Though Black artists and creators have been integral to American media since its inception, only recently have they begun to achieve the recognition and accolades that they deserve. Though celebrating Black History Month happens in many ways, one way to honor Black history and learn about the Black experience is through the media.
Books and movies written, directed, and produced by Black individuals offer a unique insight into the Black perspective and offer a poignant reminder that Black people contribute greatly to American film and media culture. These are some writers and directors to check out this month (and keep them on your list to watch all year long).
Though science fiction is often viewed as a white-centric genre, Octavia Butler subverts all expectations in her work. Her books explore hierarchical thinking and point out the many ways that supremacy of any kind harms society. Hierarchical thinking, she argues, leads to violence and intolerance, which can ultimately end in society’s demise. Butler’s work continues to live on and inspire future generations from all walks of life.
Books to check out for Black History Month: Kindred, The Parable series, Bloodchild, and Fledgling.
Jordan Peele and Octavia Butler explore similar genres, though Peele does it through movies, whereas Butler uses books. Since he began writing and directing films in 2017, Peele’s work has earned him accolades from many institutions and critics. Get Out portrays some very strong metaphors about racism in America, where Us and Nope explore different parts of the human psyche.
Get Out is a great movie to stream for Black History Month.
If you are looking for a strong example of the intersection of race and feminism, look no further than Audre Lorde. An icon in both areas, Lorde explores what it means to be repressed in America. She was a Black lesbian woman, giving her a unique perspective in several areas of oppression.
Books to check out for Black History Month: Sister Outsider, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House
Spike Lee is one of the most famous directors of his generation. Lee’s work explores racism in America, the Black experience, as well as many of the issues that Black people face, and his exploration of these has earned him several awards throughout his career.
The Library of Congress has selected multiple Spike Lee films for the National Film Registry preservation. The criterion for this status is that a film is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Movies to Watch During Black History Month: Malcolm X, She’s Gotta Have It, BlacKKKlansman
Jason Reynolds is a young adult novelist whose work focuses on portraying Black boys experiencing a full range of human emotions. He writes first and foremost for Black children, giving them the opportunity to see themselves reflected in literature. Since his first novel, When I Was the Greatest, in 2014, he has written almost a dozen novels, along with Long Way Down, a book of poetry.
Some options to add to your reading list for Black History Month: When I Was the Greatest, All American Boys, As Brave as You Ghost
Black Cultural Contribution
Though Black artists have not received the awards that they deserve for their work, they have contributed key books and movies to our zeitgeist. Take time during Black History Month to learn a lesson through Black-made movies, books, and shows, and always be conscious of the perspectives that you watch and read.