17 Kid-Friendly Movies to Watch During Black History Month

Celebrating black Americans and their historic achievements should not be limited to the month of February. There are many ways to celebrate the influence of blacks in the US, whether it involves visiting museums or shopping at black-owned businesses.

Still, if you’re looking for a way to celebrate and share the historical influences that black people have had on the children in your life, staying home and watching a movie can be a fun learning experience for everyone involved.

Check out some movies to watch during Black History Month, broken down by age group.

Historically significant films for children (ages 6+)

Brandi Norwood in Cinderella, 1997 (Alamy)

“Cinderella” (1997) – By the time Walt Disney Television decided to remake Charles Perrault’s French fairy tale, Cinderella, the works based on the story were limitless. The story of the abused stepdaughter-turned-princess has been conveyed through ballets, operas, musicals and animated films – all with predominantly white casts. Brandi’s casting made her the first black actress to portray Cinderella on screen. The film’s color-blind casting features a cast that includes Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters and Filipino-American actor Paolo Montalban, sending a message to young viewers that the world has room for everyone.

“March forward! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World” (2010) — Drawing from the pages of a children’s book written by Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister, the film recounts the day Christine King Farris heard the late reverend give his “I Have a Dream” speech.

The Princess and the Frog (2009) — This Disney film is a modern twist on the classic tale of the princess and the frog. Tiana, a waitress living in New Orleans, wants to own her own restaurant, but ends up turning into (you guessed it!) a frog—and chaos ensues. Tiana became Disney’s first animated Black Princess, and her debut proved to be a big moment for both her viewers and Disney, who briefly returned to their traditional hand-drawn animation style for the project. Like the films above, The Princess and the Frog is a great movie to watch to start conversations with younger children about the history of representation and inclusion in media.

Tiana, Frog, the Princess and the Frog, 2009. (Alamy)

Tiana, Frog, the Princess and the Frog, 2009. (Alamy)

Hair Love (2019) — This Oscar-winning animated short features a black father who has to do his daughter’s hair for the first time—and essentially teaches his daughter to love her hair and herself. It is narrated by Blue Ivy Carter (Beyoncé’s eldest daughter) and features Issa Rae as the voice of the mother.

Historically Significant Movies for Kids (Ages 9+)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham (1963) — The Watsons, a black family, decide to take a road trip to Birmingham, Alabama. In the era of the civil rights movement, the Watsons gain newfound courage and build a stronger family bond while on their formative journey.

Garrett’s Gift (2007) — Children get a lesson in the inspiring story of Gareth Morgan, the inventor of the three-way traffic light. Queen Latifah tells the story of Morgan in this short film, the inventor, as a young boy unsure of his path in life until he moves to a big city and realizes the value of inventing a traffic safety measure.

Our Friend Martin (1999) — This animated educational film takes kids on a journey through the civil rights era through a modern-day high school student named Miles Woodman. As Miles struggles to focus in school, he meets a curator at a museum who takes him back in time to the different stages of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.

Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story (2015) — Chris Rock tells the story of real-life ballerina Janet Collins, a dancer who was chosen to dance for the prestigious Ballet Russes in the 1930s. Collins is credited with breaking the color line in the classical ballet arena.

Remember the Titans with Denzel Washington, 2000. (Alamy)

Remember the Titans with Denzel Washington, 2000. (Alamy)

Remember the Titans (2000) – Here’s another movie based on a true story starring Denzel Washington. In Alexandria, Virginia, high school football is a big deal in the community, loved by everyone – but when the school board forces an all-black and all-white school to integrate, their football teams face challenges.

“The Story of a Ballerina” (2015) — Audiences can get a glimpse into the story of Misty Copeland, the first black principal dancer at New York’s American Ballet Theatre. It documents her rise to fame and examines the lack of representation in the ballet world – and this documentary also includes some stunning dance sequences.



“Space Jam” (1996) — Two decades ago, pop culture focused on the axis of Michael Jordan’s reign in the NBA. In addition to being an outstanding athlete, Jordan’s athletic prowess and business acumen contributed to building a new image of what it means to be black in America. “Space Jam” does not deal with the issues of race that ravaged America in the 1990s. Instead, it puts Jordan in a kid-friendly setting where the Looney Tunes exist and need his skills to win a basketball game against a group of villainous aliens. Still, it’s a film that inspires conversations with kids about black contributions to our modern era in all arenas.

Historically significant films for children (12+)

Sidney Poitier in To Sir, With Love (Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Sidney Poitier in To Sir, With Love (Archive Photos/Getty Images)

To Sir, With Love (1967) — Based on his autobiographical novel, To Sir, with Love follows the story of a teacher forced to deal with social, financial and racial issues plaguing an inner-city school in London. Beyond its themes, this classic film can also foster an appreciation for the story of its lead actor and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Sidney Poitier. For his activism and work in entertainment, Poitier paints a new, non-stereotypical image of what it means to be black.

“Crooklin” (1994) – This semi-autobiographical film, directed by Spike Lee, is set in a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood where a 10-year-old girl lives with her family. The film industry continually fails to portray the black girl. That, combined with the cultural impact Lee has had on cinema, makes this another great conversation starter for kids.

“American Girl Story: Tune 1963 – Love Must Win” (2016) — Based on a series of famous puppets (whose original intent was to detail issues in American history), this story delves into the Civil Rights Movement. “An American Girl Story: Melody 1963” introduces young viewers to Melody Ellison, a black girl who faces racism and discrimination in her community and school. Children will get an idea of ​​what the older generations of their age went through.

“42” (2013) — This biopic tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black MLB player in history. Jackie is played by the late Chadwick Boseman, best known for his role in Black Panther.

Hidden Figures (2016) — Based on a true story, this film stars Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae and highlights the vital role three black mathematicians played in the service of NASA during the space race.

The Wiz, 1978. Michael Jackson, Ted Ross, Diana Ross and Nipsey Russell.  (Everett Collection)

The Wiz, 1978. Michael Jackson, Ted Ross, Diana Ross and Nipsey Russell. (Everett Collection)

“The Wiz” (1978) — This reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a box office failure. Yet, in the decades since its release, the musical (which boasts an impressive cast of black icons such as Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor and Michael Jackson) has achieved cult classic status. With its incredible cast of long-acclaimed singers and a set from 1978, a time when jazz, R&B music and graffiti art were emerging, the film is a timestamp of the influence of black culture on this era.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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