18 Feb Roundup: Documentaries about history-changing African American women
As always with listicles, this one isn’t exhaustive. But it does focus on films that are easy to access. Here are a few documentaries about African American women who changed history that are available on Netflix, Amazon or YouTube.
Henry Hampton’s exhaustive 14-hour series about the civil rights movement celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The first six episodes are available on Amazon, and each one digs deeply into pieces of the movement, such as the freedom riders, the sit-ins and the efforts to register African Americans to vote.
Broadcast journalists Maiken Baird and Michelle Major spent four years gathering material of the iconic sisters. The film experienced several setbacks during production (both Serena and Venus suffered from major injuries in 2011) and in post-production (the Williams sisters disagreed with how their father was portrayed). Nevertheless, the documentary offers an insightful glimpse into a family that changed the face of tennis.
Stanley Nelson’s film is considered the first feature-length documentary about the Black Panthers. Alongside well-known male Panthers, the film prominently features female protagonists such as Ericka Huggins, the first woman to open a Black Panther Party chapter.
Shirley Chisholm, who was a Brooklyn, N.Y., congresswoman, is not a staple in the standard American history textbook, but this film unearths her legacy. In 1972, she became the first African American woman to run for president of the United States. Director Shola Lynch has said the film is an example of what could be possible in a democracy.