10 Disney + movies and shows to watch this Black History Month –
It’s October, which is not only a scary season, but also Black History Month in the Republic of Ireland and the UK!
Black History Month has been an officially recognized month in the UK since 1987 and in Ireland since 2010. It is usually the time when many schools in the UK discover historical black figures like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and other black icons.
I’ve compiled a list of ten black movies and shows, which I personally recommend everyone to watch this Black History Month. All of this can be found on Disney + UK / IRE, especially in the “Celebrate black stories” Collection.
Each title includes a short synopsis to avoid spoilers.
- The history of British blacks dates back to Roman times. Always, as you may have noticed above, British schools rarely explore their own black history (with the exception of the Atlantic slave trade) preferring to focus on aspects of black history the United States. So for this reason I will include links to Irish and UK educational sites.
- Disney is an American company (as you know); therefore 99% of the black movies and shows they have made are centered around African American characters and experiences, which may not be 100% black British or black Irish related, but I made my best to put together shows and movies that contain messages, themes and characters that have / can relate to black British and black Irish.
- Not all of the movies / shows listed focus on the story per se. Due to the lack of dark historical content on Disney + UK / IRE, I have simply listed some movies that I think people will enjoy.
- I also excluded The princess and the Frog and Soul off the list on the grounds that their main characters spend the majority of their screen time as animals / souls. CORN they are two fantastic films and are always worth a visit!
Blackish follows the daily lives of the Johnsons, an upper-class African-American family led by parents Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross).
In a sense, Blackish is similar to its sister network show Modern family (except documentary style), but the designer Keyna Barris took the opportunity to make Blackish more than a family sitcom. It is an educational tool with episodes focused on racism, classism, homosexuality and homophobia, and black and biracial identity.
Blackish debuted in 2014 and was critically acclaimed and was nominated for 25 Primetime Emmy Awards. He also spawned a whole franchise with Cultivated–ish and Mixed, both of which received mixed reviews, so maybe you stick with Blackish.
Unfortunately, Blackish will end in its upcoming eighth season, which airs later this year.
Black Panther is not only one of the most popular movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one of the best!
First introduced in Captain America: Civil War (2016), Black Panther follows T’Challa as he returns to his isolated home in Wakanda to be crowned king, but the throne is threatened when his distant cousin, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), returns to the African nation.
The long-awaited adaptation of Black Panther received rave reviews and was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture! Which makes it the first superhero film to earn a nomination in this category.
The film won three OSCARS (Best Original Music, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design) and grossed $ 1.3 billion.
You can read our review of the film here.
Loosely based on Margo Lee Shetterly’s non-fiction book of the same name, Hidden numbers tells the story of three African-American mathematicians who worked for NASA during the space race.
Despite being an important part of United States history, the contributions of Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson to the space race have been overlooked for decades. The film was a huge success, earning three OSCAR nominations, including Best Picture. Her success also led to wider recognition of how black women played such a significant role in landing men on the moon, making Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson household names for new generations.
Cinderella by Rodgers & Hammerstein
This adaptation of the 1957 Rodgers & Hammerstein TV special with Dame Julie Andrews was the first mainstream version of the fairy tale to feature a black woman (Brandy) as Cinderella. It’s also unique for blind casting almost any role, regardless of the characters’ relationship to each other.
With iconic songs such as “Impossible” and “The lament of the stepsisterâAnd a cast that includes Whitney Housten, Whoopi Goldberg, Natalie Desselle-Reid and Bernadette Peters, this is a must-have for all fairy tale fans!
You can read our full movie review here.
Black is king
Black is king is not technically a movie but a visual companion to BeyoncÃ©’s The Lion King: The Gift, an album created for the 2019 CGI remake of The Lion King.
Tell the story of a young African prince who is exiled from his kingdom following the death of his father. Black is king takes us on a journey as he tries to reclaim his throne.
The special was shot in six countries, on three continents, with a diverse cast of black talent.
Black is king is a fantastic showcase of black art from across the Diaspora, and you can read our full review of the special here.
Ruby bridges recreates the story of 10-year-old Ruby, one of four black first graders selected to attend a previously all-white school in New Orleans. She is arguably the most famous student as she was the only one sent to William Frantz Public School while the other three students were sent to another.
Subjected to racist abuse by adults and students, Bridges had to be escorted to school by Federal Marshals.
Disney’s account of these famous events originally aired on ABC in 1998 as part of The Wonderful World of Disney. Disney TV movies are often hit and miss, but luckily, Ruby bridges is one of their successes!
If you have Caribbean ancestors, chances are you’ve seen Cool races are high. This classic comedy is loosely based on the debut of Jamaica’s national bobsleigh teams at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
When it was released in 1993, Cool races received positive reviews and was considered a healthy and inspiring film about sportsmanship and the human spirit. But as times have changed, many have pointed to his racist tropes and his white savior narrative.
I decided to include this film on the list as many may want to watch the film on their own and discuss any problematic themes, such discussions could prove to be good teaching points for a month where black history and education are at the center. There are more articles on this online, but I’ve included two links (above) that I found particularly interesting.
The proud family
The proud family may have lasted only two seasons, ending in 2005. But this is one of the few animated shows focused on an African American family and one of the best animated series to come out of. Disney Channel.
With fantastic characters, voiceovers, and even a Solange Knowles and Destiny’s Child theme song, plus a series of sequels arriving on Disney + in 2022, there’s no better time than now to catch up with the original series.
Inspired by the 1779 painting by Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray at Kenwood House. Beautiful brings to life a fictional story of Dido, a mixed-race woman born to Maria Belle, a slave woman from West Africa *, and naval officer Sir John Lindsay. Dido (also known as Belle) was brought to England as a young child by her father and was later raised by her paternal family upon Lindsay’s death.
The film sees Belle living among the British elite as a mixed black woman in 1700s England at the height of the abolitionist movement. It’s also (possibly) the only UK black story on Disney + UK / IRE as of writing, so it’s definitely worth watching.
* I could not find a definitive place where the West African country Maria Belle was originally located, but some reports indicate that it was Senegal.
Links and Resources