Juneteenth—a holiday marking the end of slavery in the U.S. on June 19, 1865—has been celebrated by black Americans as far back as 1866, especially in Texas. But very few Americans have been aware of its significance until this year. As protests erupted throughout the country and the world after George Floyd, a black man, died in police custody, some local governments and companies are acknowledging the significance of the date and making it a paid holiday.
This Juneteenth, Fortune is highlighting some movies and television to watch in honor of the holiday, realizing that these are simply a fraction of the titles available. Some are centered on black history and race relations in the U.S., some are about Juneteenth itself, and some are present-day stories told by black creators, worthy of celebration.
13th: The Ava DuVernay-directed documentary gets its name from the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which formally abolished slavery. The film dives into modern-day America’s prison system and its ties to slavery and racial inequality. (Note: Netflix has made the documentary free to stream on YouTube as well.)
Dear White People: The series from Justin Simien (who wrote and directed the film of the same name) is partly a dramedy about college students, while also providing commentary on race, due to its focus on a group of black students at a predominantly white university. There are currently three seasons available to stream, while a fourth and final season is on its way.
Malcolm X: The 1992 Spike Lee film starring Denzel Washington as Malcolm X spans the slain civil rights leader’s life. The movie was nominated for two Oscars.
Moonlight: The winner of the 2017 Oscar for best picture (following a slight envelope mix-up) focuses on a young black man growing up in Miami and grappling with his sexuality. “These are all people we grew up with but never had their space on camera,” best supporting actor winner Mahershala Ali told EW when the film was released in 2016. “These are people in the black community that I’ve seen, that I’ve known.”
When They See Us: The Ava DuVernay miniseries tells the story of the Central Park Five, a group of black and Hispanic teenagers wrongly convicted of a vicious attack on a female jogger in the park. Jharrel Jerome, who played Korey Wise, won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.
Other notable titles on the streamer include Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Da 5 Bloods, Beyoncé’s Homecoming, LA92, Mudbound, She’s Gotta Have It (the movie and a 2017 series based on the movie), and What Happened, Miss Simone?
Amazon Prime Video
I Am Not Your Negro: The 2016 documentary based on James Baldwin’s unfinished Remember This House delves into racism in the U.S. based on the writer and activist’s observations.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco: The 2019 film follows a young black man who’s trying to reclaim his grandfather’s Victorian home in gentrifying San Francisco. “I had a good team that helped me believe that this [was a] story that people wanted to hear because I didn’t really think anyone could care,” said Jimmie Fails, who stars in the film, which is based on his family’s story.
Additional titles include Marshall, as well as PBS documentaries on the Black Panthers, John Lewis, and Jackie Robinson.
Atlanta: The series, which takes place in… Atlanta, focuses on Earn (Donald Glover) and a cast of characters including his cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry). The whole series is worth watching, but if you’re seeking something Juneteenth-specific, “Juneteenth” from the first season is definitely an episode to check out.
Black-ish: Atlanta isn’t the only show that had an episode focused on Juneteenth—ABC sitcom Black-ish, another series worth watching in full, did the same in its fourth season premiere, breaking down a “150-year-old tradition that no one’s heard about.”
If Beale Street Could Talk: The 2018 drama by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name, was a critical darling that scored Regina King a best supporting actress Oscar and Golden Globe.
Living Single: The ‘90s sitcom, whose stars included Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, and Kim Fields, followed the lives of friends in Brooklyn—a fairly standard setup. But it also stood out because it focused on the experiences of young black people. “We don’t get to show that blackness is really more than a color and that we are in every facet of society and every facet of life,” Cress Williams, who played Terrence “Scooter” Williams, told The Atlantic in 2018. “And so what was great about that show was that you saw such a variety.”
Sorry to Bother You: A blend of comedy, sci-fi, and fantasy, black telemarketer Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield) discovers a secret to success—using a “white voice” to sell products over the phone, taking viewers on a surreal journey that is honestly impossible to explain in a simple paragraph.
Other notable titles include—but are not limited to— Everybody Hates Chris, Black-ish spinoffs Grown-ish and Mixed-ish, Key & Peele, and Queen Sugar.
The Apollo: The legendary venue at the center of this HBO documentary has “85 glorious years of the history of black entertainment,” as filmmaker Roger Ross Williams told Fortune last November. From touching upon 17-year-old Ella Fitzgerald’s Amateur Night win in 1934 to a 2017 stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, the documentary captures the crucial role the Harlem venue has played for black Americans up until this day.
BlacKkKlansman: The 2018 Spike Lee film is set in the 1970s and follows the first black detective in a Colorado police department as he tries to expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Insecure: The dramedy based on Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl web series just wrapped up its fourth season. If you haven’t watched it yet, now’s the perfect time to catch up on this show focusing on the ups and downs of a young black woman and her friends’ personal and professional lives in Los Angeles.
Other titles include 2 Dope Queens, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Eve’s Bayou, I May Destroy You, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Us, Watchmen, and Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas. (Note: HBO is offering all nine episodes of Watchmen to stream for free from June 19-21.)
Also of note
Miss Juneteenth, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, will be out on video-on-demand (VOD) on June 19. “The legacy of slavery is woven into the fabric of our country’s history and how ALL Americans navigate our present,” director Channing Godfrey Peoples told Fortune via email recently. “I think a day of observance of this history and future we want to create is appropriate.”
A number of films—Just Mercy, Selma, and The Hate U Give—are among those that are available to watch for free on VOD platforms this month, following worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.
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- Meet the vocal coach keeping busy while opera stages are all dark
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