When President Gerald R. Ford proclaimed the expansion of the celebration known as Negro History Week to Black History Month during the United States’ bicentennial celebration in 1976, he instructed Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” This year’s theme, chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories”.

POV has featured a number of films that are ideal for teaching black history year-round. Our black history resource collection offers educators a range of our most popular accompanying content, from lesson plans and discussion guides to reading lists.

In addition, the films highlighted below are available for free from the POV Lending Library for community or classroom screenings. Sign up in the POV Community Network to borrow these (and many more) films for free.

Homegoings (POV 2013, 60 min.):Through the eyes of funeral director Isaiah Owens, the beauty and grace of African-American funerals are brought to life. Filmed at Owens Funeral Home in New York City’s historic Harlem neighborhood, Homegoings takes an up-close look at the rarely seen world of undertaking in the black community, where funeral rites draw on a rich palette of tradition, history and celebration. Combining cinéma vérité with intimate interviews and archival photographs, the film paints a portrait of the dearly departed, their grieving families and a man who sends loved ones “home.”

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement (POV 2012, 21 min.): In this 2012 Oscar-nominated short film, Alabama barber and civil rights veteran James Armstrong experiences the fulfillment of an unimaginable dream: the election of the first African-American president.

American Promise (POV 2014, 120 min.): The film spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way through Dalton, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (POV 2014, 90 min.): Grace Lee Boggs, 98, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted for 75 years in the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times.

This post included information from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the US Department of Labor.

Visit our local events calendar for a full list of events happening across the country and join our Community Network to host a screening of your own!

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.