businesses, art projects, and place based education. This video is appropriate for undergraduate urban studies, urban sociology, and planning courses and will surely generate lively debate among students."    - William Rohe

The Whole Gritty City
" a 90-minute documentary that plunges viewers into the world of three New Orleans school marching bands. The film follows children growing up in America's most musical city, and one of its most dangerous, as their band directors get them ready to perform in the Mardi Gras parades, and teach them to succeed and to survive. Navigating the urban minefield through moments of setback, loss, discovery, and triumph, these children and their adult leaders reveal the power and resilience of a culture. ..."



(L.A. Burning)