Top 5 Civil Rights Movies Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime

Civil rights remains one of the biggest branches of human rights. In America’s history, the Civil Rights Movement refers to black Americans fighting to be recognized as equal. While it may seem like we are far away from the times of Jim Crow and segregation, the reality is that repercussions are still felt today, and new forms of oppression have risen up. If you’re interested in the history of civil rights and how society contends with them today, here are five movies available on Netflix and Amazon Prime:

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Found on: Amazon Prime

Based on a novel from 1971, this made-for-TV movie from 1974 follows the life of a black woman born into slavery to her last years joining the Civil Rights movement at age 110. Through the eyes of a fictional character, the movie shows how African-Americans lived right after slavery and what led to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. While technically free, African-Americans dealt with all kinds of limitations and oppression in the form of violent vigilante groups, laws, and power structures. Cicely Tyson plays Jane and won two Emmy Awards and a BAFTA nomination for the role.

Mississippi Burning

Found on: Amazon Prime

Based on the real-life 1964 investigation of three murdered civil rights activists, Mississippi Burning stars Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe as FBI agents. In the film, three civil rights workers organizing a voter registry for African-Americans in Mississippi go missing, and Hackman and Dafoe are sent to investigate. They learn that the town is steeped in prejudice and Ku Klux Klan activity. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and while criticized for fictionalizing a real event, it at least provides a jumping-off point to look into the real story of activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

I Am Not Your Negro

Found on: Amazon Prime

Activist and writer James Baldwin is a towering figure in civil rights and human rights history. As a gay man, he was also an important voice for the LGBT+ community, which intersects with civil rights. This Oscar-nominated documentary adapts Baldwin’s unfinished text Remember this House, which Baldwin intended as an exploration of three civil rights leaders: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X. The lives of these three men, put into context by Baldwin’s timeless and timely words, shed light on the era they lived in and the era we live in now.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

Found on: Netflix

Created for PBS’ American Masters, this documentary tells Maya Angelou’s story using rare photographs, videos, and her own words. It’s the first feature documentary on the celebrated writer and activist, so it’s a must-see for anyone who either loves her or wants to learn more. Released after her death, the film features some of the last interviews ever with Angelou, as well as with friends, family, and people like John Singleton, Oprah Winfrey, and more.

13th

Found on: Netflix

Directed by Ava DuVernay of Selma fame, 13th shows where civil rights is lacking in today’s America. Named after the 13th Amendment, which made slavery illegal, the documentary shows how new forms of bondage rose up its place. Those oppressions include convict leasing, the Jim Crow laws, the war on drugs, and an unfair prison system. By setting up people of color to fail, the industrial prison complex swallows them up and allows corporations to rake in huge amounts of money. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 89th Academy Awards, and won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary.

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