Must-watch shows that reflect on racial identity, protest and history

Must-watch shows that reflect on racial identity, protest, and the ongoing fight for equal rights

Race-born conflict and inequity throughout history affect the turmoil of today. The Mint Museum believes in helping bridge conversations about racial identity and history — especially some of the lesser-known events and people — that have shaped our society. These TV series, videos and movies are stories of heroes, antagonists, protest, artists and collaborators that we hope inspire cultural understanding.

I Am Not Your Negro

Using James Baldwin’s unfinished final manuscript, Remember This House, this documentary follows the lives and successive assassinations of three of the author’s friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., delving into the legacy of these iconic figures, and narrating historic events using Baldwin’s original words and a flood of rich archival material. An up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, this film is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights. —Todd Herman, CEO of The Mint Museum

Just Mercy

Just Mercy is a great film to really get a sense of what systemic racism looks like in America, particularly relative to innocent African-American men being falsely accused, sentenced, and put on death row for a crime/s they didn’t commit. Without Attorney Bryan Stevenson’s efforts, through seemingly hopeless situations, many would not have been released. Over 140 falsely accused men on death row have been set free, and some had been incarcerated for decades.” —Rubie Britt-Height, director of community relations

Another must-watch: Juneteenth Jamboree (A PBS special)


Free White and 21

While working from home, I’ve done some research on artists, one being Howardena Pindell. I was really drawn in by her life story and how it informed her art. As a black female artist in the 60’s and 70’s, she experienced racism and sexism in her work life and in trying to find representation as an artist. In 1980 she was in a near fatal car accident that left her with memory problems. In an effort to try to piece her life and memory back together, Pindell set up a video camera in her apartment and created a  piece titled Free White and 21 in which she recites details of her experiences with racism, both personally and professionally, juxtaposed by herself, in whiteface echoing phrases she had heard as a woman of color. The video was not widely able to be seen at the time but is now considered groundbreaking in the realm of video art. At 77 she is still a working artist and activist and her works have been shown all over the world. She also talks about the racism she has experienced throughout her life and some of her thoughts and reactions to it in this Wonderroot podcast. —Patti Schigoda, family and studio programs associate

Another must-watch: Robin DiAngelo discusses White Fragility

Courtesy of IMDB

Mrs. America

Mrs. America follows the female leaders of the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as the brigade of suburban housewives, led by Phyllis Schlafly, that created a nationwide campaign to keep the ERA from passing. Each episode spotlights a central character in the movement, including Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), Gloria Steineim (Rose Byrne), and Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). It’s story of political challenges, conquests, protests, and setbacks for women—black, white, Latino, gay and straight—fighting together for equal rights. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the lesser-known story of Phyllis Schlafly, who used conservative politics for personal gain, and to preserve things just as they were. (Sidenote: Casting and costume is spot on). —Michele Huggins, communications and media relations project manager

Another must-watch: Watchmen series (free on HBO June 19-21 to celebrate Juneteenth)

Code Listen

I’ve been thinking about Gerhard Richter’s quote, “Art is the highest form of hope.” I recently came across the work of Shaw Pong Liu, an artist/musician from Boston. She uses music and performance to encourage healing and dialogue around violence, racism, and police practices. Code Listen is a collaboration with the Boston Police Department, teen artists, family members of homicide victims, and local musicians. Her work breaks down barriers, builds trust, opens conversation, and gives hope to all human beings. —Maggie Burgin, public programs coordinator

Code Listen Police-Youth Music-Dialogue Workshops 2016 (excerpt) 

Code Listen: Music for Healing and Dialogue 2018 (excerpt)

Another must-watch: 13th

James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Debate

If you’ve never seen the famous James Baldwin v. William F. Buckley debate from 1965, do yourself a favor and watch it here on YouTube. In the highly publicized debate held at the Cambridge Union, Baldwin—a renowned African-American writer and orator—faced off against Buckley, a white symbol of wealth and prosperity known to most at the time as the founder of modern American conservatism. In the debate, Buckley downplayed systemic racism, arguing that the black community itself was largely to blame for its lack of economic growth, while Baldwin argued that “the American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro.” Fifty-five years later, their words are prescient, and the debate will undoubtedly leave you with a lot to think about—and some chills. Baldwin’s performance is masterful. —Caroline Portillo, director of marketing and communications

Another must-watch: Do the Right Thing