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What to watch to celebrate Juneteenth

These movies and documentaries on Netflix, Hulu, Prime and HBO really deliver

Washington: Professor Anita Hill is sworn-in before testifying at the Senate Judiciary hearing on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination. Miss Hill testified on her charges of alleged sexual harassment by Judge Thomas in 1991.
Washington: Professor Anita Hill is sworn-in before testifying at the Senate Judiciary hearing on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination. Miss Hill testified on her charges of alleged sexual harassment by Judge Thomas in 1991. (Getty Images.)

While many Americans have a vast array of knowledge about Juneteenth, others don’t know as much about the holiday and the history behind it.

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of African-Americans who were enslaved in the United States. On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, but 2 1/2 years later, slavery in Texas was virtually unchanged. It finally meant that the day slaves in Texas became free, all slaves in America were free.

Perhaps it was some of the Black Lives Matter protests that happened last summer, but it seems a new spotlight has been cast on Juneteenth. More and more Americans are learning about this important holiday, which is great.

Just like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Juneteenth can be a day in which you reflect, give back and educate yourself about the Black experience. Watching a film, documentary or series might be one way to do that.

You may be searching or wondering what you can watch all about Juneteenth: Are there any movies or shows?

TV programs like “Black-ish” and “Atlanta” have dedicated episodes to not only celebrating the holiday, but educating viewers on its importance. A lot of the films below don’t outright mention Juneteenth, but they are Black films made by Black creators.

Some of these picks have won Oscars, Emmys and are critically acclaimed. Browse through our suggestions and see if anything piques your interest.


Netflix

‘13th’

Directed by Ava DuVernay (she’ll come up again in this list), the documentary shows you how America changed after the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, but also kickstarted the prison boom in America.

‘LA 92’

Many young people may not know about the Rodney King trial, including the protests and riots that surrounded his case, since it happened in the early ’90s. This documentary has unseen footage of what went down back then, too.

‘Moonlight’

This Oscar-winning picture tells the story of a young Black gay man living in Miami. It’s a coming-of-age story, and the injustices that he faces make the film even more compelling.

‘The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson’

There wouldn’t be a Pride if it weren’t for Marsha P. Johnson. She is one of the most important activists from the LGBTQ community, and more people need to know about the incredible work she did.

‘Becoming’

Michelle Obama’s new Netflix documentary is a look into the former first lady’s childhood, and how she became the woman she is today.

‘When They See Us’

This mini-series directed by DuVernay (told you she’d be back!) chronicles the Central Park Five, a group of young Black teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.


Hulu

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

Regina King won an Oscar for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which is based off the novel by James Baldwin. The story follows a young couple trying to find their place in the world, only to be dumped down by racism.

‘Detroit’

Ever heard of the Detroit riots and uprising that happened in 1967? It marked days of civil unrest between police and civilians, and it changed the city of Detroit forever. This 2017 movie depicts some of what happened during that hot, long summer.

‘Amazing Grace’

The late and great Aretha Franklin released an album called “Amazing Grace,” and this documentary takes you behind the scenes of the legendary icon recording this master of an album. It’s obviously incredible to hear Franklin sing these songs, but it’s also so cool to see the work that went into producing this record.

‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am’

If you want to read more Black authors, then we highly suggest getting into the work of the late Toni Morrison. This documentary takes a look at the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, from her childhood to how she became the famed and celebrated author we remember her as.

‘Atlanta’

You may know him as hip-hop artist Childish Gambino, or as his real name, Donald Glover.

Glover created and stars in the FX series “Atlanta.” The show is about the Atlanta rap scene, and is critically acclaimed and has won many awards. It’s a must-watch series, and luckily, the show tackles Juneteenth in a few different episodes.


Amazon Prime

‘One Night In Miami’

Directed by Regina King, “One Night In Miami” tells the story of the meeting of four incredible minds: Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. While it’s sort of based on a true story, the film takes some creative liberty on what the foursome chatted about the night.

‘I Am Not Your Negro’

This is another documentary that explores one of America’s most famous Black authors, James Baldwin. Samuel L. Jackson narrates the unfinished manuscript of Baldwin’s “Remember This House.” It explores Baldwin’s ideas about race in America.

‘Anita’

If you pay attention to politics, then you certainly know who Anita Hill is. This documentary tells the story of Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment when he was getting confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1991. Some senators who supported Hill thought she was making the story up, and it draws comparisons to what happened years later, when Brett Kavanaugh was vetted for a Supreme Court nomination.


HBO Max

‘Just Mercy’

This movie recently came out, and it’s a must-watch. It tells the story of how too many innocent Black men are on death row, with very little evidence to support their sentencing. It’s based off a true story and stars Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan.

‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’

It was a major loss to American history when John Lewis died in the summer of 2020, but this documentary explores his amazing life and career working in social justice. Long before he was a congressman, Lewis was a civil rights leader, who led some of the most important civil rights marches in the history of America. Lewis’ signature quote was to get into “good trouble,” hence the name of this documentary.

‘Harriet’

This movie is pretty self-explanatory, thanks to the title. We all became familiar with Harriet Tubman growing up in history class, but we probably only learned about her on the surface level. This movie, starring Cynthia Erivo, take a deeper dive into the woman who was responsible for freeing so many slaves.


About the Author:

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.