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Movies About the Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement was about the fight for justice and equality for African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. This movement was about tearing down the walls of institutional racial segregation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement in America.

Learning about the Civil Rights Movement is such an important piece of Black history and culture. We learn about those who paved a way, inspired change and fought for Black people’s rights. One way to understand how important the Civil Rights Movement is to African Americans today is by watching movies about them. So here is my list of the best movies about the Civil Rights Movement.

Selma ” (2014)

Director Ava DuVernay gives viewers a glimpse into the three-month period in 1965 of Dr. King and his followers attempting to achieve equal voting rights through a non-violent protest. How? By marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This movie follows Dr. King’s endeavors to hold together the civil rights coalition and negotiate a partnership with President Johnson.

the butler ” (2013)

The movie tells the story of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. Cecil is portrayed by Forest Whitaker, who gets a front-row seat to the inner workings of the Oval Office and history in the making. The Butler shows the major changes that shook American society from the Civil Rights Movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected Cecil’s life and family.

Malcom x” (1992)

In this movie, Denzel Washington plays influential Black nationalist leader Malcolm X. The movie introduces viewers to Malcolm X and follows his early life and career as a small-time gangster to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam. It shows Malcolm X’s lowest moments, such as his imprisonment in the ’50s and assassination in 1965. Directed by Spike Lee, this movie is a tribute to the Black activist and his fight for Black liberation.

“The help” (2011)

This drama is based on Kathryn Stockett’s book of the same name. The title “The Help” is what Black domestic workers in the 1960s were referred to in America. The movie takes place during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It tells the story of a young white aspiring journalist named Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, who decides to write a book from the point of view of the African American maids and the white families they work for. It’s Skeeter’s goal to expose the racism and hardships the maids went through and their participation in the civil rights movement despite retaliation from their white employers.

42 ” (2013)

Set in 1946, this movie shares the story of Jackie Robinson, who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. The manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers disobeys the MLB’s major league baseball’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) to the team. This action garners a lot of hatred from the public, the press, and the other baseball players. Despite facing racism, Robinson shows true courage by not reacting but instead using his skills to silence his critics. Although this movie doesn’t take place during the Civil Rights Era, it is a movie that shows heroism in times of segregation.

Well, there you have it! Five amazing movies that showcase strength, courage, and adversity in a time when there was very little. I hope that as you watch these movies, you have a better understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and how important it is to Black history and culture today.

Camille Birdsong is a senior Broadcast Journalism major & Leadership Studies minor from Hampton, Virginia. She has interned for both the TODAY Show and Weekend TODAY Show. Camille aspires to be a news producer after graduating. She is a member of the Gamma Theta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and is a line producer and director for her school's newscast. She is a major Marvel fan, a Starbucks connoisseur, and an adult Girl Scout (no she can't get you any cookies)!
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