Books and movies for Black History Month — for all ages

A still from the 2020 Disney Pixar film, “Soul.” The University of Utah Marriott Library and the Black Cultural Center recently hosted the “Books vs. Movies” digital event to illustrate different recommendations for Black History Month. (Walt Disney and Pixar Studios)

Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Have you ever considered watching Men in Black or The Princess and the Frog for Black History Month? There are plenty of overwhelming and intimidating recommendations for people looking to learn more about black history, but it doesn’t have to be.

On Thursday, the University of Utah Marriott Library and Black Cultural Center hosted the “Books vs. Films” digital event to illustrate different recommendations for the month. Here are some of the funniest, most thought-provoking and interesting media recommendations for the month of February:

Book and film, why not both?

If you love books and movies, here are some classic and award-winning suggestions with adaptations for book and movie lovers.

  • “Hidden Characters” – The New York Times bestselling book and award-winning film were released in 2016 under the same name. The story centers on a team of African-American female mathematicians who played vital roles at NASA throughout the space race. The PG movie can be streamed on Disney+.
  • “Malcolm X” – “Malcolm X” is a 1992 PG-13 film by Spike Lee starring Denzel Washington, based on the New York Times bestselling book “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” Both the book and the film are award-winning and focus on the controversial civil rights leader of the same name, including his early life, criminal career and incarceration, conversion to Islam, marriage and assassination. The film can be streamed on HBO Max.
  • “The Violet Color” – A controversial classic due to its graphic subject matter, “The Color Purple” is a 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning book that has been adapted into countless plays and a 1985 PG-13 film directed by Steven Spielberg. The story centers on the story of coming of age as an African American woman in the 1900s and the sexism, racism, and violence that many women faced during this time. The movie “The Color Purple” is streaming on HBO Max.
  • “Roots” – The 1976 novel by Alex Haley (who also co-wrote “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”) spawned a 14-rated 1977 television mini-series with the same name. Somewhere in the nebulous zone between fiction and non-fiction, the story follows the genealogy of Haley’s family from Kunta Kinté, who were sold into slavery from The Gambia down seven generations in the United States to Haley himself. same. The story covers major events such as the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. The “Roots” miniseries is streaming on HBO Max.


These films and books are a great way to showcase Black experiences and culture for a night of fun for the whole family.

  • “Soul” — Disney movie of 2020, “Soul” is a moving and fun film for the whole family. A jazz pianist named Joe lands the gig of his life and accidentally falls to his death – only to return to the land of the living as a soul and put the meaning of family and a career into perspective. While not an exclusively black story, Disney assembled a team of music and cultural consultants to ensure Joe’s life was presented in a real and diverse way. “Soul” can be streamed on Disney+.
  • “The princess and the Frog” – The 2009 romantic musical is a modern reimagining of ‘The Frog Prince’ set in New Orleans and follows Tiana, a waitress aspiring to become a restaurateur. The film explores black American culture through the French Quarter and an original cast of characters interested in jazz, gumbo, drumsticks and true love. “The Princess and the Frog” can be streamed on Disney+.
  • “Malcolm Little” – “Malcolm Little” is a children’s book about Malcolm X’s youth which was written by X’s daughter.

Not just black

The books and films include black characters or discussions of race, but also have a parcel more happening.

  • “Men in Black” – This classic 1997 PG-13 comedy film follows a duo of secret agents defending the Earth from malignant strangers and promoting peace with the good guys. Men in Black can be streamed on Hulu or purchased on Amazon Prime or YouTube.
  • “Gatsby the magnificent” – This classic 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald spawned a 2013 PG-13 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In 1920s society, life is divided by class and race, and racism is a major theme throughout the work. A writer and day trader named Nick reflects on the life of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby.
  • “Killing a Mockingbird” – Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning book has been a beloved story about race and empathy since its inception and spawned the unrated 1962 film. The story centers on two young children whose father defends a black man accused of assault, and how he faces a segregated community to plead for justice.

If you’re looking for even more recommendations for Black History Month, the full list from the University of Utah Marriott Library and Black Cultural Center can be found here.

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