The Frida Cinema

Orange County's Year-Round Film Festival

African American Documentaries Part 1: Groundbreaking African American Men

Honoring the life and legacy of civil rights leader Senator John Lewis, this 3-part blog series will be highlighting documentaries of African Americans, their culture, and influence in America. With such a vast array of documentaries highlighting trailblazing African American men, below is a list of documentaries to stream now.

Quincy

A master of modern American music, music icon Quincy Jones revolutionized contemporary music as a composer, musician, songwriter, arranger, record producer, and film/television producer. His over a 60-year groundbreaking career in entertainment has impacted an array of genres and musicians from Frank Sinatra, to Barbara Strained, and Dr. Dre.

Richard Pryor: Icon

Considered the greatest and most influential stand-up comedian of all time, Richard Pryor revolutionized comedy with his signature no hold bars language and blunt honesty. His comedic genus could be seen through his stand-up specials (Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip), scriptwriting (Blazing Saddles and Stanford and Sons), and acting (Harlem Nights and Stir Crazy).

When We Were Kings

The Oscar-winning documentary explores one of the most famous heavyweight boxing championship matches of all time, between Muhammad Ali and George Forman, in the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle”. It also evaluated how African Americans connected during the Black Power Era to the content of Africa culturally and politically.

1968 – A Mexico City Documentary NBC Sports

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympics, known as one of the most memorable Olympics of the 20th century, due to the silent protest of the African American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos. While the documentary, narrated by Serena Williams, evaluates the social and political issues surrounding the 68’ Olympics, special attention is paid to the journey of Smith and Carlos to the Olympics and the impact their protest had then and today.  

The Black Godfather

Though lesser known to mainstream American pop culture audiences, behind the curtain of Hollywood, Clarence Avant, aka “The Black Godfather”, is a significantly influential music executive and film producer. Known as a mover and shaker in entertainment, Avant helped shape and promote positive black American culture in entertainment, launching the careers of a vast variety of African American celebrates.   

Sing Your Song: The Story of Harry Belafonte

Considered one of the most influential black performers in modern music, Harry Belafonte, the “King of Calypso”, evolved from a successful singer (“Day-O” aka “The Banana Boat Song” and “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)”) and actor (Carmen Jones), into an outspoken civil rights activist. Belafonte has spent his life using his celebrity influence to bring to light humanitarian issues both nationally and internationally.

Who Killed Malcolm X?

The outspoken civil rights leader Malcolm X challenged authority without fear. 55 years after Malcolm’s death, this 6-part documentary intensely analyses Malcolm’s history, assassination and the influence of his legacy.

John Lewis: Good Trouble

Following the life of the political force and civil rights leader Senator John Lewis of Georgia, in his over 60-year participation of social activism and fight for civil rights. How his strength and bravery became a force challenging the social status quo while impacting American politics.  

King of the Wilderness

Among the multitude of films and documentaries about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this documentary takes an in-depth look at the last few years of his life. It evaluates the multitude of heart-breaking consequences he faced, including being unethically and illegally targeted by J. Edgar Hoover (the director of the FBI) and the immense backlash for being anti-Vietnam War. Though he suffered, he noted, “I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promise land”.

I Am Not Your Negro

James Baldwin, one of the most significant American authors of the 20th century, wrote the unfinished memoir manuscript of Remember This House, which this documentary is based on. Through a passionately profound observation, Baldwin’s words take viewers into a deeply personal perception of the complexity of African American history and how his words of yesterday connect to today’s #blacklivesmatter movement.