Black America Since MLK: And I Still I Rise

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Black America Since MLK: And I Still I Rise TV Poster Image
Superb, essential docu illuminates Black American history.

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Positive Messages

It addresses the challenges the Black community consistently faces due to persistent systemic racism in the United States, and the successful ways this system has been challenged over the past 50+ years. It also points to the broader impact Black culture has had on the country and the world. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The series includes interview footage with prominent self-defined Black and African-American male and female scholars, activists, and celebrities. Important figures in Black history, including the leaders of different factions within the Black community and pop culture influencers are also discussed. White supremacist and other non-Black leaders who have had a major impact on the Black community are examined.  

Violence

There's a lot of archival footage of violent moments, ranging from civil rights unrest and images of the Watts and L.A. Riots to people being physically assaulted by police officers. Conversations about police brutality, and the death of black men like Trayvon Martin, are central to the story.

Sex

There are a few subtle references to stereotypes about Black men being sexual predators, a nmd there are some sexually explicit lyrics. 

Language

Curses are bleeped, but the "N" word and other racist epithets -- many of which were deemed acceptable at the time -- are audible in archive footage.  

Consumerism

Advertisements for products like Listerine, magazines like Essence and Ebony, and TV shows like Soul Train are prominently featured as part of the conversations about changes in popular culture. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking and drug use is visible. Alcoholism and drug addiction is discussed as it relates to Black communities, and how it compares to White ones. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black America Since MLK: And I Still I Rise is a documentary series that examines Black American history from the start of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s until the end of the Obama administration. It highlights the obstacles the Black community has faced over the years, and celebrates the progress made to overcome them. There’s lots of photographs and archival footage of violent events, including angry protests, race riots, and brutal encounters with police. The "N" word is used on various occasions, too. TV programs, magazines, and advertisements are shown, smoking is visible, and drinking and drug use is discussed. All of this is featured in a historical and educational context. 

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What's the story?

BLACK AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE features historian and literary critic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. examining and celebrating post-World War II Black history in America. From the early work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders in the 1950s, to deconstructing the reasons behind the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it examines key political, economic, and sociocultural phenomena that have profoundly impacted the Black community in the United States over the last five decades. It also discusses the emergence of different factions within the Black community, and the political divisions and cultural transformations that have come about as a result. Civil rights activists and scholars like Dr. Cornel West and bell hooks, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, and political leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson offer additional historical details, and describe what it felt like to witness or take part in these moments. Archival photographs and video footage help round out these conversations.

Is it any good?

This engaging 4-part documentary series offers a comprehensive look at the last 50+ years of Black American history. The conversations that take place are often personal, but each narrative offers well-informed and unique insights into the different ways systemic racism continues to impact the daily lives of Black citizens across the United States. It also highlights and celebrates the progress made over the years to challenge the political, economic, and social institutions that perpetuate it. 

The archival footage isn’t always easy to watch, especially when it reveals the overt (and accepted) racist attitudes and behaviors of the time. However, what is even more startling is how, in some cases, little has changed. This is why Black America Since MLK: And I Still I Rise is important to watch. It gives viewers a context from which contemporary race-related tensions can be explained and understood. But it also reminds us that there is hope for continued progress as the fight against racism continues. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about being a Black person in America. What obstacles does a Black person face in the United States (and around the world) that people from other racial/ethnic backgrounds do not? In what ways does Black America Since MLK: And I Still I Rise address this injustice

  • Systemic racism refers to the biased way of thinking and behaving that has become normal in institutions like law enforcement, the legal system, schools, and hospitals. How can these biases be eliminated? Will doing so only benefit the Black community?

  • How does the media shape the way we look at race, and race-related tensions in America? How can we use the media to  talk to children about race-related issues? Check out these resources to begin and continue these discussions.

TV details

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