Arielle Tschinkel
June 09, 2020 7:30 am
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Amid global protests in the fight against racism, plenty of people are turning to movies and TV shows to help increase understanding about racial injustice, with 2011’s The Help becoming the most-viewed movie on Netflix. But the film—which was written and directed by a white man and based on a book by a white woman—isn’t the best choice as an educational tool, according to Bryce Dallas Howard, one of the movie’s leads. She offered up a list of nine shows and movies to watch instead—all of which were made by Black filmmakers and have largely Black casts.

The Help tells the fictional story of a white woman’s journey to tell the stories of Black maids in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. But Howard, who played a wealthy Southern socialite in the movie, shared her thoughts on Instagram. She wrote that while she’s “so grateful for the exquisite friendships that came from that film…The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers. We can all go further.⁣”

“Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the greatest ones are catalysts for action,” she added, recommending a list of “powerful, essential, masterful films and shows that center Black lives, stories, creators, and/or performers.”

For those looking to check out her list, here’s a round-up of her picks, which provide a solid entry point to Black storytelling for those looking to dive deeper.


This 2016 documentary film by director Ava DuVernay explores how the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, led to mass incarceration for Black Americans. (It’s available on Netflix.)

Eyes on the Prize

This 2006 docuseries details the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and it is available on PBS.

Just Mercy

Just Mercy is a 2019 film starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx about a real-life attorney from Alabama, Bryan Stevenson, who works to help those on death row seeking appeals. It’s currently available to stream for free across digital platforms, including AppleTV, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.

I Am Not Your Negro⁣

This 2016 documentary film details the history of Black Americans from the Civil Rights movement through the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s available to stream on Amazon Prime.


Selma, which DuVernay also helmed, is a 2014 movie about civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights march. You can stream Selma for free in June across all digital platforms.


Watchmen is an HBO series about a group of modern superheroes fighting against white supremacy, and it’s available to stream through HBO Max.

Malcolm X

This 1992 Oscar-nominated film directed by Spike Lee stars Denzel Washington as the titular human rights activist during the Civil Rights movement. It’s also available on Netflix.

When They See Us

This 2019 Netflix miniseries directed by DuVernay tells the story of the Central Park Five, a group of young Black men who were wrongfully convicted of a rape in 1989.

Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland⁣

This 2018 HBO documentary tells the story of Bland, a 28-year-old Black woman who was arrested and jailed for a traffic violation in Texas as her family tries to put together the pieces of her mysterious death in her jail cell three days later.

With so many powerful picks on this list, there’s no shortage of options to choose from that tell Black stories from Black creators. Check out the comments section of her post, where people are messaging with their own recommendations.