Black August: Fighting Against Racial Injustice Through Film

May 18, 2023

August marks the beginning of Black August, an annual celebration and prison-based holiday that honors Black freedom fighters and political prisoners while bringing attention to Black resistance against racial oppression. In honor of Black August, we examine films and media that bring attention to racial injustice and invite audiences to engage with this significant work.

Black August: Fighting Against Racial Injustice Through Film and Media

The noteworthy celebration has also been given to the 2008 film that recounts the compelling experiences of passionate prison activist George Jackson. Directed by Samm Styles and starring Gary Dourdan, Darren Bridgett, and Ezra J. Stanley, the film provides an in-depth look at the revolution that resulted in what is now known as the bloodiest riot in the history of the San Quentin prison. To learn more about the commemoration of Black August, check out Black August: 1619-2019, authored by Gloria Verdieu and released in 2019, or tune into the Black August Mixtape by the Black Collective.

August 17 is another special day on the calendar, one filled with celebration of the indomitable spirit of Marcus Garvey. The legendary Jamaican-born political activist, entrepreneur, and publisher fought for the freedom and rights of black people locally and globally. In America, he founded the “Negro World” newspaper, the shipping firm “Black Star Line,” and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), a fraternity of black nationalists. 

Telling the Story of the Criminalization of African Americans

Alternatively, for a thought-provoking account of the current criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom, check out the documentary 13th on Netflix. With one of the most prolific directors at the helm, Ava DuVernay, the film discusses mass incarceration and compares it to slavery. The title, 13th, is based on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which is the abolishment of slavery. 

Still from 13th, via The New York Times

 “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” the amendment reads.

“It’s an entry point for a lot of people who just never have been invited to think more deeply about it,” DuVernay said of the documentary in an interview with NPR. “Very intimidating, but sometimes you’ve got to step into the gap and do it anyway.”

Till (2022): The Courageous Story of Mamie Till-Bradley

Till is a 2022 biographical drama directed by Chinonye Chukwu that narrates the courageous journey of Mamie Till-Bradley. Mamie was an educator and activist who pursued justice after her 14-year-old son Emmett was brutally murdered in August of 1955. The film features Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie and Jalyn Hall as Emmett, an African American boy who was abducted, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi for allegedly offending a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, at her family’s grocery store.

A still from the movie Till. Image via Slashfilm. is now working towards making the day Emmett Till died a national holiday of remembrance to honor the African Americans who lost their lives fighting for justice and equality.

Coming Soon: Marked Man  

The film Marked Man is an Amazon Studios film that follows the story of a young black man who joins J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. He infiltrates political activist Marcus Garvey’s UNIA organization, testing his loyalty to country and race, putting him to the ultimate test. The drama casts Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy) in an unnamed role and Winston Duke (Black Panther) as Garvey.

Winston Duke is set to play Marcus Garvey.

The film is directed by Andrew Dosunmu and draws inspiration from the biography “Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey” by Colin Grant. Esteemed playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah has penned the script, while Esther Douglas collaborated with the BFI Film Fund to bring it to life.

Learn How to Tell Compelling Stories at NYFA

Filmmaking is an incredible and effective tool for aspiring visual storytellers. Storytellers with writing, shooting, editing, producing, and directing skills can shape their stories into engaging narrative and nonfiction films, television shows, screenplays, and other media. To learn more about the hands-on filmmaking and documentary filmmaking classes at NYFA, request information today.