Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property and forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, refuse to work, or receive compensation. Many slaves were tortured, mutilated, and/or killed if they attempted to escape or disobeyed their masters. In addition to physical cruelty, slaves also faced heavy psychological burdens, living in fear of violence and knowing that their families could be torn apart at any moment. Even though slavery is now illegal in all parts of the world, it still exists in many forms. Netflix has a selection of movies about slavery that are sure to educate. Here are our top 10 picks:
This classic 1977 miniseries spans several generations of one African-American family, beginning with their life in Africa before being captured and sold into slavery. It’s a powerful and heartbreaking story that is essential viewing for anyone interested in the history of slavery in America.
2. 12 Years a Slave
Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s, this 2013 film earned critical acclaim and several Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It’s a searing portrayal of the brutal reality of slavery, and one that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
3. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino’s take on the slavery story is a bit more light-hearted than some of the other entries on this list, but it’s no less powerful. Set in the antebellum South, the film follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who teams up with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife from a wicked plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
4. The Help
This 2011 film tells the story of African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s. Despite the racial tensions of the time period, they form unlikely friendships with their employers and begin to speak out against the injustices they’ve experienced.
Based on the novel by Toni Morrison, this 1998 film tells the story of a former slave named Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) who is haunted by the ghost of her dead child. Set in post-Civil War Ohio, it’s a powerful exploration of the lasting effects of slavery on those who have experienced it.
This 1989 film follows the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first all-black units in the Union Army during the Civil War. Led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), they fight for both emancipation and equality as they battle Confederate forces.
7. The Long Walk Home
This 1990 film is based on the true story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955. It stars Whoopi Goldberg as Parks and Sissy Spacek as a white woman who begins to question the racial segregation that is prevalent in her community.
8. Freedom Riders
This 2011 documentary tells the story of the civil rights activists who rode buses throughout the American South to challenge racial segregation in public transportation. It’s a fascinating look at a significant moment in American history, and one that is sure to inspire viewers.
9. Miss Evers’ Boys
Based on a true story, this 1997 film follows Nurse Eunice Evers (Alfre Woodard) as she cares for a group of black men who have been infected with syphilis in the 1940s. The men are part of a government-sponsored study that deliberately withholds treatment from them, and Evers begins to question the ethics of the experiment.
10. The African Queen
This 1951 classic stars Humphrey Bogart as a hard-drinking boat captain who teams up with missionary Katharine Hepburn to transport supplies upriver during World War I. It’s an adventure story with a message about the importance of cooperation and understanding between people of different cultures.