The African American Experience: Films on Kanopy

The African American Experience blog photoFrom documentaries to thrillers, explore the diverse visual works available to stream for free on Kanopy. Visit to add your library card number and start watching these titles by and about African Americans.


The African Americans – Many Rivers to Cross

This 6-part series explores the evolution of African Americans, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds.

 America After Ferguson

This PBS town hall meeting, moderated by PBS NEWSHOUR co-anchor and managing editor Gwen Ifill, explores events following Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Banished – A History of African American Expulsion

From 1860 to 1920 hundreds of US counties expelled all of their African American inhabitants. BANISHED visits three of these still all-white towns today. 

Beyond The Lights

The pressures of fame have put superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice to become the artist she was meant to be.beyond

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise

This series looks at the last five decades of African American history through the eyes of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., exploring the tremendous gains and persistent challenges of these years.

Broken on All Sides – Race, Mass Incarceration and New Visions for Criminal Justice

Today there are more African Americans in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850. Explore the intersection of race & poverty within the criminal justice system.

Copwatch – An Organization Dedicated to Filming the Police This acclaimed documentary captured the original videos of the deaths of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray.

Cruel and Unusual – Black Panthers Fighting for Justice in Prison

The story of the Angola Three, Black Panther members Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, who have been fighting for justice since the early 1970s. 

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

Dr. Hess Green becomes cursed by a mysterious ancient African artifact and is overwhelmed with a newfound unquestionable thirst. Spike Lee’s stylized thriller is a new kind of love story. 

Dispatches From Cleveland – Communities Fighting for Social Change

This documentary closely examines the rust-belt city of Cleveland, one of the most racially divided American cities in the wake of the police murder of Tamir Rice.


Sent to prison on a frame-up by some crooked cops and his nemesis, Willy Green, Dolemite is offered an early release if he can bring down Green and his crooked politicians.

Emancipation Road: 1625-1863 – The Shadows of Slavery A 7-part series that begins with the story of African Slavery in America, starting with the first permanent English Colony in the 17th century… and ended with the Civil War. But those 250 years of struggle were just the beginning. 

Every Mother’s Son – Policing and Race in America

This film profiles three different women who find themselves united to seek justice after their sons are unjustly killed by police. Their stories are tragic, but their courage is transformative.

I Am Not Your Negro – James Baldwin and Race in America An Oscar-nominated documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO explores the continued peril America faces from institutionalized racism.

July ’64 – Unrest in Rochester New York

Summer, 1964: Violence erupted on a hot July night in Rochester, New York. JULY ’64 tells the story of an unrest that altered the course of history in Rochester, and predicted urban unrest throughout the American North. 


The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Jimmie dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco and searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left him behind.


A moving, transcendent look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young man growing up in Miami. His journey to adulthood is guided by support, empathy and love from unexpected places.

Night Comes On

Angel LaMere is released from juvenile detention on the eve of her 18th birthday. Haunted by her past, Angel embarks on a journey with her 10 year-old sister to avenge her mother’s death.

P.S. I Can’t Breathe – Black Lives Matter

This documentary welcomes dialogue around racial inequality, policing, and the Criminal Justice System by focusing on Eric Garner’s case.

Race – The Power of an Illusion

A 3-part series that uncovers how race resides not in nature but in politics, economics and culture. It reveals how our social institutions “make” race by disproportionately channeling resources, power, status and wealth to white people.

Revolution ’67

An illuminating account of events too often relegated to footnotes in U.S. history – the Black urban rebellions of the 1960’s.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow

A 4-part series that offers the first comprehensive look at race relations in America between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Southside With You

The film chronicles the summer 1989 afternoon when the future President of the United States, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady, Michelle Obama, on a first date across Chicago’s South Side. 

Stranger Fruit – An Investigation into the Death of Michael Brown

What really happened on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri? That afternoon, Officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown:the unraveling of what took place, told through the eyes of Mike Brown’s family. strangerfruit

The Talk: Race in America

This film documents the increasingly common conversation taking place in homes across the country between parents of color and their children, especially sons, about how to behave if they are ever stopped by the police.

We All We Got – An Elegy of Urban America

In the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the country’s recent focus on youth violence, police brutality, poverty and marginalized communities, We All We Got is an intimate portrait of people affected by violence: including community activists, kids, and cops. 

What Happened In Vegas – Fighting Police Corruption in Las Vegas When filmmaker Ramsey Denison went to Las Vegas for a relaxing weekend, the last thing he expected was to be arrested and beaten for reporting an incident of police brutality that he personally witnessed on the strip.

What’s Race Got To Do With It? – Social Disparities and Student Success

WHAT’S RACE GOT TO DO WITH IT? is a new documentary film that goes beyond identity politics, celebratory history and interpersonal relations to consider social disparities and their impact on student success in today’s post-Civil Rights world.

When Justice isn’t Just – Unarmed Police Incidents This dynamic documentary explores why so many unarmed people of color have been shot and killed by police officers. 

White Like Me – Race, Racism & White Privilege in America

WHITE LIKE ME, based on the work of acclaimed anti-racist educator and author Tim Wise, explores race and racism in the US through the lens of whiteness and white privilege.


Whose Streets? – An Unflinching Look at the Ferguson Uprising

Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, WHOSE STREETS? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson injustice. 

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