When it comes to historical films, there is a clear lack of accurate historical accounts of Black history in America. Many of the narratives that are out there seem to be geared toward the White audience more than a diverse audience. There are also many films that don’t give an adequate portrayal of what it meant to live in the days before slavery was abolished.
Despite these failings, there are some Black slavery movies that do paint a better picture of what slavery in America was like. There are movies that portray real people who dealt with real issues in Black history. These movies are an intense, serious portrayal of Black America – from slavery to the modern day.
6 Black Slavery Movies That Showcase America’s Dark Past
If you are looking for Black movies that really showcase the dark past of Black America, then take a look at the list we’ve compiled below. Some titles may be familiar, and others may be a great choice for your next movie night.
Amistad was one of Steven Spielberg’s lesser-known productions. After facing scrutiny for The Color Purple, Spielberg was under pressure from Amistad to produce a great movie. Amistad tells the story of rebellious slaves in America in 1841. The group of slaves lead a mutiny on their ship heading to Cuba. But after landing on U.S. soil, they are promptly arrested. The movie then follows the process of a major Supreme Court case to determine the rights of the slaves.
While met with some criticism, Amistad is a great film to watch if you are interested in this particular Supreme Court case. Overall, the film addresses major issues of slavery and prejudice in the early days of the United States.
Beloved is one of the best Black films of the 1990s. Starring Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey, the movie tells the story of Sethe and her daughter, a stranger in a black dress, slavery, and escaping one’s demons. It is a movie that is not suitable for all audiences as it deals with abuse and has characteristics of a horror movie. But if you want a historical narrative built around slavery and life on a plantation, this is a great option.
3. Django Unchained
Django Unchained is one of the most popular Black movies ever made. Directed by famed Quentin Tarantino, the story follows a German bounty hunter who purchases a slave in 1853. The bounty hunter (Christopher Waltz) promises to set the slave Django (Jamie Foxx) free with a horse and $75 if he helps him find the Brittle brothers. Django explains that he wishes to purchase his wife’s freedom (Kerry Washington), which leads the two on an unexpected adventure.
Django Unchained is an excellent Black slavery movie, but beware that there is quite a bit of gruesome violence, language, and content that is questionable for younger viewers.
4. Free State of Jones
Free State of Jones is a movie that follows Newton Knight, a man who deserted his post in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Knight unites slaves and free men in a place called the Free State of Jones, a location in Southeast Mississippi. Here, former slaves and free men have equal rights regardless of their skin color. This movie offers a look into a side of slavery and U.S. history that is often overlooked. With Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight, the movie is compelling and addresses inequality in a great way.
Antebellum tells the story of Eden, an enslaved woman in the 1800s. The movie tells a harrowing story of trauma and life for Black Americans in the 19th century. In a twist, we learn that the film is not so much a story as it is the retelling of a dream. If you love a good thriller/horror movie that is based around slavery, this is a great fictional movie.
Roots is, perhaps, one of the most recognizable films about Black slavery in the U.S. Produced as a miniseries, Roots follows Kunta Kinte, a warrior in West Africa. After being kidnapped and shipped to the United States, he is sold to a White family in Virginia. The movie follows Kinte’s story as a slave who makes an escape, is recaptured, fights in the British Army, and then suffers an incredible journey in the pursuit of freedom.