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9 powerful shows and documentaries about racial injustice that are essential viewing

These Netflix shows are both educational and important

netflix shows and docs
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
6 October 2020
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13th© Photo: Netflix

October marks Black History Month, and now, more than ever, it's clear that education on the injustices in our society is crucial. A great way to do that is by watching powerful and educational shows and documentaries about this very subject, and Netflix has a generous selection.

While there are plenty of great programmes that both inform and entertain, we've picked out some great options that are essential viewing this Black History Month. 

From a show on the life of Malcolm X to a comedy that will open your eyes while making you laugh - here's our roundup...

MORE: 36 best movies to watch on Netflix this week


Ava DuVernay's documentary film focuses on race, injustice and mass incarceration in the United States. The title refers to the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution which reads, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States."

The film features archive footage, interviews and testimonies from activists, politicians and formerly incarcerated men and women.

dear white people© Photo: Netflix

Dear White People

This witty and satirical drama series follows a group of students of colour as they navigate a so-called "post-racial" America in the form of a predominantly white Ivy-League College.

The group experience and explore the "landscape of social injustice, cultural bias, political correctness (or lack thereof) and sometimes misguided activism in the millennial age.

Through an absurdist lens, Dear White People utilizes biting irony, self-deprecation and sometimes brutal honesty to hold up a mirror to the issues plaguing society today, all the while leading with laughter."

MORE: Fans criticise Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma for this reason

when they see us© Photo: Netflix

When They See Us

Ava DuVernay is also behind When They See Us, a drama based on the true 1989 case that gripped the nation when five black teenagers from America were convicted of a brutal crime they did not commit.

MORE: Black History Month: best things to watch on Netflix and NOW TV

The four-part series follows the men as they're trapped in their nightmare, starring Moonlight's Jharrel Jerome, The Wire's Michael K. Williams and many more critically acclaimed stars.

Keep clicking for more photos...!

who killed malcom© Photo: Netflix

Who Killed Malcolm X

As the title suggests, the documentary series dives into the assassination of Civil Rights Activist Malcolm X in 1965. In the documentary, one activist embarks on a mission to seek truth and justice for the crime.

sam cooke© Photo: Netflix

The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

Soul singer Sam Cooke rose to fame in the 50s and inspired many other soul heavyweights like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

This documentary explores whether his outspoken views during the Civil Rights Movement contributed to his murder in 1964.

self made© Photo: Netflix

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

This series is essential viewing as it shines a light on America's first female self-made millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker. Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer plays the lead, telling the story of how Madam C.J. Walker overcame post-slavery racial biases and injustice to revolutionise black haircare and simultaneously fought for social change.

seven seconds© Photo: Netflix

Seven Seconds

This ten-part drama series focuses on the death of a 15-year-old African American boy on Jersey City which then leads to a search for the truth. The synopsis reads: "In an instant, life is forever changed for Brenton Butler and his family. After a white cop accidentally hits and critically injures a black teenager, a north eastern city explodes with racial tensions, an attempted cover up and its aftermath, and the trial of the century."

khalief browder© Photo: Netflix

Time: The Kalief Browder Story

This six-part documentary series was produced by Jay Z, who also appears in the doc, and explores the case of Kalief Browder – a 16-year-old boy from the Bronx in New York who was accused of stealing a backpack.

Kalief was imprisoned for three years, two of them spent in solitary confinement, without ever being convicted. Upon his release at 22 years old, he died by suicide. The documentary explores how his imprisonment highlighted the troubling ways that black and Latino people are severely punished at the hands of the judicial system.

american son© Photo: Netflix

American Son

This powerful TV film is an adaption of the Broadway production of the same name. It stars Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale as Kendra and Scott, a recently separated couple left in disarray after their son Jamal goes missing. American Son powerfully navigates the issues of racial tensions surrounding interracial marriages and raising a mixed-race son in a privileged area.

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