Documentaries about race in the U.S.
23 Documentaries About Race In The U.S. To Help You Learn More


So, you want to learn more about racial injustice in the United States, but you aren't sure where to start. While there are many different ways to learn more about racism, and how it intersects in every aspect of society, documentaries about race in the United States can serve as a particularly effective window into the topic. Watching real-life stories being told on-screen can be a powerful experience, and learning about the past and present of racism in the U.S. can be a stepping stone toward a better future.

To help guide positive social change, many organizations are providing lists of resources for those who want to further their education via documentaries, movies, books, podcasts, and more. A few examples of these resource compilations can be found below:

'The Central Park Five'

What it's about: The story of five Black and Latinx teens who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in NYC in 1989

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

'Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992'

What it's about: The tension between members of Los Angeles' Black community and the police during the decade preceding and including the 1992 Rodney King riots, which were sparked by the acquittal of four police offices who brutally beat King in the streets of LA

How to watch: Netflix

'Crime + Punishment'

What it's about: The experiences of 12 Black and Latinx whistleblower N.Y.P.D. cops as they fought illegal arrest quotas that pressured them to arrest urban youths

How to watch: Hulu, Crime + Punishment website

'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'

What it's about: The evolution, community, people, and ideas of the Black Power movement, featuring archival footage of activists Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale and poet Abiodun Oyewole

How to watch: Nowness

'Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement' (Series)

What it's about: The Black Lives Matter movement, through the accounts of local activists, scholars, journalists, and celebrities

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

'I Am Not Your Negro'

What it's about: Race in the United States, connecting the Civil Rights movement to the Black Lives Matter movement

How to watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and a variety of other platforms

'Let The Fire Burn'

What it's about: A 1985 incident in which the Philadelphia police dropped explosives into a home occupied by members of MOVE, a Black liberation group, which resulted in the death of 11 people when the officers chose to "let the fire burn."

How to watch: Vudu and iTunes


What it's about: The U.S. prison system and its history of racial inequality

How to watch: YouTube, Netflix

'The Death & Life Of Marsha P. Johnson'

What it's about: The mysterious 1992 death of Black LGBTQ rights activists and Stonewall veteran Marsha P. Johnson

How to watch: Netflix

'16 Shots'

What it's about: The 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police and the cover-up that ensued when activists fought for footage of the event to be released

How to watch: Hulu with Showtime subscription, Showtime, SlingTV

'Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story' (Series)

What it's about: The 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, which became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement

How to watch: Paramount Network

'Say Her Name: The Life & Death Of Sandra Bland'

What it's about: The unsettling story of a Black woman named Sandra Bland, who was pulled over for a traffic incident, was arrested during the stop, and died a Texas prison three days later

How to watch: Hulu with HBO Max add-on, HBO subscription, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

'America Beyond The Color Line'

What it's about: In 2003, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates traveled to the East Coast, the deep South, inner-city Chicago, and Hollywood to interview influential Black people on their views on the status of Black Americans.

How to watch: DVD available for purchase

'The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross' (Series)

What it's about: Emmy Award-winning 2013 series that explores Black identity and what it means to be an African American in the U.S. today, as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates investigates religion, culture, and evolution of African Americans over the past 500 years and across two continents

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

'Freedom Riders'

What it's about: The story of the more than 400 people who risked their lives traveling together in the segregated South to protest segregation in 1961, with testimony from Freedom Riders themselves

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

'Slavery By Another Name'

What it's about: How involuntary servitude persisted as a practice in the United States after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865

How to watch: Available on DVD

'Eyes On The Prize' (Series)

What it's about: A comprehensive look at the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1985, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1954, the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and the birth of the Black Power Movement

How to watch: Available on DVD

'Soundtrack For A Revolution'

What it's about: The history and meaning behind the freedom songs of the American Civil Rights movement, with modern performances from John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, and The Roots

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

'Dark Girls'

What it's about: The prejudices and cultural biases dark-skinned women face in the media and their everyday lives

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

'The Black List: Volume One'

What it's about: A series of interviews of twenty-three prominent African Americans of various professions and backgrounds offer their insights on Black life in the United States, redefining the term "blacklist" in the process

How to watch: Available on DVD

'Breaking The Huddle: The Integration of College Football'

What it's about: Civil rights through the lens of football; the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on football programs and the historic 1970 game in which the all-white University of Alabama team lost to the fully integrated University of Southern California team

How to watch: Available in clips on YouTube

'More Than A Month'

What it's about: A filmmaker's campaign to end Black History Month, as a gambit to open conversation about whether relegating Black history to the shortest month of the year — and separating it from American history as a whole — properly recognizes the roles of Black people in American history

How to watch: Available in clips on YouTube

'L.A.P.D. Blues' (Series)

What it's about: The "Rampart Scandal," which involved widespread police corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang unit of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division in the late 1990s, ultimately questioning how to bring order to a police force

How to watch: PBS

No single documentary on this list is going to teach you everything you need to know about racism in the United States, but it's a start. Viewers can watch these films and series to supplement their education about the struggles of Black people, and subsequently effect change.