Top 10 Black Documentaries


Shanta S. Prince and Micah Duckett

  1. Dark Girls (2011)

In this emotional and heartfelt documentary, directors Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry set out to examine why skin-color bias persists among people of African descent, and how it affects the lives of women on the receiving end.
2. Tongues Untitled (1989)
Tongues Untied shares fierce examples of homophobia and racism: the man refused entry to a gay bar because of his color; the college student left bleeding on the sidewalk after a gay-bashing; the loneliness and isolation of the drag queen. Yet they also affirm the black gay male experience: protest marches, smoky bars, “snap diva,” humorous “musicology” and vogue dancers, in Marlon Riggs seminal film.
3. Good Hair (2009)
Chris Rock visits beauty salons and hair-styling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of the black community in this exposé of comic proportions that only he could pull off. A raucous adventure prompted by Rock’s daughter approaching him and asking, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?”, GOOD HAIR shows Chris Rock engaging in frank, funny conversations with hair-care professionals, beauty shop and barbershop patrons, and celebrities including Ice-T, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symoné, Dr. Maya Angelou, Salt-N-Pepa, Eve and Reverend Al Sharpton – all while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question.
4. Black is… Black Ain’t (1994)
African-American documentary filmmaker Marlon Riggs was working on this final film as he died from AIDS-related complications in 1994; he addresses the camera from his hospital bed in several scenes. The film directly addresses sexism and homophobia within the black community, with snippets of misogynistic and anti-gay slurs from popular hip-hop songs juxtaposed with interviews with African-American intellectuals and political theorists, including Cornel West, Bell Hooks .and Angela Davis.
5. Banished (2006)
This is a film clip of the documentary film Banished by Marco Williams. Banished recounts the story of three U.S. towns in which the white inhabitants incited race riots in the early 20th century, forcing their entire African American populations to leave.
6. 4 Little Girls (1997)
A Dance Film uses dance as its primary expressive element to depict the tragic story and aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama – USA in 1963.
7. Through a Lens Darkly (2014)
A film that explores how African American communities have used the camera as a tool for social change from the invention of photography to the present. This epic tale poetically moves between the present and the past, through contemporary photographers and artists whose images and stories seek to reconcile legacies of pride and shame while giving voice to images long suppressed, forgotten, and hidden from sight.
8. The Black Power Mixtape (2011)
The Black Power Mixtape is compilation feature documentary film that displays the story of the African-American community 1967-1975, the people, the society and the style that fueled a change. Told with sparkling, beautiful and deep footage, lost in the archives in Sweden for 30 years.
9. Unforgivable Blackness (2004)
Broadcast over two evenings, Ken Burns’s film tells the story of one of the greatest boxers of all time and his refusal to accept the rules of a society that considered him a second-class citizen.
10. 500 Years Later (2005)
Crime, poor education, poverty, self-hatred, incarceration, broken homes plague people of African descent globally — why? From the onset of the African Holocaust of enslavement and colonialism, Africans are still struggling for basic freedom. Filmed in five continents, 500 Years Later is a critically acclaimed multi-award winning timeless and compelling journey, infused with the spirit and music of liberation. It chronicles the struggle of a people who have fought and continue to fight for the most essential human right — self determination.