Parents' Guide to

I Am Not Your Negro

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Powerful documentary explores race, art, and activism.

Movie PG-13 2017 95 minutes
I Am Not Your Negro Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 14+

Necessary if tough viewing

The things that make I Am Not Your Negro tough to watch (in particular images of violence inflicted on Black people throughout the periods the film covers) are things that are necessary for people to know about. I think that the film is suitable for teenagers to watch by themselves (and have watched part of the film with my 11 year old niece), but that you get the most out of it watching in a group setting (in class or with your family) for discussion purposes. One of the events the documentary covers is the racist bombing of a church that killed four little girls. I think a child the same age as those poor girls should be able to watch this documentary because of how it shows that systemic, VIOLENT, anti-Black racism didn't care about protecting innocent children - because to them, Black children weren't innocent. I've worked in education and I have experience working with teens and young adults on similar material and I think that if you're not sure if your teen can watch this documentary on their own: watch it with them. Do your homework so you can answer their questions and then sit with them so you can learn together. There ARE images of lynching that are upsetting to see in maybe the last third of the film and that may upset smaller and/or sensitive children, but I do think that hiding the reality of what people have been/are like (as lynchings have occurred as recently as last year) is doing a disservice to your kids and to the history that Black people in the US have survived.
age 16+

Not for kids:Very Important movie, perspective changing but intense at times

James Baldwin was a brilliant, poetic, visionary, activist and this movie captures his important perspectives on the racism/humanity question. It inspires, , makes you question and will make you angry. It should be seen by everyone but there are many historical news clips and images that viewers will find disturbing--lynchings, race riots, beatings, and other forms of violence. Parts are too graphic for children and while I think it would be so valuable for young adults to become familiar with James Baldwin it's hard for me to recommend for anyone under 18. Perhaps 16 and up for very mature kids with prior exposure to historical imagery.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (2 ):

James Baldwin is revealed to be both a poet and a prophet when it comes to his views on race in America in Peck's excellent exploration of racial tension in America. Jackson's voice performance is brilliant as he reads Baldwin's letters and writings, but it's Baldwin himself who's the star of I Am Not Your Negro. In archival footage, he makes talk show hosts squirm and never backs away from discussing bitter truths. Returning to America from his artistic ex-pat life in Paris had to be heartbreaking, but Baldwin felt compelled to be among his family, his streets, his people. As Baldwin discusses the civil rights leaders he knew, it's clear that they were close, personal friends whose deaths profoundly impacted him.

In interview after interview, lecture after lecture, debate after debate, Baldwin makes it clear that the America of the '60s and '70s had in no way healed from centuries of slavery, racial oppression, and segregation. He explains the desperation that led to riots and protests. He cries out with the horror and pain of someone bereaved when discussing the murders of civil rights icons and the premature death of Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry. In addition to footage of Baldwin, there's occasional contemporary shots of Black Lives Matters protests, movies, and the Ferguson demonstrations. While this film isn't exactly easy viewing, it's insightful and absolutely relevant to today's ideologically divided America.

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