Skip to main content

Black History Month programming: a guide to what to watch

Yvonne Orji L and Issa Rae attend the Premiere of HBOs Insecure Season 5 at Kenneth Hahn Park on October 21 2021 i
(Image credit: Jeffrey Mayer / Alamy)

Every year Black History Month represents a chance to explore and reassess the rich contributions of people from African and Caribbean backgrounds and how, in all sorts of ways, their efforts have shaped their countries. 

In America and Canada, Black History Month is celebrated in February — coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (who supported an end to slavery) and Frederick Douglass (an ex-slave and leader for the abolitionist cause). More recently, Black History Month has also been observed in the UK and Ireland, where it is held in October and linked to the anniversary of Caribbean emancipation.

TV networks and streamers have been digging deep into their libraries for special shows, documentaries and films that showcase the heritage and histories. Here’s our round-up of the best programming that commemorates Black History Month 2022.

PBS

Muhammad Ali

The four-part Ken Burns documentary Muhammad Ali brings to life the boxing champion who became a global icon and inspiration to people everywhere.
Fridays through Feb., 9 p.m. ET 

Frontline

American Reckoning investigates the unsolved 1967 murder of a local NAACP leader and reveals an untold story of the civil rights movement and Black resistance.
Tuesday, Feb. 15, 10 p.m. ET 

American Masters, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

A documentary that aims to discover the man behind the legend using unseen footage, outtakes from Miles’s recording sessions and new interviews.
Friday, Feb. 25, 8 p.m. ET

Netflix

Netflix has curated a treasure trove of shows, films and documentaries that cover the breadth of Black experience so, whether you want to be educated, inspired or entertained, you’ve got plenty to chose from.
Full list of shows and films streaming on Netflix for Black History Month (opens in new tab) 

Colin in Black & White  (opens in new tab)

Colin Kaepernick narrates this series recounting his formative years navigating race, class and culture while aspiring for greatness.
Streaming: now

Passing (opens in new tab)

Nominated for four BAFTA Awards, Passing — loosely based on director Rebecca Hall’s family history follows a Black woman in 1920s New York City, who finds her world upended when her life becomes intertwined with a former childhood friend who's passing as white.
Streaming: now

Homecoming: A film by Beyoncé (opens in new tab)

This intimate, in-depth look at Queen Bey's 2018 Coachella performance showcases the journey from concept to cultural movement.
Streaming: now

Becoming (opens in new tab)

An inspirational documentary of former first lady Michelle Obama, based on her memoir of the same name. Watchable, intimate and full of behind-the-scenes moments.
Streaming: now

13th (opens in new tab)

Oscar-nominated documentary from Ava DuVernay which takes a forensic look at the politicization and commercialization of the prison system and the impact on African Americans.
Streaming: now

BET Plus

Understandably BET+ states that they celebrate “the lifelong legacy of Black culture all year long” rather than just for a single month but, some highlights from the streamer, to consider for Black History Month include:

First Wives Club 

Unapologetic and fabulous, the series pays homage to the real experience of Black women living their lives while showcasing the strength and importance of sisterhood.
Streaming: now

Tyler Perry’s Ruthless 

After becoming entangled with a religious cult, Ruth must play along until she can find a way to free herself and her daughter from the dire situation.
Streaming: now

Real Husbands Of Hollywood: More Kevin, More Problems  

Superstar comedian and actor Kevin Hart is back, and his best guy friends and wife Akira are by his side as he strives to stay on top in Hollywood, by any means necessary.
Streaming: Feb. 10

Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus

The three streaming services are curating content that "amplifies" Black stories in a shared collection (opens in new tab) that’s available across the whole Disney Plus bundle. 

Existing content that’s part of the shared collection includes: includes Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and Black Panther, Beyoncé’s musical film Black Is King, the oh-so-joyous movie Hidden Figures and Ava DuVernay’s kid’s fantasy A Wrinkle in Time. 

New programming for Black History Month includes:

30 for 30’s Deion’s Double Play

This fascinating documentary narrates how Deion Sanders played an NFL game for the Atlanta Falcons in between two MLB games for the Atlanta Braves in a 24-hour window.
Streaming: now

Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) 

Filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful documentary — part music film, part historical record which explores the long-unseen footage of the 1969 Harlem Festival with performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Sly and the Family Stone.
Streaming: Feb. 8

Gully

Gully is the explosive and timely story of three boyhood friends surviving an upbringing in LA’s roughest neighborhoods. Steeped in violence but united by friendship. Starring Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Charlie Plummer, Jacob Latimore, Amber Heard and Terrence Howard.
Streaming: Feb. 10

HBO Max

HBO Max has launched a slate of programming called Black History Is Our History grouped into four strands: our joy, our past, our future and our imagination. 

WarnerMedia is also making a number of selected episodes/titles free to watch on HBO Max including The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Martin Luther King Jr. documentary, King in the Wilderness.

Being Serena

A five-part documentary series covering tennis star Serena Williams at a critical moment in her life.
Streaming: now

Insecure

Issa Rae’s seminal comedy-drama looks at the lives and loves of a group of 20-something Black friends in Los Angeles, California.
Streaming: now

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Adapted from a series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the comedy-drama series follows Precious Ramotswe who heads up a detective agency in Botswana.
Streaming: now

Fox News

Standout stories

FOX News (opens in new tab) presents a new long-form interview each Friday throughout Black History month. These interviews highlight the stories of Black people who have strived for change in society. Interviews include:

Lt. Cmdr. Toni “Miggles” Miggins: is the first Black female to be selected to command a Navy operational squadron.

Keishia Thorpe: opened up college education for low-income, first-generation American, immigrant and refugee students. Keishia, a teacher at International High School Langley Park, Maryland, was also selected for the Global Teacher Prize.

Andre Rush: an American celebrity chef and military veteran who worked in the White House for four administrations. He is also known worldwide for his advocacy for military service and suicide prevention.

I head up the team at What to Watch, helping to grow our newest entertainment brand. I've worked in content strategy, production and audience development for leading film and TV companies for over 15 years. Always fascinated by digital trends, I'm currently obsessed with FilmTok. You can also find me extolling the virtues of Fringe, Smallville, rom-coms, Wong Kar Wei and Monty Don/Gardener's World.