Netflix Shows About Being Black In America to Add to Your Queue

Consider them required viewing.

seven seconds, self made inspired by the life of madam cj walker, dear white people
(Image credit: Netflix)

Even if you've donated, protested, and signed petitions, there's always more you can do to be a better ally to the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community. It's on each of us to do the work and educate ourselves about the past and present of race relations in America. And if you happen to be looking for the shows on Netflix that can help you with that, we've rounded up some of the most compelling, thoughtful, and informative shows on race and racism in the United States. All you need is a Netflix password (or a friend's) to engage deeply with these Black stories.

They've Gotta Have Us

Filmmaker Simon Frederick brings together well-known voices in cinema, including John Singleton, John Boyega, Whoopi Goldberg, Barry Jenkins, and Jesse Williams, for this series about Black cinema. The in-depth interviews cover critical topics, like the history of white directors telling Black stories, and delve into the cycle of filmmakers having to convince studios that projects by and featuring people of color are good for business.


The Innocence Files

If you don't know what The Innocence Project does, let me fill you in: It's an organization that works to overturn the wrongly convicted, and aims to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustices. This series covers eight different cases, and not all subjects are Black, but the project makes sure to note that more than half of the imprisoned people in the U.S. who were eventually exonerated by DNA evidence have been Black. Another reminder of how the justice system isn't what it claims to be.


Who Killed Malcolm X?

Five decades after Malcolm X's assassination in 1965, historian and activist Abdur-Rahman Muhammad began his investigation into the death of the civil rights leader. Mujahid Abdul Halim (also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan), Muhammad Abdul Aziz (also known as Norman 3X Butler), and Khalil Islam (also known as Thomas 15X Johnson), were convicted of Malcolm X's murder in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. Hayer admitted his part in the killing, but said the two others had no involvement in the crime. Both of them were soon later released from jail, but the question remained: Who killed Malcolm X? Rahman Muhammad, with the help of the Innocence Project, is going to find out.


Trial by Media

The six-episode documentary looks at famous trials and the role the media played in the verdicts. While I recommend watching all of the episodes, it's 41 Shots I most often think about. This episode is about the murder of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo by NYPD officers in 1999; Diallo was shot 41 times while trying to enter his home. He was unarmed. The officers involved were subsequently acquitted.


Orange Is The New Black

What started as a show about a white New York woman heading to jail for a crime she assisted with ten years ago slowly evolved into a seven-season, critically acclaimed show about many inmates from different backgrounds. The witty and sometimes heartbreaking dramedy addressed police brutality, mass incarceration, the persecution of black transgender women, the #SayHerName movement, and more.


Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

If you haven't tried Madam C.J. Walker's hair products yet, it's never too late to join the party. In this limited series from Netflix, learn more about the first female self-made millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker. The inspiring true story details how she rose from poverty to build one of the biggest beauty empires of her time.


Seven Seconds

This 10-episode series starring Regina King, Clare-Hope Ashitey, and Beau Knapp explores race in America and how the justice system isn't equal for all. The story is about a hit-and-run of an African-American teenager by a white Jersey City cop (Knapp) and its cover-up by a mostly white police force. It's a frustrating and heartbreaking watch, which makes it an even more necessary one.


Dear White People

If you loved the 2014 movie of the same name as much as I did, this show is required viewing. Picking up where the first movie leaves us off, the Netflix show continues to follow the story of a group of Black students at a prominently white Ivy League college. Don't think the show is all parties and late-night cram sessions. Dear White People digs deeper, tackling topics from blackface to sexual assault.


When They See Us

Ava DuVernay brings us a four-part limited series about the Exonerated Five, who you might remember by the name Central Park Five. If the name doesn't ring a bell: In 1989, five Black male suspects were falsely accused and prosecuted following the rape and assault of a woman in Central Park. This beautifully acted show re-enacts the case from the perspective of the innocent Five and their families.


Black Lives Matter


Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. In addition to spearheading commerce content across brands—from writing about wardrobe must-haves and sales at major retailers to strategizing—she is also an avid reader with a deep love and knowledge for books of all genres. More often than not, you can find her lounging with a good book on the weekend.