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Top African American history documentaries

By July 7, 2020September 16th, 2023No Comments
Annie Hoffman

Annie Hoffman

Annie Hoffman here, Student Journalist for the libraries. This week I watched Black America Since MLK: But Still I Rise, a two-part documentary hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. that examines the last five decades of African American history. Both parts are available for free on

The broad scope of the documentary left me wanting to spend more time with several specific topics. Below you’ll find three Netflix offerings that dive deep into sections of history touched on in Gates’ documentary.

Hip-Hop Evolution

This Netflix series hosted by Shadrach Kabango has four seasons, and was released this year. It traces hip-hop from its earliest roots in the South Bronx in the 1970s into the present day. Interviews with numerous hip-hop icons bring the past alive.

LA 92

This 2017 documentary is composed entirely of archival footage. It depicts the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King.

Get on the Bus

This 1996 movie directed by Spike Lee follows 15 African American men while they travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the Million Man March in 1995. Get on the Bus is a drama, not a documentary. But it offers a complex portrayal of African American men of different ages, religions, and sexualities, honoring the real men who converged on the nation’s capital that year.

Every time I learn something about the past that contextualizes my present, I am reminded of my belief that studying history is a prerequisite for responsible participation in our world.

—Annie Hoffman


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