In today’s world, we could all use a lesson (or two) on race and racism. Even the biggest allies in the land can benefit from brushing up this topic and what better way to educate yourself than through a movie, television show or book? This list is comprised of 18 works of film, television and literature that teach people of all races about race and racism, take a look at our picks in the gallery below and let us know what you’ll be binging this weekend in the comments section on social media.
This historical drama, which snagged an Academy Award for “Best Original Song,” tells the story of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches and stars David Oyelowo at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s currently available for free streaming on Amazon Prime.
This documentary by filmmaker Ava DuVerney (who also directed “Selma”) highlights the connection between race and mass incarceration in America—from the establishment of the 13th amendment to the 2016 presidential election. It was nominated for “Best Documentary Feature” at the 89th annual Academy Awards and features interviews with Angela Davis, Bryan Stevenson, Van Jones and Cory Booker. It’s currently available for free streaming on Netflix.
“Just Mercy” 2019
This legal drama tells the true story of Walter McMillian, Jamie Foxx, an Alabama man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He appeals his case, with the help of lawyer Bryan Stevenson, played by Michael B. Jordan, who wrote the memoir the film is based on. It’s currently available for free streaming on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
“The Hate U Give” 2018
Based on the 2017 YA novel by the same name, this film tells the story of a Starr Carter, played by Amandla Stenberg, a 16-year-old student who watches her friend get murdered by a police officer during a traffic stop. It’s currently available for free streaming on Amazon Prime.
“Do the Right Thing” (1989)
While released in 1989, this film hits home in 2020. Directed, written, produced and starring Spike Lee, the film explores racial tensions between black and white families living in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn—which ultimately ends with a murder by police brutality. It’s currently available for rental or purchase on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
“Get Out” 2017
Jordan Peele’s Oscar nominated horror film “Get Out” explores themes of systemic racism seldom discussed on film, portraying the villains as the white, liberal and middle class—showing the many complex layers of systemic racism. It’s currently available for rental or purchase on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
“Dear White People” (2017-2020)
Based on the 2014 film by the same name, this show takes place on an Ivy League campus and showcases many different modern race related issues between the characters—including cultural appropriation, interracial relationships and identity politics. It’s currently available for free streaming on Netflix.
This sitcom tells the story of an upper middle class black family and highlights a variety of topics surrounding race in an education manner—including the N-word, being LGBT, police brutality and the election of President Donald Trump. It’s spawned two spin-offs, “Grown-ish” and “Mixed-ish” which tackle topics of race from the perspective of Zoey Johnson and a young Bow Johnson, respectively. It’s currently available for for free steaming on ABC and Hulu.
“When They See Us” (2019)
This miniseries, which was created, co-written and directed by Ava DuVerney, is based on the events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case, following the lives of the five men falsely accused and their families. It highlights the crime that took over newsstands in a modern light, bringing truth to a story that many are already familiar with. It’s currently available for free streaming on Netflix.
“The Wire” (2002-2008)
This crime drama portrays themes of race and class in a story that showcases the strained relationship between law enforcement and the city of Baltimore, Maryland. It highlights the dysfunctions of law enforcement institutions and the ways they impact the show’s characters throughout the series. It’s currently available for free streaming on HBO Max and Hulu.
“Insecure” tells the story of a contemporary black women living in Los Angeles. It highlights social and racial issues that impact the contemporary black experience, whether that be through love, friendship, work or family. It’s currently available for free streaming on HBO Max and Hulu.
“Orange is the New Black” (2013-2019)
While the show’s “main protagonist” may be a white woman, this show showcases the experiences of black women in a profound way—particularly when it comes to issues of class, gender, sexual orientation, mass incarceration and police brutality. It’s currently available for free streaming on Netflix.
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010)
This book by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar, examines the impact that mass incarceration has on black men in America. The book plays on the concept of mass incarceration being the new Jim Crow and highlights how the criminal justice system, the War on Drugs and the privatization of prisons has been weaponized against black men. It’s currently available for purchase on Amazon.
“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo (2018)
Author and academic lecturer, Robin DiAngelo breaks down racism and puts the focus on white fragility—a reaction many white people have where they feel attacked or offended when the topic of their own racism comes about. It holds the reader accountable, allowing them to understand that racism is not exclusive to bad people and challenges them to address their own privileges and biases. It’s currently available for purchase on Amazon.
“White Rage; The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson (2016)
Author and academic Carol Anderson wrote “White Rage” after publishing an article in “The Washington Post” in 2014. The book examines the history of white backlash to racial progress in America—describing instances from the Civil War, through the Jim Crow Era and in modern times with the Ferguson riots. It’s currently available for purchase on Amazon.
“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD (2017)
Psychologist and educator Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD examines the decision many black children make to self-segregate in schools and approaches modern issues of racial inequality from the setting of the classroom. It’s currently available for purchase on Amazon.
“So You Want to Talk About Race?” by Ijeoma Oluo (2019)
No matter your race, talking about racism can be challenging in today’s world. However in her book, author and journalist Ijeoma Oluo creates a guide for people to have open, honest conversations about race and racism. It’s currently available for purchase on Amazon.
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama (2018)
In her memoir, lawyer and former First Lady Michelle Obama talks about her upbringing in the South Side of Chicago, how she found her voice, her time in the White House and her role as a wife and mother. In 2020, Netflix released a documentary about Obama’s book and the tour she took promoting her memoir. It’s currently available for purchase on Amazon.