african american documentary


African American Lives (part 1)

A series hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. where he helps well-known African Americans trace their ancestry, as well as their genetics back to Africa. 

I just re-watched this series and gathered some things from this viewing that i hadn’t the first time i watched it. what i really appreciate about this series is how it is a lesson in African American history - in that it speaks and informs about different situations and experiences of African Americans throughout American history - and that it also connects these experiences with people; we aren’t just learning about facts whereby one can easily feel disconnected…you’re learning about the racism that murdered family members, that broke up families, that forced grandparents and great-grandparents to migrate hundreds of miles from their hometowns. 

not too long ago, a facebook friend of mine shared an experience she had in which she was in a room, for some academic/work event, wherein there were a number of international students along with 3-4 African Americans. one of their “break the ice” exercises entailed them sharing where their names came from. she said that when she and the other African Americans shared where/how they acquired their last names, there was shock and confusion and she realized that many had not learned the extent to which slavery had effected African Americans. i think this series is definitely a must-see for those who don’t know all the ugly details about our past (and how it effects our present). 

African American Lives (part 2, part 3, part 4)
African American Lives: The Road Home (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)


Here’s a fantastic looking trailer for Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, a documentary exploring the life of Disney animator Floyd Norman.

An intimate journey through the celebrated life and career of the ‘Forrest Gump’ of the animation industry: Disney legend Floyd Norman. Hired as the first African-American at Disney in 1956, Floyd worked on such classics as SLEEPING BEAUTY and 101 DALMATIANS before being handpicked by Walt Disney to join the story team on THE JUNGLE BOOK. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, Norman left Disney to found Vignette Films, where he developed the original FAT ALBERT TV special and produced segments for SESAME STREET. He would later work at Hanna-Barbera on many classic cartoons, including SCOOBY DOO.  After Hanna-Barbera, Floyd’s talents took him to Pixar to work on TOY STORY 2 and MONSTERS INC. On Mr. Norman’s 65th birthday in 2000, Disney HR forced Floyd to retire. Refusing to leave his “home,” Floyd has “hijacked” a cubicle at Disney Publishing, unpaid, for the past 16 years, picking up freelance work when he can.  At 81 he continues to have an impact as both an artist and a mentor. Mr. Norman plans to “die at the drawing board.”

About the cornrows thing...

It really was never about the hair.

Originally posted by mtv

The core of Amandla’s discussion about cultural appropriation had barely settled on America’s consciousness, much less our subconsciousness before this happened…..

and then swiftly this happened.

This “conversation” between 16 year old Stenberg and the now 18 year old Jenner caused a huge uproar. Immediately Amandla not only was accused of being a race baiter and of being the stereotypical “angry black girl” she also became Andy Cohen’s “jackhole of the day” for her counter of Kylie’s cornrows. Many people were astounded that this situation was all about hair. Anyone should be allowed to wear their hair in any fashion they want. Even the styles that have been traditionally worn by black women and girls for decades. The styles that have been worn traditionally by black women and girls for decades, primarily for function, secondarily for fashion. The styles didn’t seem to be on anyones radar or worthy of praise until Miley,or Iggy, Kendall Jenner started wearing them.

 When Amandla Stenberg called out Kylie Jenner’s cultural appropriation many came to her defense. Cries of: shes young (she had allegedly been in a relationship with a now 25 year old man since she was 16), “shes just trying to figure it out” the words of Justin Bieber, and that shes can do whatever she wants flooded the interwebs as the dispute between the girls became the highest trending hashtag.

I agree everyone should be allowed to wear their hair the way they want. A London boy in 2011 shouldn’t have been sent home because his cornrows were believed to be too closely associated with London’s gang culture. White children were also prevented from shaving their heads for fear of its association to skinheads.  

7 year old Tiana Parker should not have had to leave school because of her hair in 2013. She had attended her school for a year before her dreadlocks caused an issue.12 year old Vanessa VanDyke should not have been threatened with expulsion for wearing her hair in the natural form that grew out of her head. 

A Native American boy, 5 years old, was sent home on his first day of kindergarten because his traditional braids did not meet the required dress code for little boys. 

Okay…clearly the issue also lies in the school dress code policies. Policies that seem to make it very difficult for children of color or of other cultures to wear their hair in anyway that is different from their straight haired counterparts.  So no, Amandla’s comment was not a jab at Kylie but instead were the actions of a young woman trying to inform a privileged, young, soon to be adult celebrity with a massive fan base of impresionable individuals, to not be so careless and ignorant to the value that has historically been placed on hair and hairstyles by other cultures. It is possible to appreciate that culture without appropriating it.

  After these events I imagine that amandla would have had one last question:

What would America be like if we, as a society, defended the freedom of children of any and all color to be who they are the same way we defend  young girls/women, like Kylie Jenner, to do what they want? 


Vanessa was featured on the real 11/13/2015 and her Afro still looks amazing.


13th directed by Ava Duvernay


I dare you not to cry.

If you only know the legend, you don’t know the man. Meet Jackie Robinson in Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon’s new film, JACKIE ROBINSON, premiering April 11 & 12 at 9/8c on PBS.


AfroNative Narratives: Dual Identities

Mahealani Uchiyama, Shamir Kali Griffin, Linda Cousins-Newton and Grant Perryman discuss their experiences with dual identities.


Downtown 81 (in full)

The film is a day in the life of a young artist, Jean Michel Basquiat, who needs to raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. He wanders the downtown streets carrying a painting he hopes to sell, encountering friends, whose lives (and performances) we peek into. He finally manages to sell his painting to a wealthy female admirer, but he’s paid by check. Low on cash, he spends the evening wandering from club to club, looking for a beautiful girl he had met earlier, so he’ll have a place to spend the night. Downtown 81 not only captures one of the most interesting and lively artists of the twentieth century as he is poised for fame, but it is a slice of life from one of the most exciting periods in American culture, with the emergence of new wave music, new painting, hip hop and graffiti. via


Unchained Memories*

Unchained Memories is a 2003 documentary film about the stories of former slaves interviewed during the 1930s as part of theFederal Writers’ Project. This HBO film interpretation directed by Ed Bell and Thomas Lennon is a compilation of slave narratives, narrated by actors, emulating the original conversation with the interviewer. Theslave narrativesmay be the most accurate in terms of the everyday activities of the enslaved, serving as personal memoirs of more than two thousand former slaves. The documentary depicts the emotions of the slaves and what they endured. via

*in full with other parts on the sidebar

The documentary makes evident that prejudice is based on societal values, which historically have themselves been dictated by the lightness of one’s skin. The consequence is the fracturing of communities, dividing people by #TeamDarkGirls and #TeamLightGirls. Dark-skinned women, Duke conveys, face stereotypes that they are “ugly, stupid or unattractive based upon the darkness of their skin.” Light-skinned women, on the other hand, are assumed to be privileged because of their lightness — but at the same time “not black enough,” unworthy of their black identity.

Learn about Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 lifted a nation and an entire race on his shoulders when he crossed baseball’s color line.

JACKIE ROBINSON, Ken Burns’s newest documentary, premieres April 11 & 12 at 9/8c on PBS


June 10th, 1936: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind is published

Check out pbsamericanmasters’ Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel, which  engages leading historians, biographers and personal friends to reveal a complex woman who experienced profound identity shifts during her life and struggled with the two great issues of her day: the changing role of women and the liberation of African Americans. 

Full documentary available online