This February, in honor of Black History Month, the UNT Media Library would like to spotlight six documentaries that examine the complex intersection of race in the worlds of art, business, entertainment, education, and industry. The figures in these films not only offer inspiration to rise above outstanding odds, but engage the audience in the ongoing discussion of identity challenges in American society.
“A Ballerina’s Tale” follows the rise of ballerina Misty Copleland, the first African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater. The film discusses the difficulties women of color have historically faced in the world of ballet, and how Misty’s work has inspired change. Her inspiring story details the performer’s struggles, from injuries to systemic prejudice, while also documenting the health risks and challenges ballerinas across the globe face to pursue their dreams. (DVD 17391).
“Boss: The Black Experience in Business” from PBS tells the stories of black entrepreneurs, covering 150 years of American history. Often forgotten or overlooked, these figures are given their due, showing their affect on American industry. “Boss” examines the prejudices and challenges that tried to hold these industrious leaders back from the American Dream. (DVD 18738)
“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” acts as an illuminating portrait of an legendary writer. “Pieces” follows Morrison’s life from childhood to her rise to narrative success. Her works were not only award winning and highly regarded; they challenged readers to examine humanity, race, and the history of America itself. (DVD 18767).
In “Good Hair”, Chris Rock takes the audience through the complex history and culture of hair in the African American community. A lighthearted take, but a serious examination, “Good Hair” looks behind the scenes of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry, and allows for an honest look at how hair affects black people, especially black women, in their professional and personal lives. (DVD 11540).
“Hoop Dreams” is considered one of the best documentaries ever made. The film follows two talented African American teenagers who are recruited to play basketball for a mostly white high school, and the struggles these students and their families met in order to make it work. The film examines race, sports, and economic division all through the lens of sports, leaving critic Roger Ebert to call it “one of the best films about American life I have ever seen.” (DVD 4697).
“Tell Them We are Rising” showcases the history of HBCUs, or “Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” These institutions have had major influence over the last 150 years in America, yet their story remains largely untold. From pre-slavery to today, “Tell Them” showcases the important history and evolution of the education system for African Americans. (DVD 18293).