Skip to main content

MDCR Best Reads and Recs for Black History Month

by Madalyn Mosallam, Communications Intern

During Black history month, we recognize the achievements and life experiences of African Americans from the founding of the nation forward, and for most, through a time of extreme oppression. In the month of February, both former president Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born. Both men are best known for their actions and achievements in opposition to slavery. Lincoln led the nation through the Civil War – a war which led to the abolishment of slavery. Frederick Douglass was a former slave and leading abolitionist who fought for the freedom of slaves still in bondage. Black History Month honors Black Americans and their history, dating back to the original Africans who were forced to the United Stated as slaves and whose ancestors today are among the most influential and successful people in the country.

In this piece, I am sharing a list of books and movies that represent the themes and ideas behind the portrayals of African Americans today.

  • The movie and book The Hate U Give, directed by George Tillman, Jr. and written by Angie Thomas, is the depiction of a young girl named Starr who begins to see the injustice that blacks face at the hands of the police almost every day. In this inspiring film, we see Starr fight for justice for everyone around her. Watch the film tailer here. You can find the book on various websites, google books, Kindle, Audible, as well as your local bookstore.


  • The movie The Help, directed by Tate Taylor, is the depiction of a young white woman who wanted to tell a story from the perspective of ‘the help.’ In The Help, ‘the help’ represented the black women hired to nanny, cook and clean for wealthy white Americans. Watch the trailer here.


  • The movie Remember the Titans, directed by Denzel Washington, portrays the way blacks were treated, post-civil war during the turbulent 1960’s and the abolishment of segregation. In this movie, football is the vehicle for telling the story of the struggles Blacks faced during desegregation as the football team is made up of both whites and Blacks in a southern community. All of these boys have one thing in common, the love for football, so they are forced to become a family to achieve the goals they have as a team. Find the film trailer here.


  • The movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, directed by Justin Chadwick, tells the story the African leader Nelson Mandela, whose life has inspired many people of all races around the world. The movie takes us through his journey from his life as a child, to his imprisonment, and then to becoming the first president of democratic South Africa. This story of one of the world’s great activists is truly inspiring. Watch the trailer here.


  • The disturbing true story of the Central Park Five was portrayed in a TV series on Netflix called When They See Us. In this Netflix series we see the terror and pain that these five individuals went through when they were accused of a crime they did not commit. This heartbreaking story shows us the stereotypes and racism that these young boys faced just because of the color of their skin. For the Netflix trailer for the series, click here.


  • Harriet Tubman was a true inspiration and freedom fighter. The movie HARRIET, directed by Kassi Lemmons, tells the story of Harriet Tubman and her bravery while helping free hundreds of slaves and changing history. Click here for the official trailer.


  • The memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, is Frederick Douglass’s personal perspective on his life as a slave in Lynn, Massachusetts. It depicts his childhood, his love for and road to freedom through literacy, and his work as an abolitionist. You can find a PDF of this book on various websites. I.E., google books, kindle, audible. You can also find a copy of the book at your local library or Barnes and Noble.


  • The movie Roots, directed by Marvin J. Chomsky, David Greene, Gilbert Moses, and John Erman, shows the life of a slave, Kunta Kinte, and everything he went through. This story shows the audience the life experiences of slaves and Kunta Kinte’s in particular. Based on the novel by Alex Haley, which can be found at bookstores, online retailers and libraries everywhere. Watch the film trailer here.


  • The movie Selma, directed by Ava DeVernay, tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight as an activist to fighting racism and discrimination, and his march from Selma to Montgomery. The trailer is available here.


  • The true story Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi, tells us an inspiring story of three Black women who break the glass ceiling and fight for their equality at NASA. They face not only racism but sexism and yet they don’t let either stop them from achieving their goals. Theirs is a story that is not well known. Learn more here.


  • The book The Underground Railroad, written by Colson Whitehead, is an historic fictional depiction about the underground railroad designed to reach a younger generation to teach and help them understand the experiences of slaves escaping to freedom. You can find this book on various websites, google books, audible, kindle store, as well as your local library or bookstore.