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Celebrate Black History Month with Films on Demand: Home

Celebrate Black History Month with these streaming videos from Films on Demand

Films on Demand is a library database that provides streaming videos on a variety of educational topics.

View the complete Black History Month playlist at Films on Demand.

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Click a cover image to play the individual title.

Outlier: The Story of Katherine Johnson

In mathematical terms, an outlier is a data point that differs greatly from other observations. It is an apt description for a person, too, that is outside the norms. This film is a one-hour documentary about the trajectory of an African-American girl wonder whose mathematical genius would catapult astronauts into space. Born in 1918, Johnson graduated high school at the age of 14, college at 18, and went on to a career with NASA where she broke race and gender barriers. Johnson not only succeeded in a white, male-dominated field, she excelled. From America’s first attempt at manned space flights to the Shuttle program, Johnson was an integral part of the mission. The documentary includes an interview with Johnson herself, as well as interviews with NASA’s chief historian, a curator at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, and an interview with Margot Shetterly, the author of the book Hidden Figures. Johnson’s life was one of three profiled in the Hollywood film of the same name.

Ken Burns: Jazz movie cover

Ken Burns: Jazz

A study and celebration of America’s greatest original art form, Ken Burns’s ten-part documentary series opens at the dawn of the 20th century and crosses the decades with the exuberance and expressive power of jazz itself. Each episode sheds light on cultural and historical milestones as it introduces viewers to the unforgettable names and accomplishments of the music. From the cradle of New Orleans to the crucibles of Chicago and New York City… from the Harlem Renaissance to the Great Depression to World War II and beyond… Jazz paints an astonishing portrait of a nation and the sound that both captured and set free its spirit. Distributed by PBS Distribution. 10-part series, 110 minutes each.

Clementine Hunter's World movie cover

Clementine Hunter's World

This is a biographical documentary film about an African American, self-taught artist who revealed through her vibrant paintings what daily life was like for life and her community on a 20th Century plantation.

Isaac Pope: The Spirit of an American Century movie cover

Isaac Pope: The Spirit of an American Century

This program highlights 100 years of the African-American experience through the life of Isaac Pope, an unassuming WWII hero who was the grandson of slaves and the son of sharecroppers. He reflects on his struggle to achieve the "American Dream" and reveals the path forward in order to achieve racial peace and harmony in the South. Pope was the First Sergeant of the 969th Field Artillery Battery and he fought in the Battle of the Bulge—one of the deadliest battles of WWII. After the war, Isaac Pope continued to serve as a mentor, church leader and advocate for civil and workplace rights. Filmmaker Paula J. Caplan, whose father served with Pope, presents a poignant portrait of the man and the African-American experience.

Strange Fruit movie cover image

Strange Fruit

The story behind Billie Holiday's signature song examines the history of lynching; the interplay of race, labor, and the left; and popular culture as forces that would give rise to the Civil Rights movement.

Charley Pride: I’m Just Me movie cover

Charley Pride: I’m Just Me

This program explores the complicated history of the American South and its music through the life of country star Charley Pride. Raised in the brutally segregated Mississippi Delta, Pride's buttery voice, talent, and steely resolve led him to the Country Music Hall of Fame. A GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award® winner, his journey shows the ways that artistic expression can triumph over prejudice and injustice.

The Apollo movie cover

The Apollo

THE APOLLO, directed by Oscar® and Emmy® winner Roger Ross Williams, chronicles the legacy of New York City’s landmark Apollo Theater, covering the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years. What began as a refuge for marginalized artists emerged as a hallowed hall of black excellence and empowerment. In the film, Williams reflects on the struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle, and the part the Apollo Theater continues to play in the cultural conversation. Weaving together archival footage of music, comedy and dance performances with behind-the-scenes verité footage of the team that makes the theater run, the film features interviews with such artists as Angela Bassett, Common, Jamie Foxx, Doug E. Fresh, Savion Glover, Patti LaBelle, Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson, and Pharrell Williams. Parallel to the historical narrative, THE APOLLO examines the current state of race in America, chronicling the multimedia stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ acclaimed Between the World and Me as it comes together on the theater’s grand stage.

For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots movie cover

For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots

If prevalent and accepted accounts of American history—both scholarly and those portrayed by Hollywood—are to be believed, the face of the U.S. armed services has always been white. For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots finally, and for the first time, sets the record straight with an all-star cast who read from a collection of letters, diaries, speeches, and military records that document and acknowledge the sacrifices and accomplishments of African-Americans across four centuries of warfare. This acclaimed series has generated intense support from scholars, students, and parents and has been endorsed by all of the major African-American veterans groups and civil rights organizations as well as by prominent senators and congressional representatives. A viewable/printable episode guide is available online. 6-part series, 45–131 minutes each.

The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords movie cover

The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords

Archival footage and interviews trace the history of African-American newspapers and journalism from the 19th century to the Civil Rights movement.

Let Freedom Ring: Moments from the Civil Rights Movement, 1954–1965 cover image

Let Freedom Ring: Moments from the Civil Rights Movement, 1954–1965

Despite the colossal and continuing legacy of America’s civil rights era, the movement is often best understood through the historical moments in which it took place. This NBC News program presents original coverage from frontline correspondents and camera teams at work during critical junctures in America’s battle for racial equality. Hosted by NBC anchor Lester Holt, the video examines the Greensboro sit-ins; the Freedom Rider phenomenon; the efforts by, in support of, and against black students entering southern schools and universities; the March on Washington; and other events and initiatives.

The Civil Rights Movement cover image

The Civil Rights Movement

A part of the series America in the 20th Century. Anyone who thinks the civil rights movement began and ended with Martin Luther King Jr. will discover a new, eye-opening view of history in this program. It reveals a long-running struggle for racial equality starting with Civil War– and Reconstruction-era events, moving through the blight of Jim Crow and the formation of the NAACP and other groups, and depicting the drama of King’s movement in varied, evolving phases. The work of Malcolm X, the rise of the Black Power movement, and the future of America’s ongoing equality battles are also examined. Correlates to standards from the National Council for the Social Studies. A viewable/printable instructor’s guide is available online. (84 minutes)

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