February is mostly known as the month of Valentine’s, the Grammy’s, the Oscars, and let’s not forget the discounted chocolate after the 15th. But, there is one cause for celebration that should top all of the above, and that is Black History Month. In the beginning, Black History Month was meant to remember important people and events that changed the course of history for people of color. Black History Month is celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, while in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom it is celebrated in October.
It is important to recognize the people who sacrificed so much so people of color could obtain the rights and freedoms we enjoy today. Leaders like Frederic Douglas, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman led the road towards civil rights and began a fight that people are still fighting today…the fight for equality. While people of color now have the right to vote and freedom of speech, there is still inequality, which has only become more apparent during Trump’s presidency. Racism has always been, and remains to be, at the core of U.S. policy. Today, instead of fighting for civil rights, we are fighting against Black children being shot by police without probable cause, we are fighting xenophobia and the cruelty of putting Hispanic/Latino children in cages and separating them from their mothers. We are fighting against the stereotypes that have been imposed upon us by white supremacy. We are fighting to show that America is defined by the people who inhabit it and that it is enriched by the contributions of people of color, whether they be Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander, etc. Most history books will not provide the education you need on Black history or provide insight into the lives and culture of Black people, so consider watching the following TV shows and movies to learn more.
The Hate U Give
This film was released in 2018 and was based off a book of the same name written by Angie Thomas. The film focuses on a young teenage girl named Starr Carter who struggles with being a Black student in an all-white school, being in an interracial relationship, and navigating her friendships in her own neighborhood. Her black and white world soon changes when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. Facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and decide to stand up for what is right.
12 Years A Slave
Released in 2013, the film won an academy award for best picture. The film takes place prior to the civil war and follows the story of Solomon, a free Black man from upstate New York, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. He endures the cruelty of one malevolent owner and the unexpected kindness from another as he struggles to survive and maintain some of his dignity. Then in the 12th year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon’s life forever.
This film was released in 2014 and received a BET Award. The film focuses on the difficulty the lack of community endured in order to act upon their right to vote after the 1964 Civil Rights Act took effect in the south where discrimination was still rampant. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march from Selma to Montgomery in order for Black people to submit their votes, the event garnered President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
This film was released in 2016 and is also based on a true story. The plot of the film revolves around three brilliant African-American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. All three women helped conduct the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. It was through these three women’s intelligence and perseverance that the U.S. was able to restore its confidence, turn around the Space Race, and galvanize the world.
This film is also based on a true story. It follows the story of Jesse Owens throughout his training for the his first Olympics in the 1930s. Through the guidance of his coach Larry Snyder, Owens is able to strengthen his running skills and exceed as an athlete. Owens faces his first Olympics competition in Germany during Hitler’s reign and is determined to prove that he is more than just his race to both the U.S. and the World.
This film was released in 2011 and was based on a book of the same name written by Kathryn Stockett. The plot takes place in Mississippi during the 1960s, where a southern white society girl named Sketter returns to college determined to be a writer. She focuses on writing about the Black women who serve prominent white families and in doing so reveals the sweat, blood, tears, and secrets the women have endured.
Black History Month is all about recognizing the sacrifices Black people have endured in order for people of color to have the rights we have today. These films give a brief glimpse of the sacrifices that were made, as well as the strength and determination of Black politicians, athletes, scientists, working-class, and so many more. Black people are still fighting for equality today, so it is important to not only recognize and appreciate their contribution to our country during February but every day of the year.