February 24, 2024
African American Museum to open in South Carolina


CHARLESTON, S.C. — When the International African American Museum opens to the public Tuesday in South Carolina, it becomes a new site of homecoming and pilgrimage for descendants of enslaved Africans whose arrival in the Western Hemisphere begins on the docks of the lowcountry coast.

Overlooking the old wharf in Charleston at which nearly half of the enslaved population first entered North America, the 150,000-square-foot museum houses exhibits and artifacts exploring how African Americans’ labor, perseverance, resistance and cultures shaped the Carolinas, the nation and the world.

It also includes a genealogy research center to help families trace their ancestors’ journey from point of arrival on the land.

The opening happens at a time when the very idea of Black people’s survival through slavery, racial apartheid and economic oppression being quintessential to the American story is being challenged throughout the U.S. Leaders of the museum said its existence is not a rebuttal to current attempts to suppress history, but rather an invitation to dialogue and discovery.

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“Show me a courageous space, show me an open space, show me a space that meets me where I am, and then gets me where I asked to go,” said Dr. Tonya Matthews, the museum’s president and CEO.

“I think that’s the superpower of museums,” she said. “The only thing you need to bring to this museum is your curiosity, and we’ll do the rest.”

The $120 million facility features nine galleries that contain nearly a dozen interactive exhibits of more than 150 historical objects and 30 works of art. One of the museum’s exhibits will rotate two to three times each year.

Upon entering the space, eight large video screens play a looped trailer of a diasporic journey that spans centuries, from cultural roots on the African continent and the horrors of the Middle Passage to the regional and international legacies that spawned out of Africans’ dispersal and migration across lands.

The screens are angled as if to beckon visitors toward large windows and a balcony at the rear of the museum, revealing sprawling views of the Charleston harbor.

One unique feature of the museum is its gallery dedicated to the history and culture of the Gullah Geechee people. Their isolation on rice, indigo and cotton plantations on coastal South Carolina, Georgia and North Florida helped them maintain ties to West African cultural traditions and creole language. A multimedia, chapel-sized “praise house” in the gallery highlights the faith expressions of the Gullah Geechee and shows how those expressions are imprinted on Black American gospel music.

On Saturday, the museum grounds buzzed with excitement as its founders, staff, elected officials and other invited guests dedicated the grounds in spectacular fashion.

The program was emceed by actress and director Phylicia Rashad and included appearances by poet Nikky Finney and the McIntosh County Shouters, who perform songs passed down by enslaved African Americans.

“Truth sets us free — free to understand, free to respect and free to appreciate the full spectrum of our shared history,” said former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. who is widely credited for the idea to bring the museum to the city.

Planning for the International African American Museum dates back to 2000, when Riley called for its creation in a State of the City address. It took many more years, through setbacks in fundraising and changes in museum leadership, before construction started in 2019.

Originally set to open in 2020, the museum was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as by issues in the supply chain of materials needed to complete construction.

Gadsden’s Wharf, a 2.3-acre waterfront plot where it’s estimated that up 45% of enslaved Africans brought to the United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries walked, sets the tone for how the museum is experienced. The wharf was built by Revolutionary War figure Christopher Gadsden.

The land is now part of an intentionally designed ancestral garden. Black granite walls are erected on the spot of a former storage house, a space where hunched enslaved humans perished awaiting their transport to the slave market. The walls are emblazoned with lines of Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise.”

The museum’s main structure does not touch the hallowed grounds on which it is located. Instead, it is hoisted above the wharf by 18 cylindrical columns. Beneath the structure is a shallow fountain tribute to the men, women and children whose bodies were inhumanely shackled together in the bellies of ships in the transatlantic slave trade.

To discourage visitors from walking on the raised outlines of the shackled bodies, a walkway was created through the center of the wharf tribute.

“There’s something incredibly significant about reclaiming a space that was once the landing point, the beginning of a horrific American journey for captured Africans,” said Malika Pryor, the museum’s chief learning and education officer.

Walter Hood, founder and creative director of Hood Design Studios based in Oakland, California, designed the landscape of the museum’s grounds. The designs are inspired by tours of lowcountry and its former plantations, he said. The lush grounds, winding paths and seating areas are meant to be an ethnobotanical garden, forcing visitors to see how the botany of enslaved Africans and their descendants helped shape what still exists today across the Carolinas.

The opening of the Charleston museum adds to a growing array of institutions dedicated to teaching an accurate history of the Black experience in America. Many will have heard of, and perhaps visited, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in the nation’s capital, which opened in 2016.

Lesser known Afrocentric museums and exhibits exist in nearly every region of the country. In Montgomery, Alabama, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the corresponding National Memorial for Peace and Justice highlight slavery, Jim Crow and the history of lynching in America.

50 relatively unknown movies from Black cinema history

50 relatively unknown movies from Black cinema history

Black writers, actors, producers, and directors have been involved in Hollywood from the very beginning of the American film industry some 125 years ago. Often, their contributions have been restricted, with early Black actors landing only bit parts and Black crewmembers being kept out of the unions used by the major studios. But this exclusion didn’t deter Black creatives; they simply chose their own stories to tell, creating studios of their own to produce them.

Early directors like Oscar Micheaux and Spencer Williams worked entirely independently of the established system, while their later counterparts, like Spike Lee and Julie Dash, were granted entrance into the system (though it was somewhat limited). Whether they worked in tandem with or apart from the Hollywood institution, many Black directors found their work was not promoted, championed, and preserved like that of their white counterparts. They either lacked the money to do it themselves, or studios refused to allocate the funds needed to maintain the films. As a result, a large swath of Black films have been lost or remain largely unknown to general audiences.

Using culture critic Elvis Mitchell’s 2022 film history documentary “Is That Black Enough for You?!?” as a jumping-off point, Stacker compiled a list of 50 significantly lesser-seen films from Black movie history. Both features and shorts were considered. Any one of the movies on our list would make excellent Black History Month viewing.

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Body and Soul (1925)

Body and Soul (1925)

– Director: Oscar Micheaux

– Runtime: 102 minutes

Legendary performer Paul Robeson made his onscreen debut as the two lead characters in this silent film about a convict masquerading as a preacher and his upstanding twin brother. The entire cast of “Body and Soul,” save one actor, is Black, which meant that when the film debuted, it really didn’t reach mainstream audiences. A version of the movie can occasionally be caught on cable networks or the Criterion Channel, but the original nine-reel cut (which was challenged by censors at nearly every turn) has been lost to time.



Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage (1928)

Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage (1928)

– Director: Zora Neale Hurston

– Runtime: 4 minutes

Zora Neale Hurston is best known for her spectacular 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” but that wasn’t her only artistic contribution to the Black canon. As an anthropology student at Columbia University, Hurston shot numerous ethnographic films in rural Black communities throughout Alabama and Florida. These collections have led some to consider her the first Black female filmmaker.



Hellbound Train (1930)

Hellbound Train (1930)

– Directors: Eloyce Gist, James Gist

– Runtime: 50 minutes

Less feature film, more cinematic sermon, “Hellbound Train” was the work of two traveling preachers armed with 16mm cameras. The silent film introduces viewers to the sins of the Jazz Age (drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, gambling, secular music, etc.) through a devil-led tour of a multicar train where riders in each section engage in different immoral behaviors. Production values are admittedly low—the final shot is a model train being thrown into an over-the-top bonfire— but its surrealist tone paved the way for many of the other films on this list.



Birthright (1939)

Birthright (1939)

– Director: Oscar Micheaux

– Runtime: 74 minutes

Oscar Micheaux made two versions of “Birthright”—a silent 1924 version now lost and this 1939 talkie whose first 20 minutes have vanished into the annals of history. Both films tell the same story of an idealistic young man who returns to his hometown to establish a Black school, only to be met with racism and resistance from both the Black and white communities. At the time of its release, the movie faced backlash from some Black viewers who accused it of portraying their culture and communities in the same degrading way as white filmmakers.



Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (1940)

Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (1940)

– Director: Zora Neale Hurston

– Runtime: 42 minutes

Another Zora Neale Hurston film, “Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940,” is a documentary that captures the religious services of the Gullah people in the coastal region of the state. Audio recordings of the services were made at the same time as the footage, and in 2005 archivists began working on synching the two up.

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The Blood of Jesus (1941)

The Blood of Jesus (1941)

– Director: Spencer Williams

– Runtime: 57 minutes

Spencer Williams, best known for portraying Andy in the early ’50s TV series “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” directed this religious epic about a young woman whose soul is stuck at the crossroads of heaven and hell after her life is cut short. Populated with amateur actors and scored with rousing gospel music, the morality project was thought to be lost until the 1980s, when a handful of prints were discovered in a warehouse near Tyler, Texas. An iconic scene near the end of the film, of Christ being crucified and his blood dripping onto the face of our main character, has been cited as a major influence by several modern-day Black filmmakers.



Juke Joint (1947)

Juke Joint (1947)

– Director: Spencer Williams

– Runtime: 68 minutes

The last film Spencer Williams ever directed, “Juke Joint” follows two con men who pose as Hollywood actors, agree to prepare a young woman for a local beauty pageant, and unwittingly become involved in some over-the-top family drama. Filmed primarily in Texas, the movie was believed to be lost until the early ’80s, when a print (minus the first 10 minutes) was discovered in the same Tyler, Texas, warehouse containing “The Blood of Jesus.”



The Betrayal (1948)

The Betrayal (1948)

– Director: Oscar Micheaux

– Runtime: 183 minutes

A convoluted love story following a white-passing woman who discovers she’s Black, a successful Black farmer, and a young woman whose happiness is ruined by her jealous father, “The Betrayal” was the last film Oscar Micheaux directed before his death in 1951. The movie was the first all-Black picture to have a major theatrical release—it premiered on Broadway as “The Greatest Negro Photo-Play of All Time”—but was widely panned by critics. As a result, it was not preserved and is now believed to be completely lost.



Black Girl (1966)

Black Girl (1966)

– Director: Ousmane Sembène

– Runtime: 65 minutes

A critique of colonialism, “Black Girl” follows a young Senegalese woman who moves to France seeking freedom only to find the country—and her position in it—to be something of a prison. Described as a “radical political statement,” the film is also thought to be the genesis of sub-Saharan African filmmaking.



The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1967)

The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1967)

– Director: Melvin Van Peebles

– Runtime: 87 minutes

“The Story of a Three-Day Pass” is an edgy romantic drama about a Black soldier stationed in France who falls in love with a white store clerk during his three-day leave. Their budding relationship breaks miscegenation laws, costing the soldier his recently earned promotion. Shot entirely in France, the movie delves into the psychological tension that can come from interracial relationships and examines culture’s conflicting attitudes toward Black people.

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Oh, Sun (1967)

Oh, Sun (1967)

– Director: Med Hondo

– Runtime: 98 minutes

In “Oh, Sun,” a man leaves his native Mauritania to pursue better opportunities in Paris, only to find that racism and discrimination in the mostly white country leave him worse off than before. The African film was considered lost until 2017, when, with the help of Hollywood powerhouse Martin Scorsese and his Film Foundation, it was restored and screened during the Cannes Film Festival.



Mandabi (1968)

Mandabi (1968)

– Director: Ousmane Sembene

– Runtime: 92 minutes

Believed to be the first film made in an African language (Wolof, the most popular tongue in Senegal), “Mandabi” tells the story of a Senegalese man who finds his world turned upside down after receiving a money order from a relative working in Paris. The critically acclaimed film is an adaptation of a novella written by the director Ousmane Sembene.



The Learning Tree (1969)

The Learning Tree (1969)

– Director: Gordon Parks

– Runtime: 107 minutes

Gordon Parks was the first Black director to ever make a movie with a major Hollywood studio. His debut, “The Learning Tree,” is an autobiographical coming-of-age story about a teenager growing up in rural Kansas during the 1920s. The powerful film can be rented on Amazon Prime, but have the tissues handy because the emotional storyline is sure to get the best of even the most stoic viewer.



Buck and the Preacher (1972)

Buck and the Preacher (1972)

– Directors: Sidney Poitier

– Runtime: 102 minutes

Sidney Poitier, in his directorial debut, and Harry Belafonte team up to turn the Western genre on its head in this buddy comedy, Black Power movie about an upstanding cowboy and a con artist who work together to deliver a caravan of recently emancipated individuals to their new home out west. Though not an immediate success, the film eventually found its audience.



The Final Comedown (1972)

The Final Comedown (1972)

– Director: Oscar Williams

– Runtime: 83 minutes

Told largely through flashbacks, “The Final Comedown” is about a group of radical Black nationalists who wind up in a shootout with police. While the nationalist group is never directly named, many reviewers have noted that it closely resembles the Black Panthers.

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Trouble Man (1972)

Trouble Man (1972)

– Director: Ivan Dixon

– Runtime: 99 minutes

After a private investigator-fixer is framed for murder, he goes to great lengths to set the record straight and dodge the retributions coming his way. The blaxploitation thriller has made several worst-of lists since its release in 1972, but its soundtrack by Marvin Gaye is nearly universally revered.



Save the Children (1973)

Save the Children (1973)

– Director: Stan Lathan

– Runtime: 123 minutes

Stan Lathan directed this concert documentary that features Jesse Jackson’s 1972 Operation PUSH exposition. Dozens of well-known artists, including the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five, and Gladys Knight, make appearances.



Gordon’s War (1973)

Gordon's War (1973)

– Director: Ossie Davis

– Runtime: 90 minutes

In “Gordon’s War,” a vet returns from Vietnam to discover his old neighborhood has been overrun by drug dealers and gangsters. With the help of some of his military buddies, he takes matters into his own hands, restoring order before everything goes off the rails.



Three the Hard Way (1974)

Three the Hard Way (1974)

– Director: Gordon Parks Jr.

– Runtime: 89 minutes

“Three the Hard Way” has one of the more bizarre plots of any movie on this list. A young man discovers a white supremacist group has a secret plan to eliminate the country’s Black population and sets out to stop them with the help of his friends and three torture-obsessed dominatrixes. Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, and Fred Williamson star in the hard-to-find blaxploitation film.



Willie Dynamite (1974)

Willie Dynamite (1974)

– Director: Gilbert Moses

– Runtime: 102 minutes

The titular character in “Willie Dynamite” has one goal: to become New York City’s most successful pimp. Everything seems to be going according to plan until he’s thwarted by a well-meaning social worker and a couple of cops. While the movie was fairly successful at the time of its release, Roscoe Orman (who plays Willie) is better remembered for his time as Gordon on “Sesame Street.”

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Leadbelly (1976)

Leadbelly (1976)

– Director: Gordon Parks

– Runtime: 126 minutes

Roger Ebert called “Leadbelly” “one of the best biographies of a musician I’ve ever seen.” The biographical drama tells the story of legendary folk singer Huddie Ledbetter, aka Lead Belly, focusing primarily on his childhood in the segregated South and his time working on a chain gang. Those interested in watching the movie can find it on Amazon, Apple TV, and YouTube.



Bush Mama (1979)

Bush Mama (1979)

– Director: Haile Gerima

– Runtime: 97 minutes

“Bush Mama” was director Haile Gerima’s thesis project for his master’s degree program at the University of California, Los Angeles. Low-budget and chock-full of unique stylistic choices, the film tells the story of an inner-city single mother who becomes politically radicalized after her boyfriend is sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit and social services fails her at every turn. Broody and contemplative, the film isn’t easily found online but occasionally pops up at art theaters and festivals.



Personal Problems (1980)

Personal Problems (1980)

– Director: Bill Gunn

– Runtime: 165 minutes

Clocking in at nearly three hours, “Personal Problems” is a melodrama about the life of a middle-class married Black couple living in Harlem. Originally intended as a radio soap opera, much of the material in the final film cut was improvised by the actors.



Losing Ground (1982)

Losing Ground (1982)

– Director: Kathleen Collins

– Runtime: 86 minutes

One of the first feature films to ever be written and directed by a Black woman, “Losing Ground” follows a middle-aged married couple during a singular summer as they pursue joy and fulfillment both with and without each other.

When the film was first completed, back in the early ’80s, it never received a theatrical release and was only shown at a handful of film festivals. It wasn’t until 2015, after director Kathleen Collins’ daughter restored the movie through its original negatives and screened it at the Lincoln Center in New York, that it earned widespread attention.



Sugar Cane Alley (1983)

Sugar Cane Alley (1983)

– Director: Euzhan Palcy

– Runtime: 103 minutes

Based on Joseph Zobel’s semi-autobiographical novel, “Sugar Cane Alley” tells the story of a poor, gifted young boy who grows up on the island of Martinique. The tale doesn’t take a cheesy or inspiring tone as it so easily could, choosing to focus instead on the sacrifice and grit it really takes to make it out.

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Bless Their Little Hearts (1983)

Bless Their Little Hearts (1983)

– Director: Billy Woodberry

– Runtime: 80 minutes

As far as plot goes, “Bless Their Little Hearts” has very little. Ostensibly, it’s about a man who, unable to financially support his family, finds solace for his wounded pride in an affair, but it’s more slice of life than an actual story. The film is remembered as being the pinnacle of the LA Rebellion, a filmmaking movement that came out of UCLA in the ’70s and ’80s.



My Brother’s Wedding (1983)

My Brother's Wedding (1983)

– Director: Charles Burnett

– Runtime: 115 minutes

Described as a tender and moving portrayal of life in South Central Los Angeles, “My Brother’s Wedding” follows a young man who’s torn between staying loyal to his roots and stepping toward a new life that may offer more opportunity. When the film was first released in 1983, it was a rough, rushed edit that made its way into theaters, resulting in just middling reviews from critics. In the 2000s, director Charles Burnett was able to release a new, more polished edit of the film, which is the version you can catch on the Criterion Channel.



Yeelen (1987)

Yeelen (1987)

– Director: Souleymane Cissé

– Runtime: 105 minutes

The Chicago Reader called this fantasy picture “the greatest African film ever made.” Conceived from a Bambara legend, the movie follows a young boy with magical powers who enlists his uncle to help him stop his sorcerer father, who wishes him dead. Highly stylized and beautifully shot, the movie has some of the most jaw-droppingly perfect cinematography in film history.



Sidewalk Stories (1989)

Sidewalk Stories (1989)

– Director: Charles Lane

– Runtime: 97 minutes

A tribute to Charlie Chaplin’s film “The Kid,” “Sidewalk Stories” is a silent, black-and-white movie about a Black artist who winds up raising a young girl after she’s accidentally abandoned. Despite its success at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie wasn’t widely released or available on home video until 2014, when it finally got a DVD release. Disney expressed interest in a remake with Tom Hanks in the lead, but director Charles Lane declined the offer.

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Chameleon Street (1989)

Chameleon Street (1989)

– Director: Wendell B. Harris Jr.

– Runtime: 94 minutes

Based on the real-life exploits of con man William Douglas Street Jr., “Chameleon Street” is about a scammer who impersonates reporters, doctors, and lawyers to make a quick buck. Wendell B. Harris Jr. didn’t just direct the film; he also wrote, produced, and starred in it.



Tongues Untied (1989)

Tongues Untied (1989)

– Director: Marlon Riggs

– Runtime: 55 minutes

“Tongues Untied” is an innovative documentary about the experiences and struggles of gay Black men in the United States. When it was released on PBS in the late ’80s, it caused a political firestorm, with Republicans like then-presidential candidate Pat Buchanan decrying it as “pornographic.”



Looking for Langston (1989)

Looking for Langston (1989)

– Director: Isaac Julien

– Runtime: 45 minutes

A mix of archival footage of Harlem in the 1920s and fantasy sequences detailing a revisionist history that involves famous queer Black men like James Baldwin, “Looking for Langston” is a hallmark of the New Queer Cinema movement. Though the film isn’t widely available, museums like the Museum of Modern Art often put on public showings.



Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Daughters of the Dust (1991)

– Director: Julie Dash

– Runtime: 113 minutes

“Daughters of the Dust,” a drama about three generations of Gullah women who struggle with their decision to leave Saint Helena Island and move north, was the first feature film directed by a Black woman to receive a national theatrical release. Its lush visuals and nonlinear storytelling style have been cited as an influence by many other artists, including Beyoncé, who pulled references for her “Lemonade” visual album.



Finding Christa (1991)

Finding Christa (1991)

– Directors: Camille Billops, James Hatch

– Runtime: 55 minutes

Intensely personal is perhaps the best way to describe “Finding Christa,” a 1991 documentary about filmmaker Camille Billops’ journey to find and reconcile with the daughter she put up for adoption some 20 years prior. The movie, which premiered on PBS, contains interviews with Billops and Christa themselves, family members, and friends.

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Hyenas (1992)

Hyenas (1992)

– Director: Djibril Diop Mambéty

– Runtime: 110 minutes

At its heart, “Hyenas” is a film about the issues that come with African countries accepting aid from Western countries. The movie is set in a town so poor it’s barely staying afloat. When a wealthy woman offers residents all the money they could ever dream of—if they put to death one of their most beloved citizens, a former lover who wronged her—residents must decide what to do.



Women with Open Eyes (1994)

Women with Open Eyes (1994)

– Director: Anne-Laure Folly

– Runtime: 52 minutes

“Women with Open Eyes” interviews African women from several different countries about seven issues that affect their everyday lives in which they have very little say: female circumcision, forced marriages, HIV/AIDS, freedom of speech, survival, economics, and politics. Unfortunately, the film is almost impossible to find online or in a physical format.



Panther (1995)

Panther (1995)

– Director: Mario Van Peebles

– Runtime: 124 minutes

Pitched as a dramatized retelling of the Black Panther Party’s origin story, “Panther” landed in hot water with critics for being nearly completely fictitious. Still, it’s been praised for capturing the spirit, idealism, and excitement that fueled the movement early on.



Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1995)

Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1995)

– Director: Isaac Julien

– Runtime: 70 minutes

Part drama, part documentary, “Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask” examines the life and beliefs of psychoanalytic theorist and activist Frantz Fanon. Using archival footage and recreated sequences, the movie explores how he became an anti-colonialist, his struggles with his sexual identity, and his shift from intellectual to political rebel.



4 Little Girls (1997)

4 Little Girls (1997)

– Director: Spike Lee

– Runtime: 102 minutes

Despite being nominated for an Academy Award, “4 Little Girls” is one of Spike Lee’s lesser-known films. A documentary about the lives and deaths of four young girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, the movie has been made accessible for streaming on HBO Max.

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Our Father (2002)

Our Father (2002)

– Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

– Runtime: 84 minutes

“Our Father” is about two young boys who wake one morning to find their father has abandoned them. As they wrestle with his desertion, they turn to delinquency, a move that only causes things to spiral even more out of control. The picture premiered at film festivals worldwide, collecting such awards as the Firebird Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Prize and Golden Crown Pheasant at the Kerala International Film Festival.



Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004)

Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004)

– Director: Shola Lynch

– Runtime: 76 minutes

This documentary follows Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 campaign for presidency in the U.S. The first Black woman to ever seek the nomination of a major political party for America’s highest office, Chisholm garnered an impressive amount of support given the politics of the time and her uncompromising positions. The film includes interviews with Chisholm herself and many of the folks who worked alongside her on the campaign.



Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2 (2005)

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2 (2005)

– Director: William Greaves

– Runtime: 99 minutes

A follow-up to an equally complex and layered documentary, “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2” reunites the original actors from “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One” and puts them back in the original scenario: two untrained actors shoot test scenes for a film in Central Park, which is being filmed by a documentary crew, who, in turn, is being filmed by a third camera crew. The sequel examines how the passage of time affects the set-up. Truly innovative in both style and substance, the film won’t be for everyone. But those who are interested in how art affects our view of reality are sure to find it well worth a watch.



Medicine for Melancholy (2008)

Medicine for Melancholy (2008)

– Director: Barry Jenkins

– Runtime: 88 minutes

Set over the course of a single day, “Medicine for Melancholy” follows the short-lived romance between two young Black San Franciscans. Throughout the course of their 24-hour relationship, the couple wrestles with their opposing views on gentrification, politics, and philosophies about Blackness and assimilation. A hit with critics, the movie is available on Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime.



Middle of Nowhere (2012)

Middle of Nowhere (2012)

– Director: Ava DuVernay

– Runtime: 97 minutes

Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, “Middle of Nowhere” follows a nurse who alters the course of her life to help her recently imprisoned husband. As she discovers that he may not be as honest as she thought, she struggles with moving forward while remaining true to her convictions. The award-winning movie has been made accessible for streaming on stream on Netflix.

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An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012)

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012)

– Director: Terence Nance

– Runtime: 84 minutes

After an artist is stood up by a date, he makes a film exploring his feelings around their relationship, which he then shows to her. A mix of live-action and animation, the romantic comedy perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be young, insecure, and bumbling through your first relationships.



Bad Black (2016)

Bad Black (2016)

– Director: Nabwana I.G.G.

– Runtime: 68 minutes

Produced in an ultra-low budget studio in Uganda, “Bad Black” follows the battle of wills between a female crime syndicate leader and an American doctor with impressive martial arts training. Described as “deliriously entertaining” by Variety, the film’s campy aspects are what really set it apart from other, equally inexpensive action films.



Atlantics (2019)

Atlantics (2019)

– Director: Mati Diop

– Runtime: 106 minutes

Set in Senegal, “Atlantics” is a supernatural romantic drama that follows the dimension-defying love of Ada and Souleiman. Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the movie has been made accessible for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.



The Inheritance (2020)

The Inheritance (2020)

– Director: Ephraim Asili

– Runtime: 100 minutes

“The Inheritance” is a scripted drama about a young man who inherits a West Philadelphia home from his grandmother and turns it into a Black socialist collective. But it’s also a documentary about the MOVE organization, which was bombed by the Philadelphia police in 1985. At its core, it looks at the way Black activism has grown and evolved in recent decades.



Beba (2021)

Beba (2021)

– Director: Rebeca Huntt

– Runtime: 79 minutes

An autobiographical documentary about the life and traumas of an Afro Latina woman, “Beba” forces viewers to take a closer look at their own complexity. The movie explores the way generational trauma affects Black people and how coming of age in the U.S. is an entirely different experience for Black children than for white children. The film has been made accessible for streaming on Hulu, Apple TV+, and Redbox.

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