“Dee and Friends in Oz.” Photo courtesy of Netflix.
It’s Black History Month: A reminder to all non-Black folks in the U.S. to learn and celebrate Black contributions to U.S. history; something we should do every month of the year because Black history is American history. Because of this country’s history of slavery, Jim Crow and continued racial discrimination, Black history isn’t always light reading, listening or viewing, but it is vitally important.
As you engage with content to learn more about Black history, it’s important to take inventory and ensure the media you consume is representative and diverse, that it humanizes Black people and centers Black joy, too.
For families interested in incorporating more Black-created, Black-centered art, music, reading and viewing into their routine, here are recommendations for TV shows and movies that celebrate Black art, Black culture, Black history and Black joy.
Transported to the land of Oz by a mysterious key, Dee finds herself on a musical adventure to save magic in this new show (available Feb. 5) from Netflix. You’ll see familiar faces — the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow — and meet lots of new friends too. Filled with songs and dance, little viewers will love this magical new show. Streaming on Netflix. (All ages)
K.C. Cooper (played by Zendaya) is a talkative, quirky, resourceful young girl who discovers her family is part of a network of spies and that she must join them in saving the day episode after episode. It’s good clean fun for all three seasons and a family favorite in my home. Streaming on Disney+ and DisneyNOW (Age 7+)
This animated series follows four teens as they transform from normal teens to super secret superhero spies. Their assignment: Saving the world. Streaming on Netflix. (Age 8+)
If you, like me, crave a good low-budget Disney show, filmed almost exclusively on a homestyle set, then “Family Reunion” is for you. No, really. It’s just so reminiscent of old-school TV shows such as “Family Matters” and “Sister, Sister” (also worth checking out) that I personally find it irresistible. And I’m not alone. My kids love this show. Plus, it’s a fun watch with grandparents because it is 100 percent appropriate. The show follows a family of six as they uproot their lives in the Pacific Northwest to move closer to family in Columbus, Georgia. Along the way the family faces challenges, grows closer and learns about their history. Streaming on Netflix. (Age 9+)
Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 children’s novel of the same name, the 2018 film is directed by Ava DuVernay, “A Wrinkle in Time” follows 13-year-old Meg on a supernatural, otherworldly journey to find her missing father. Streaming on Disney+ (Age 10+)
All kids need to see themselves represented in the heroes they look up to and all kids need to see a diverse range of heroes in the media they watch, listen to and read. Which is why when “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” and its sequel “Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse” came out I was so thrilled. The film features Miles Morales, a Black, Latinx teen living in New York City as he transforms into one of many Spider characters in the Spiderverse. Though it’s obviously not Black history, the film does feature a healthy dose of Black representation, Black family, Black culture and Black joy; all important ways to humanize Black people and their experiences in media. (Something that is still uncommon.) If you have not seen this blockbuster movie, I’m so jealous! It’s a really fun ride, especially the first time you see it. You simply must. Streaming on Netflix .(Age 9+)
If you love a good family sitcom, you’ll love “Blackish” and its two spin-off shows “Grownish” and “Mixedish.” The eight-season sitcom follows middle-aged family man, Andre “Dre” Johnson, his wife Rainbow “Bow” and their five kids. Often hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking, the show highlights everything from the everyday challenges of parenting to how to have “the talk” with Black kids after yet another incident of police brutality. Streaming on Hulu and Disney+ (Age 11+)
Follow the story of a widowed mom as she tries to understand her young son’s emerging super powers, while also keeping them under wraps This show has lots of action and adventure and does get a little intense at times. But if you’ve got a fan of super hero adventures, you won’t want to miss this one. Streaming on Netflix .(Age 10+)
For Disney theme park lovers, “Haunted Mansion” brings to life the beloved park attraction. The film follows single mother, Gabbie, as she enlists a quirky cast of characters to help her rid her house of the ghosts that haunt her and her daughter in their new home. It's fast-paced fun for the whole family. Streaming on Disney+ (Age 11+)
A new twist on the classic 1988 series, The 2021 reboot “The Wonder Years” follows a young boy growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, this time from a Black man’s perspective. The series grapples with heavy topics but also has plenty of heartwarming and hilarious moments, too. Be aware: Episode 4 discusses sex. While the episode does address it in an age appropriate way (seen through the eyes of the series main character, 12-year-old Dean) be prepared for follow-up questions and discussions if you do watch this episode with kids. Streaming on Netflix. (Age 12+)
“Abbott Elementary” is an American mockumentary following teachers serving a predominantly Black, chronically underfunded public school in the heart of Philadelphia. The show is a favorite in our household, with a quirky cast of hardworking and hilarious characters that may just have the unexpected bonus of helping your kids appreciate their teachers a little bit more. Streaming on Hulu. (Age 12+)
If your family enjoys a little thrill, I can’t say enough good things about the newest Disney iteration of the Goosebumps franchise. Though not a predominantly Black cast, the cast features a very diverse group of teenagers as they uncover the origins of a town curse. Viewers beware, it’s scary! But, a very fun watch for tweens, teens and parents, too. Streaming on Disney+ (Age 12+)
For Marvel lovers, “Black Panther” follows T’Challa, the newly crowned king of Wakanda, who must confront challenges to his reign, including from an adversary who threatens the nation’s security. “Black Panther” and its sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” are perfect examples of media that aren’t actually Black history, but that offer important lessons for understanding the global perspective of many Black and brown people about colonization and how to rebuild after racial violence. Beyond that, the world building is just really cool and the films are some of the best Marvel has to offer. Be aware, these films do contain a fair bit of violence, but no more than any other Marvel film. Streaming on Disney+ (Age 12+)
Sill looking for more? Netflix has a extensive collection called “Blackness in Bloom” that honors the past, motivates the present and looks to the future, and the collection “Black History Is American History,” which focuses on documentaries and dramas based on real life. Not all shows are appropriate for kids, but there are many incredible titles to check out.
Disney+ has a collection called “Celebrate Black Stories” that offers dozens of titles for kids and families.