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5 films that should be on your Black History Month watch list

Denzel Washington Photo credit; Splash News)

Black History Month is a time when the contributions of Black people are honored and revered. In addition to groundbreaking inventions, Black Americans are pioneers in the areas of film and television. In honor of Black History Month, here are 5 Black-led films that should be on your Black History Month watch list.

Malcolm X

The biopic starring Denzel Washington in the title role is arguably director Spike Lees best work to date.

Washington stars as Malcolm “Chicago Red” Little, a small-time gangster who discovers Islam during incarceration. Reborn as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz aka Malcolm X, El-Shabazz ascends to the leadership of the Nation of Islam. His assassination in 1965 left a legacy of self-determination and racial pride.

The Wiz

The Wiz exemplifies essential Black History Month viewing. Loaded with a stellar cast, which includes Diana Ross (Dorothy), Michael Jackson (Scarecrow), Nipsey Russell (The Tinman), and Ted Ross (Lion), The Wiz continues to inspire to this day.

Maintaining the core elements of the original film, The Wiz added a new flavor with new songs and dance numbers. For Black Americans, it was the first time seeing themselves represented in a huge Broadway production.

Alex Haley’s “Roots”

The 8-part series first aired on ABC in 1977. The story centers on the life of Haley’s real-life relative Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton), an African man brought to America as a slave.

Overcoming mistreatment and torture in the deep south, Kinte gave birth to a generation of resilient people, Haley’s descendants. “Roots” is the quintessential Black American story. The miniseries drew an estimated 180 million viewers.

Lean On Me

The poignant film is loosely based on the story of Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), a high school principal in Paterson, New Jersey.

East High School is on the verge of closure unless students can improve their scores on a New Jersey state test. Underserved and overwrought with gangs and drug activity, superintendent Dr. Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume) enlists Clark to turn things around.

A Raisin In The Sun

Written by Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin In The Sun is the first play by a black woman to debut on Broadway. In 1961, the original cast appeared in the film version.

The story centers on the Chicago-based Younger family. After the death of the family patriarch, the family decides on the best use of an insurance payout. While Mama (Claudia McNeil) wants to purchase a home, Walter (Sidney Poitier) wants to invest in a liquor store.  Ultimately, the family reaches a decision after a series of trials and tribulations.