Eight Documentaries On Netflix That Celebrate Black Life!

It’s never too late to learn, and Netflix has some amazing documentaries to help you. Beyoncé’s Homecoming and Michelle Obama’s Becoming are just a couple that celebrates pivotal figures and moments in Black American culture. 

We all know tv shows on Netflix have evolved into the main character of the platform. They pull at our heartstrings and give us everything from our favorite childhood shows to new binge worthy series. But the catalog of documentaries is unmatched, so if you haven’t tapped in yet, you’re missing out. Who doesn’t love a juicy tell all about the best culturally defining figures and moments in history? Don’t worry; to commemorate one the most special months of the year, Black History Month, we’re plugging you in with some remarkable documentaries that celebrate Black life and history on Netflix.

What Happened Miss Simone?

While Nina Simone is notable for her musical talents and radical activism during the Civil Rights Movement, this Oscar nominated documentary feature takes viewers through an uncharted exploration of Nina’s hidden layers. Her relationship with music, motherhood, and racism come to bear in this riveting story Directed by Liz Garbus. She recounts the jarring journey of Eunice Waymon, a little girl who fell in love with classical music and dreamed of becoming the first Black woman classical concert pianist. Yet, it could only be a dream deferred, as you will learn from the film about the perils of existing as a Black woman in America. As she faced racial barriers head on while grappling to ground herself in an unrelenting industry, Garbus displays how Simone’s lifestyle perilously impacted the person behind the artist. Watch What Happened Miss Simone and hear from Nina herself, her daughter Lisa Simone Kelly, and many of her closest companions to further understand the life of the musical legend we all know and love, Miss Nina Simone.

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things

A jazz film encompassed with nothing but musical joy, Leslie Woodward’s Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things tracks the phenomenal tale of a prized 20th century musical innovator. Woodward chronicles the prowess of Ella’s artistry in a manner that portrays insightful melodies on the making of her musical influence and legacy. This evolutionary body of work features warming musical moments and invigorates Ella’s navigation of crossroads in her career which is surmounted by solace in her music.


Our forever first lady gives us an intimate look into a transformative period of her life through stylistic diary-like storytelling that reminds us of how special of a force Michelle Obama has always been. Obama charmingly narrates her story, bringing us along as she ventures on tour and shares the reality and lessons learned in her life. Becoming offers an exclusive look at who Michelle Obama is post-politics. This encouraging, educational, candid film underscores the vitality of community building, connections, and honest conversations that can unite us all.

Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé

You don’t need to be a part of the Beyhive to enjoy this undeniable masterpiece infused with all the best parts of Black American culture. Beyoncé takes her craft seriously, and this concert film undeniably portrays the dedication to performance, artistry, and historical recognition of Black culture. The two and half hour time frame obscurely passes by as we watch her perfectionism and methodological brilliance shine through in this thrilling inside look at the making of an infamous Coachella performance that will go down in performance history.


If you’re a music lover, Quincy is a must-see! Entertaining in every way, the film delves into the life of the giant that is Quincy Jones, spotlighting his many talented gifts as a musical genius. Beyond that, the film showcases how for 70 years, Jones continuously influenced pop culture with his distinct expertise in early talent discovery and mentorship. We learn how Jones played a significant role in cultivating flourishing careers out of our favorite entertainment industry stars, such as Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, and Will Smith. There’s so much to celebrate in this film, directed by Alan Hicks and Quincy’s daughter Rashida Jones we get an exhilarating portrayal of the life of a legend.

Toni Morrison The Pieces I Am

For all the literary lovers out there who have always yearned for a deep dive into the mind of the author, here’s your chance. Toni Morrison is a staple in literary history, and her critically acclaimed works served as cultural resets. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am offers an artistic inside scoop into the works and life of the esteemed novelist. Morrison guides us all through the prism of her work by tackling American social paradigms and the human condition. The film bridges her various career runs with fruitful dissections of our favorite novels, such as “Sula” and “Song of Solomon,” all while reflecting on her personal lifelong master narrative.

The Black Godfather

Do you know who the Black Godfather is? Well, spoiler alert, The Black Godfather documentary unveils the story of Clarence Avant, a man responsible for influencing a league of legends we cherish, such as Barack Obama, Bill Withers, Snoop Dog, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, and more. His career title as a music executive does no justice to the multi-faceted role he played in so many lives. This film represents a gift to Black America from the man himself, ripe with authenticity and intentional storytelling that inspires us all to persevere in our lives.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson seemingly lead with death in the title because it’s what ignites the film to inquisitively and unapologetically challenge the unanswered questions surrounding the death of a true icon. The life of Marsha P. Johnson is a life worth celebrating as she was and continues to be an impactful figure to many with her outspoken life altering activism. David France takes the film in a direction that goes against the status quo, incorporating true crime elements while rendering the fight and deaths among transgender activists with high esteem. Educate yourself by taking a journey with this film and learning about the liberation of gender nonconforming and transgender people to gain a deeper understanding of the origins of the LGBTQ movement.

If you’re craving more documentaries or interested in docu-series, tv-shows, and movies that highlight the uniquely remarkable history of Black American Life, check out Netflix’s Black History is American History Collection featuring over 50 dynamic titles ranging from comedy specials and biopics to informative films about racial injustice.  

About the Author

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Nailah Tukpah

Nailah Tukpah is a multimedia content writer/creator and senior student at Brown University. She currently interns for AfterBuzz TV and Heal Squad with Maria Menounos, and she aspires to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Nailah is from Maryland, a lover of fashion and film, and she can’t imagine a world without music.