19 Woke Movies to Watch for Juneteenth

June 11, 2020
juneteenth ramona holloway movies to watch

Paras Griffin / Stringer


Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day or Freedom Day, is celebrated on June 19th. It marks the official emancipation of slaves in America (although we know now that slavery continued even thereafter).  It was a monumental date in history that we can observe by remembering the struggle of African-Americans in the United States.

More than two years after President Abe Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Union General Gordon Granger and approximately 1,800 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. Their mission? They planned to take control of the state and enforce what President Lincoln had implemented two years prior. You read that right. For two years the slaves there had no idea that they'd been freed. Race relations are still being affected by American slavery yet many Juneteenth celebrations have been cancelled due to social distancing. There are many movies, some based on true stories, that explore the need for further racial reconciliation. Check out these moving films. There is a movie for every viewer... from sports fans to lovers. 

1. Rosewood
Director John Singleton's historical drama based on real-life events is a must-see. Ving Rhames is the hero we all need in this predominantly African-American Florida town burned to the ground by a lynch mob from a neighboring White community. It also stars Don Cheadle and Esther Rolle from the TV sit-com "Good Times."

2. The Hate U Give
Based on a young adult best selling book of the same name, the movie's PG-13 rating makes it more suitable for family viewing. It the fictional story about Starr Carter, a teen constantly switching between two worlds -- the poor, mostly black neighborhood where she lives and the wealthy, mostly white prep school that she attends. The two worlds collide  when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer.

3. Fruitvale Station
Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer, both brilliant as usual, star in this movie based on the true story of a Bay Area black man shot by a white police officer on a subway platform.

4. Just Mercy
Warner Bros. has reacted to the George Floyd protests by making this film available to stream for free for the month of June. The movie starring Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx is based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson. Michael B Jordan, plays Stevenson who heads to Alabama to defend Black men wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation.

5.  Remember the Titans
If you're missing sports, this movie is about the real-life integration of a Virginia high school football. Denzel Washington plays Herman Boone who coached the racially integrated T.C. Williams to the Virginia high school football championship. 

6. Loving
A celebration of the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple who fell in love and were married in 1958. Richard and Mildred Loving, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, spent nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court. Make sure you have plenty of tissues. This one is perfect for date night. 

7. Marshall
Before he starred as "Black Panther" Chadwick Boseman starred in Reginald Hudlin’s movie about the crusading lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  It also stars Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, and Kate Hudson and follows the legendary lawyer and civil rights icon before his groundbreaking Supreme Court appointment.

8. Hidden Figures
The whole family can enjoy this biographical drama about three brilliant African-American women working for NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It didn't win those categories, but did take home Best Movie at the BET Awards and Outstanding Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. It stars  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae.

9. 13TH
Ava DuVernay’s documentary about racial inequality and the incarceration of African-Americans, is now free for non-subscribers to watch on Netflix. It is loaded with brilliant interviewees like Angela Davis and Van Jones and focuses on the fact that the nation's prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans. 


10. If Beale Street Could Talk
This R-rated date night movie is set in In early 1970s Harlem. It tells the story of a  devoted couple, dreaming of a future together, whose plans are derailed by an arrest for a crime not committed. when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Regina King won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in this film. It is a beautiful adaptation of James Baldwin's novel. 


11. 42
Before we celebrated the greatness of Michael Jordan wearing the number 23, there was Jackie Robinson, the  first African-American to play in Major League Baseball wearing number 42. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and faced considerable racism in the process. Chadwick Boseman trained for five months with baseball coaches to prepare for his role. The PG-13 rating makes it family friendly.

12. The Kalief Browder Story
Jay-Z is the executive producer of this documentary about a 16-year-old who spent three years in Rikers Island jail after being arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack.  He spent two of those years in solitary confinement. His family couldn't afford his $3000 bail. The case was never prosecuted, the charges were ultimately dropped, and Browder committed suicide after his release. The binge-worthy 6 parter is  a comprehensive review of the case, using first-person accounts, archival footage, and cinematic re-creations of key scenes from Browder's life.

13. Do the Right Thing
While this Spike Lee film wasn't necessarily based off a specific true story, the director said he was partially inspired by the Howard Beach incident, in which a Black man was murdered as he fled a mob of white men. The event galvanized racial tensions in New York City, proving why it's a must-watch right now as summer approaches. 

14. Selma 
The movie is centered on the historic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. It stars David Oyelow as the late Dr. Martin Luther King and follows the true story of the activist pastor embarking on a dangerous three-month campaign to secure equal voting rights for African Americans. Looking for a little hope? This movie provides it.


15. Boyz N the Hood
This was John Singleton’s debut film and some say it was cinema’s answer to the Rodney King story. It came out in 1991 when he was just 23 years old and presents the Los Angeles in which he grew up as a virtual jungle where Black teens have been all but left for dead by America. It stars Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding, Jr and Laurence Fishburne.

16. Mudbound
This movie earned Mary J. Blige the honor of being the first person to be nominated for both a singing and acting Academy Award in the same year (2017).  It is the story of two families struggling against social and racial injustices—and, at times, each other—in the post World War II South. It also shows the plight of many African-American veterans.

17. Straight Outta Compton
The film about the  rap group N.W.A. does a terrific job of explaining how  music and musicians tapped into the Black experience of the 1980s and 90s. It's an individual and unique story about the rise  and fall of the group that gave us Ice Cube and Dr Dre. 


18. Detroit
Set in the summer of 1967, when rioting and civil unrest was tearing the Motor City apart, this film speaks to an era of protest. It stars John Boyega, a “Star Wars” actor who gave an impassioned speech at a June 3rd Black Lives Matter protest in London’s Hyde Park. Part of Boyega’s speech found him contemplating whether or not speaking out against racism would have a negative impact on his career.  


19. 16 Shots
This powerful documentary covers the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke and the cover-up that followed. After the police initially declared the shooting as justified, journalists and activists fought for footage to be released. Richard Rowley’s Peabody Award nominee dissects the cover-up through first-hand witness accounts which led to an unprecedented conviction.