The origins of Black History Month date back to 1915. Historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History to spotlight the achievements of African Americans. Woodson started by promoting Negro History Week, and by 1976, it was expanded to include the entire month of February. By then, African American History Month began being endorsed by United States presidents.
Today, Black History Month is celebrated across the globe, including the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.
In the classroom, children spend the month of February exploring prominent contributions of African Americans throughout history through books, poetry, and art. For some students, it’s their first glimpse into the struggle of Black people to achieve equality as well as the lingering stereotypes. At home, parents can expand the lessons with teachable moments through film. Disney+ offers a selection of entertaining movies showcasing African American historical contributions — as well as fun fiction-based films that positively represent Black characters on screen. Here are six to share with your family on movie night.
This movie tells the story of three African American women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, and how their work at NASA helped to launch astronaut John Glenn into space in 1962. Glenn’s February flight moved the U.S. into the race to space and made him the first American to orbit Earth.is rated PG and was nominated for three Oscars.
is an action-adventure film focusing on the all-African American fighter pilot squadron during World War II. Known today as the Tuskegee Airmen, the 13 men fought through extreme prejudice on the ground to prove they belonged in the air. Due to Jim Crow laws and the segregated military, the Tuskegee Airmen had to fight to be allowed to fly combat missions. They were well-known for providing bomber escorts. The film is ideal for tweens and teens. It is rated PG-13.
The town of Alexandria, Virginia, was wrapped up in its high school football team.is a true story taking place in 1971 when the school finally became integrated. Denzel Washington portrays the school’s new football coach. The movie focuses on the rocky first season as the African American coach tries to bring Black and white football players together on and off the field. Watch with tweens and teens.
Coming from a superhero family, Scott Marshall is waiting for his 14th birthday when he should get superpowers, but they just aren’t coming. And he needs them to help his family save the world.features an all-black cast and showcases a diversity of superheroes.
A real-life historical drama,focuses on six-year-old Ruby and her entrance into an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Ruby learns about the harshness of racism for the first time in her young life as well as the differences in segregated education in the 1960s. The film is rated PG and is a great way for older kids to understand the fierce fight for equality in education.
A perfect pick for younger children,is an adaptation of E.D. Baker’s The Frog Princess. The film also has the distinction of introducing audiences to Disney’s first Black princess. Set in New Orleans during the Jazz Age, the Disney musical features a toe-tapping score.
Throughout the years, African Americans have not always been represented positively on television and in film. These six Disney+ movies either feature fictional Black characters as heroes or highlight the achievements and contributions of real-life African Americans.
Talking about segregation in the classroom can be abstract for students, but seeing the struggles for equality in the military, in school, in the workplace, and on the athletic field on the big screen can be eye-opening for young people. Use the topics covered in these films as a springboard for important conversations in the home as the fight for racial equality on many levels continues.
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