In a 2015 interview with The New York Review of Books, former President Barack Obama revealed that novels taught him "the most important" things he learned about being a citizen. "It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of greys, but there's still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that," he said. "And the notion that it's possible to connect with some[one] else even though they're very different from you."
In the spirit of President Obama's wise words on empathy, we've curated a collection of Black History Month movies, documentaries, and television shows that reflect on America's history of racism, celebrate the achievements of black social activists, and explore the experiences of everyday Americans (and complement our Black History Month reading list).
From thought-provoking documentaries to award-winning films, here are 15 must-watch movies, documentaries, and television shows to stream this month (and all year long).
This inspiring documentary follows a Baltimore high school step team as they attempt to win a championship. Director Amanda Lipitz's film focuses on the high school seniors on the team as they prepare for the competition—and for college. Notably, Michelle Obama loved this uplifting film (as if you needed another reason to add it to your watch list).
Watch Step on Hulu.
I Am Not Your Negro
Based on the book James Baldwin never finished about the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., Remember This House, Director Raoul Peck's documentary reflects on the Civil Rights movement. Upon its release in 2017, the documentary was lauded as the film that "will make you rethink race" by The New York Times.
Watch I Am Not Your Negro on Amazon (included with Prime).
Ava DuVernay's thought-provoking documentary delves into America's prison system. The film highlights the oft-overlooked effects the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution has had on black communities around the country. So it's only fitting that the documentary shares its name with the aforementioned amendment.
Watch 13th on Netflix.
In this documentary, activist filmmakers chronicle the protests in Ferguson that followed 18-year-old Michael Brown's death in 2014. Firsthand accounts and powerful footage pull you into the community and offer a point of view that you won't get from watching the news.
Watch Whose Streets? on Hulu.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
This Oscar-nominated biographical documentary highlights the life of infamous American singer and black power icon Nina Simone. The film, directed by Liz Garbus, includes never-before-seen clips of performances and interviews with friends and loved ones that create an intimate portrait of Simone from her daughter's point of view.
Watch What Happened, Miss Simone? on Netflix.
Director Barry Jenkin's coming-of-age film chronicles the life of a young black man named Chiron in three defining chapters. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes star as Chiron at various points in his life (child, teen, and adult, respectively) in this must-watch Academy Award–winning film.
Watch Moonlight on Amazon (included with Prime).
After serving a 28-day prison sentence, a transgender sex worker finds out her boyfriend (and pimp) has been cheating on her. Armed with this information, she teams up with her best friend to track him and his new lover down to teach them a lesson.
Watch Tangerine on Netflix.
The New York Times lauded Jordan Peele's Get Out as "a meme generator, a social critique, and a metaphor for our times." In this critically acclaimed movie, the dreaded relationship milestone of meeting the parents takes an especially horrifying turn.
Watch Get Out on HBO.
Michael B. Jordan stars as 22-year-old Oscar Grant in this biographical film. The movie, directed by Ryan Coogler, follows the events of the days leading up to the night an unarmed Grant was tragically shot and killed by police at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California.
Watch Fruitvale Station on Netflix.
This biographical film tells the previously untold true story of three brilliant women who played a vital role in launching the first American astronaut into orbit. The three mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, brought their brilliance to NASA during this incredible moment in history.
Watch Hidden Figures on HBO.
Binge-watch season one of this hilarious comedy starring Donald Glover on Hulu now in preparation for the season-two premiere on March 8, 2018. In the show, Glover stars as Earn, a father trying to help his up-and-coming rapper cousin break into Atlanta's music scene.
Watch Atlanta on Hulu.
This addictive television show, produced by Oprah Winfrey and award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay, tells the story of the estranged Bordelon siblings. When a family tragedy forces them to reunite, the siblings return to the family-run sugarcane farm in Louisiana.
Watch Queen Sugar on Hulu.
Show creator Issa Rae (known for her popular web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl) stars as Issa Dee in this series on HBO. Stream seasons one and two on HBO as Issa navigates complicated romances, burgeoning friendships, and tricky work situations in Los Angeles.
Watch Insecure on HBO.
It should come as no surprise that this historical drama about the Underground Railroad made The New York Times list of The Best TV Shows of 2017. Set in the 1850s, this series shines a spotlight on heroic people of the time. As the Times mentions, Aisha Hinds's performance as Harriet Tubman is outstanding.
Watch Underground on Hulu.
If you're a fan of family sitcoms, Black-ish is a must-watch series that fuses familiar tropes of the genre with plots that touch on specific issues that affect black families, including racism and police brutality. If you already love this show, check out Freeform's spinoff series Grown-ish.
Watch Black-ish on Hulu.