Our initial intention was to share out films specifically about Juneteenth. We assumed this would be an easy task, but as we scoured the thousands of streaming titles the library provides access to and as we began reaching out to our colleagues at other institutions, we soon learned that this task was much harder, if not impossible. Indeed, we and our colleagues at libraries across the nation found no film in our academic streaming film collections that spoke specifically about Juneteenth.
Perhaps we should not have been surprised by this silence, as it reflects the dominant narratives that have long-shaped the real and mythological histories we tell about America, about race, and about identity.
We look forward to sharing these movies and documentaries with you when they become available.
Until then, the Library DEI Committee presents to you this curated list of films by and about the Black/African-American diaspora that celebrate Black excellence and joy, that document success, and that document difficult histories.
Select the film(s) that speaks to your moment. You may watch and reflect on your own, or you can organize some of your colleagues to select a film and gather for a post-viewing conversation using the discussion guides and additional learning resources provided for many of these films.
Juneteenth ostensibly commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that General Granger arrived in Galveston, TX with the following proclamation:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."
For many, this date and celebration represents a more true Independence Day than the 4th of July. In 1852, 11 years before the Emancipation Proclamation and 13 years before the last enslaved peoples were freed in Galveston, Frederick Douglass gave an extraordinary speech marking the limitations of the July 4 celebrations. Listen to the full speech as read by actor, director, writer, and activist Ossie Davis.