Watch documentaries about James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Richard Pryor and more for free with Kanopy and your library card.
Our newest digital service, Kanopy, give you access to more than 30,000 films, including award-winning movies and documentaries from all over the globe.
You can watch five of them each month on your favorite device—computer, tablet, phone, Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku—at your convenience.
That collection includes several films and documentaries that commemorate the struggles and successes of black Americans. They’re always worth your time but especially pertinent during Black History Month.
Here are 10 of our favorites:
1. I Am Not Your Negro: James Baldwin & Race
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends — Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. However, when he died in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript.
Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary envisions the book James Baldwin never finished.
2. Eyes on the Prize
Winner of a Peabody and numerous Emmy awards, Eyes on the Prize tells the story of the Civil-Rights era from the point of view of the men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed America and embodied a struggle that continues today.
3. An Outrage: The History and Legacy of Lynching in the South
Filmed on-location at lynching sites in six states and bolstered by the memories and perspectives of descendants, community activists, and scholars, this documentary educates and forces us to reflect upon a long-hidden past.
4. Richard Pryor: Icon
He was one of the first black men ever on television. He pioneered a new brand of humor. His comedy was universal. His rise to fame was nothing short of miraculous.
Delve into Richard Pryor’s life and legacy — how he came up through the brothels of Peoria, Ill., performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, got banned by the networks, and became embroiled in a pattern of self-destruction that threatened his life.
5. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, Maya Angelou inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries.
With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words.
6. Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
The first documentary to explore the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present, Through a Lens Darkly probes the recesses of American history by discovering images that have been suppressed, forgotten and lost.
Winner of a NAACP Image Award.
7. How I Got Over
How I Got Over is an intimate, innovative profile of 15 formerly homeless and incarcerated African-American women that dramatically reveals the social causes of their plight and how their lives were transformed.
The film follows the women for 12 weeks as they craft and rehearse an original play based on their harrowing, true-life stories.
8. Toni Morrison with A.S. Byatt
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison discusses her work and life with Booker Prize winner A.S. Byatt.
9. The Central Park Five
The Central Park Five, from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. This Peabody Award-winning film chronicles the Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of the five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice.
10. Fresh Dressed: The Evolution of Rap Fashion
A fascinating chronicle of hip-hop, urban fashion, and the hustle that brought oversized pants and graffiti-drenched jackets from Orchard Street to high fashion’s catwalks and Middle America shopping malls.
Featuring Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Nas, Pusha T, Swizz Beatz, Damon Dash, Andre Leon Talley, A$AP Rocky, Marc Ecko, Big Daddy Kane, Kid ‘N Play and many others.
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