Stream These Black Documentaries Now

Here are nine documentaries on some of the most influential Black people in show business

Watch these Black documentaries now

We all love a good laugh and a good cry. And we owe some of our best laughter, favorite tunes, and worst sobs to the greatest minds in Black history. They not only moved us but broke the metaphorical glass ceiling to even have the chance to stand up on stage. With these documentaries, take a look back at the life and influence of these giants on whose shoulders we all stand on.

1. Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley

Jackie “Moms” Mabley is whom many consider as the first Black female comedienne to succeed in the mainstream of American popular culture. When she started her career just before the World War I, she was only visible to white audiences. However, that career did not last long enough for her popularity to spread as she passed away in 1975, just shortly after she started appearing on network variety and chat shows in the 1960s. “Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley” is an homage to a hidden gem of Black comedy.

2. Quincy

This documentary about the life and career of one of pop music’s most talented producers, Quincy Jones, gives an intimate look into a bygone era of entertainment that left with it a legacy of prejudice that Black musicians are still dealing with today. “Quincy” by Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones will be a treat to watch for those who might only be familiar with his name from the back of their “Thriller” album case. Discover the work of this man from the words of celebrities as they tell the story of one of the hardest-working guys in entertainment.

3. Becoming

Becoming” is a documentary based on Michelle Obama’s memoir with the same name. As the former first lady adjusts to life outside the White House, the documentary offers a “unique and up-close look at her life.” After the release of the book, Bronx-based documentary filmmaker Nadia Hallgren accompanied Obama on her 34-city book tour as she discussed her life, marriage, and family, as well as her experiences in the White House, as narrated in her memoir.

4. Right to Offend: The Black Comedy Revolution

A&E’s “Right to Offend: The Black Comedy Revolution” offers a close-up look at the development of Black comedy in the United States. The film deliberately creates a connection from late superstars like Mabley and Redd Foxx to the biggest comedians of today, including Tiffany Haddish and Key & Peele. In addition to in-depth explorations of the lives of comedians from Richard Pryor to Dave Chappelle, “Right to Offend” also features current comedians who discuss how particular figures have influenced their lives and frequently served as inspiration throughout their careers.

5. Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches

Frederick Douglass was raised in slavery and rose to prominence as one of his generation’s most eloquent orators. He was a politician, author, celebrity, and abolitionist. His dedication to freedom was desperately required at a time when African Americans were still regarded as property in a majority of the country. In HBO’s “Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches,” Denzel Whitaker, Jonathan Majors, Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Beharie, and Colman Domingo bring Douglass’ words to life using his famous oratory style.

6. The One and Only Dick Gregory

Look back on the career of Dick Gregory, a true pioneer who combined his comedic skills and advocacy for civil rights. His comedic timing was flawless while also speaking up against injustices. Take your time to savor Showtime’s feature-length documentary, “The One and Only Dick Gregory”, if you want to learn more about the fascinating life of the iconic comedian. The film combines archived video with the legend’s own personal insights to narrate the late comedian’s struggle for social justice. Contemporary comedic names like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Wanda Sykes also appear in the documentary and share their personal accounts of how Gregory influenced them and inspired their own careers.

7. Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy

All comedy buffs must watch “Phat Tuesdays: The Era of Hip Hop Comedy,” which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The docuseries casts a spotlight on the sensational all-Black comedy night show of the same name that debuted at The Comedy Store in 1995. The original show helped start the careers of some of the greatest stars in comedy today. On the show’s trailer, Cedric the Entertainer remembers it as “one of the great renaissances of Black comedians being ushered in.” The series transports viewers to the 1990s with confessionals from the largest names in comedy such as Anthony Anderson, Steve Harvey, Regina King, and Snoop Dogg.

8. Janet Jackson

If you were living under a rock and missed the Janet Jackson’s documentary premier (even with all of the accompanying celebrity and fan tweeting), you still have a chance to watch it on Lifetime’s website. The Jackson-approved documentary features the star discussing the advantages and disadvantages of fame and being born into a famous family. She also goes into detail about her marriages to Dancer/Director René Elizondo and Singer El DeBarge. She spills the tea on the rumor of a baby with DeBarge. And Janet gets honest about the disappointing Super Bowl performance with Justin Timberlake. This is a must-watch for all Janet Jackson fans.

9. Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic,” is another Showtime documentary, profiling one of the most significant and influential comedic geniuses up close. This movie recounts the comedian’s life and his “culture-defining effect” on the stand-up genre, including cameos from a variety of comedic talent. Even though “Right to Offend” and other documentary specials mention Pryor, “Omit the Logic” is the best option if you want a more in-depth look at his life.

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