11 Netflix movies and shows about racism that are essential viewing for non-black allies

9 June 2020, 17:11

The official trailer for 13th on Netflix

Sophie Thompson

By Sophie Thompson

The best educational black movies and TV shows on Netflix, if you're looking to get clued up on Black Lives Matter and how you can support the movement.

The Black Lives Matter message is echoing around the world louder than ever in the wake of the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, and for some of us, especially white people, it's a chance to get educated on a matter that is rarely discussed at school or in formal education.

Whether you're on the frontline, or just trying to do your bit from home donating and sharing educational resources, now could be a great time to get your Netflix and chill on - because the streaming platform has so many great movies and shows that can help you understand the topic further.

READ MORE: 28 brilliant black-owned fashion and beauty brands you can support right now

There are so many incredible, educational shows on black discrimination on Netflix right now.
There are so many incredible, educational shows on black discrimination on Netflix right now. Picture: Netflix

And no, we're not talking about The Help - we're talking real, raw stories of the people who have lived through it - no white saviours needed.


Referring to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States", 13th is a 2016 documentary packed with archival footage from activists including Angela Davis, looking at how the history of racial inequality in America drives the high rate of incarceration, particularly of black people.

13TH | official trailer (2016) Netflix

Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap

As part of Netflix's regular Explained series, Racial Wealth Gap sees Cory Booker and others discuss how slavery, housing discrimination and centuries of inequality have created a wealth gap between black and white people today.

One particular line from the short show, 'slaves didn't just represent wealth, they were wealth', takes a deeper look into how deep-rooted racism is still rife in how we live life now.

Explained | Racial Wealth Gap | FULL EPISODE | Netflix

Strong Island

A truly harrowing watch, Oscar-nominated documentary Strong Island looks at the murder of 24-year-old William Ford Jr, back in 1992. Despite being murdered by a white 19-year-old, Mark P. Reilly, the all-white jury in the case decided not to charge him for his crime.

Featuring interviews from his family on how the event changed their lives, they sit down to discuss how the police turned their loved one into the prime suspect in his own murder.

Strong Island | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

When They See Us

From the same creator as 13th (Ava DuVernay), When They See Us is based off the true events of the Central Park Five - a brutal crime case in the eighties which saw five Black and Latinx New York teenagers convicted of the rape of a white woman they did not commit, and were forced by police into making false confessions.

Moonlight’s Jharrel Jerome and The Wire's Michael K. Williams take on leading roles, and DuVernay has set up a website, Array, where you can go to learn more about the case.

WHEN THEY SEE US Trailer (2019) Netflix

Fruitvale Station

Starring Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, Fruitvale Station is based off the unlawful death of the 22-year-old in 2009, at the hands of BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station, San Francisco.

Officers were called to a 'fight' at a subway station, when Oscar was shot and kneed in the head, and died as a result.

Particularly poignant given recent events with George Floyd, this is a heartbreaking recreation of the reality and fear for so many black people on a daily basis.

Fruitvale Station - Official Trailer | HD

Teach Us All

Teach Us All is a documentary-film which explores educational inequality of American schools over the past few decades, highlighting the inequities and challenges that millions of black students face every day.

In 1957, nine African-American students tried to integrate at an all-white high school in Arkansas - the first time it had ever been done, making history in their tracks. Although a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, their legacy remains just as important 60 years on when it comes to the American education system.

Teach Us All (Documentary Trailer)

Let It Fall

In yet another case of police misconduct, Let It Fall is directed and produced by Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) which looks at the true story of four police officers in Los Angeles caught on tape violently beating Rodney King, a black construction worker.

They were of course acquitted, leading to the 1992 uprisings which left over 60 dead. The film chronicles the ten years of tension building between the black community and the police leading up to this seismic event.

Let It Fall | Official Trailer

12 Years A Slave

The first film directed and produced by a black filmmaker (Steve McQueen) to win Best Motion Picture at the Oscars, 12 Years A Slave depicts the brutal reality of pre-civil war America - and we all need to see it.

The film follows Solomon Northrup’s twelve years on a southern plantation, as well as his efforts to escape, after being born a free man and consequently sold into slavery. Although he endures a violet life, this is also an emotional look at the mental scars of being forced into slavery.

12 YEARS A SLAVE - Official Trailer (HD)

Dear White People

A more light-hearted approach to tackling the difficult topic of modern racism and currently awaiting its fourth and final season, Dear White People follows a group of black students as they navigate their way through life at a white university.

While packed with comedy, it's important to acknowledge that racial bias is absolutely still something that happens on campuses worldwide today, and is told perfectly by the likes of Logan Browning and Lena Waithe.

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE Official Trailer (2017) Comedy, Netflix TV Show HD

Malcolm X (1992)

Spike Lee's Oscar-nominated documentary-film illuminates the life of black activist Malcolm X, and his teachings throughout his life.

One of his most famous quotes, "You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom" rings particularly true with the ongoing protests today.

Malcolm X (1992) Official Trailer - Denzel Washington Movie HD

Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker (2020)

Looking at triumphs over oppression, Self-Made, starring Octavia Spencer, looks at the first American self-made millionaire Madam C.J. Walker, who built a haircare empire based off her invention of the hot comb - a straightening formula.

Coming from a poor background in the early 1900s, this uplifting true tale brings hope to the successors of the incredible businesswoman in an oppressive world.

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker | Official Trailer | Netflix