Founded by Ghanaian analyst Akyabba Addai Sebo in October 1987, the UK’s Black History Month is a time to learn about, reconnect with, and celebrate Black culture. Whilst the United States marks the month in February, Sebo chose to kickstart the UK’s version in October, as it’s traditionally the month when African leaders settle their differences.
To celebrate Black History Month, broadcasters and streaming services in the UK are offering an array of documentaries to educate audiences. Some specific to the UK include ITV’s five-part series Fresh Cuts, produced by Black filmmakers, and Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain, available on BBC iPlayer. Meanwhile, Disney+ is planning to release four new documentaries for audiences across the UK this month, including a powerful film on the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till, whose lynching in 1955 became a catalyst for the American civil rights movement.
From personal stories to the music of artists like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Sly and the Family Stone (courtesy of the Oscar-award-winning documentary Summer of Soul), the following 12 documentaries honour Black history and culture.
ITV is launching a new five-part series produced by Black filmmakers. Each episode will cover a different topic, including the Queen’s Jubilee, life as a Black tattoo artist, plastic surgery, the importance of rap music, and basketball.
The first episode aired on Sunday, Oct. 2, with episodes airing weekly. You can catch up with the series on ITV Hub.
Produced by Soul of a Nation and ABC News, X/Onerated is a documentary about Muhammad Abdul Aziz, a man wrongfully convicted of assassinating Malcolm X. This is the first time Aziz has spoken out since his exoneration in Nov. 2021. You may remember his case from the Netflix series Who Killed Malcolm X?, which is also worth a watch.
Watch X/Onerated on Disney+.
Let The World See
Let The World See is a three-part series that focuses on the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was abducted, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi in 1955. His mother, Mamie Carthan, insisted on an open-casket funeral so the world could see what had been done to her son.
Till’s murder was a turning point for civil rights in America, with Martin Luther King Jr. calling it “one of the most brutal and inhuman crimes of the 20th century.”
Let The World See will be available on Disney+ from Friday, October 7.
Screen Queens Rising
Exploring the history and legacy of Black actors in Hollywood, Screen Queens charts how stars like Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Regina Hall, and Tessa Thompson have ascended “to the top echelons of entertainment and American culture” over the last three decades.
Screen Queens will be available on Disney+ from Friday, October 14.
Enslaved With Samuel L. Jackson
Hollywood legend Samuel L. Jackson tracks the journeys of slave trade ships from Africa to the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean in this four-part documentary series. Jackson also uncovers personal truths in his family history, tracing his ancestral tree back to the coastal region of Gabon in Central Africa.
After debuting in 2020, Enslaved with Samuel L. Jackson will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 5 on BBC Four. It will be available on BBC iPlayer shortly after.
Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now
In a companion piece to the 2019 miniseries When They See Us, Oprah Winfrey interviews the Central Park Five — five Black and Latino men who were wrongfully convicted of assaulting a jogger in 1989. Eventually exonerated in 2002, the men speak of their experiences and reflect on what happened.
Watch Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now on Netflix.
Summer Of Soul
Summer Of Soul is an Oscar-winning documentary about the 1969 Harlem Festival. Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, viewers can experience performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, and The 5th Dimension, in addition to commentary about the historical and social context of the event.
Having premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2022, Aftershock shines a light on the maternal health crisis in the United States, which disproportionately affects Black women. The film focuses on two families as they become steadfast activists and fight for justice for their loved ones.
You can watch Aftershock on Disney+.
Black Power: A British Story Of Resistance
As the American civil rights movement paved history, a similar act of change took place in Britain. Told through the power of music, Black Power: A British Story of Resistance covers the UK Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s, detailing how music like reggae and soul helped shape ideas into action.
You can watch Black Power: A British Story of Resistance on BBC iPlayer.
Lenny Henry’s British Caribbean
This two-part programme sees Lenny Henry celebrate how Caribbean and British culture combined to create a canvas of music, theatre, and art. Featuring guest appearances from Jazzie B, Floella Benjamin, Judi Love, Billy Ocean, Andi Oliver, and Levi Roots, the series captures what a Caribbean Britain means to Henry and those he interviews.
You can watch Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain here.
Charlene White: Empire’s Child
Broadcaster and ITV News presenter Charlene White explores how the British Empire shaped her family history. Told over two parts, Empire’s Child sees White trace her ancestral heritage back to slavery, discovering that one relative owned slaves while others were born into slavery.
You can watch Charlene White: Empire’s Child on ITV Hub.
Troy Deeney: Where’s My History?
Birmingham City footballer Troy Deeney sets to find out why Black, Asian, and minority ethnic histories are hard to find on the curriculum in British schools, and what can be done to change this.