They say an easy way to educate is to entertain, and Disney+ has some engaging films that you could learn from this Black History Month.
Last year, Disney put renewed emphasis on its dedication to diversity -- even providing a whole section to share Black stories on its streaming platform.
We sifted through the options and came up with a kid-friendly list.
Most of these films will tug at your heartstrings with their inspirational stories, and some even have a historical tie. You can switch on these movies to learn something new this Black History Month, or just enjoy with a bag of popcorn and some of your favorite snacks.
It’s the perfect time to learn about the brilliant Black women behind one of the greatest space operations in history.
“Hidden Figures” follows the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three African-American women at NASA who helped turn the Space Race in the country’s favor.
The film takes place in 1960s Virginia and follows the drive of the three women working as NASA’s “human computers.” The women do some pretty difficult math by hand and learn to work never-before-used technology all while navigating racism in the south.
Together, the three women break down social and racial barriers one equation a time, while coming up with calculations to send astronaut John Glenn into orbit. These figures quite literally mean life or death for some of the most notable patriots in America, and they’re behind the success story. It’s a movie filled with history, perspective and some sass.
You can learn more about Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson here, as well as the other hidden figures behind the mission’s operations.
If you like war movies and fighter planes, this may be up your alley.
Taking place during World War II, “Red Tails” tells the story of 13 Black cadets recruited to become part of an experimental program at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. “Red Tails” is about who we know today as the Tuskegee Airmen.
The program has one focus: To train people of color to become fighter pilots for the U.S. Army.
Yet, as the cadets went through training, they’re told time and time again that they weren’t smart or strong enough to do the job, simply because they were Black.
Throughout the film, the men fight discrimination, and for the U.S. during the war. The movie takes you on their high-flying missions and gets personal as these pilots work to prove their worth.
Figuring out who you are at 6 years old or 36 proves to be a lifetime process, but Disney’s Pixar film “Soul” shows how some faith and reflection can help you become your true self.
“Soul” follows the life, or rather afterlife, of Joe Gardner, a New York City music teacher and hopeful jazz artist. He gets the shot he’s been waiting for, and let’s just say some unexpected turn of events take him on a soul-searching journey.
The film features Black animated characters, but for the most part, you’re watching the story unfold in the cosmic realms to discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions. It reinforces the idea that you shouldn’t take your life and the small moments for granted.
Warning: This film may spark an existential crisis.
‘Queen of Katwe’
Consider “Queen of Katwe” the original “The Queen’s Gambit,” sporting a female lead who learns how to play chess despite her humble beginnings.
The 2016 film introduces you to Phiona, a 10-year-old living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda.
Based on a true story, Phiona meets missionary Robert Katende, who teaches children how to play the peculiar game of chess. As Phiona becomes acquainted with the checkered board, her world changes.
Instantly showing a skill for the game, she soon becomes a top player, being coached by the man who first introduced her to chess. Unlike Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” the film keeps it pretty PG, showing Phiona balance life in the slums while taking on some of the country’s best players.
Phiona soon plays her way to the golden chance to escape her life of poverty, showing it doesn’t matter where you come from -- as long as you know how to play the game.
Clemson fans are likely familiar with this story, and it’ll score some major points in your heart, too.
“Safety,” tells the story behind famed Clemson player Ray McElrathbey, beyond his image on the field.
“Ray Ray” as his teammates affectionately call him, struggles to navigate college, football, being a son to a mom in addiction recovery and a father-figure to his 11-year-old brother, who ends up having to move into his dorm.
Ray Ray didn’t exactly sign up to raise Fahmarr, but his team signs up to help Ray Ray. Whether during practice or finals season, the Clemson community steps up to help Ray Ray succeed, showing it truly takes a village, or in this case, a university.
Disney+ has plenty of other films worth watching during Black History Month. Take a look at this list and let us know which ones you’ll pick for your movie night.
This story was first published in 2021. It has since been updated.