Black History Month started on February 1st in the United States; it is an annual observance for the Black community. This year’s official theme is “African Americans and the Arts.” A great way to celebrate the impact Black Americans have had on the visual arts, specifically when it comes to the Disney company, is appreciating the movies that shape their story. In this article, I will be sharing 6 movies & shows to watch on Disney Plus that celebrate Black heritage. Let’s get started!
1. The Proud Family (2001-2005)
Although this early 2000’s show has a new reboot available, it doesn’t beat the original. The animated show features Penny Proud, a Black teenager who, along with her wacky father, composed mother, sassy grandmother, and pestiferous siblings, faces the struggles of adolescence. The series was based off the creators’ (Bruce W. Smith) personal life with his middle-class African American family in LA. This is a hilarious and heartwarming show, perfect for all ages (Kudos to Destiny’s Child for singing one of the best animated show theme songs of the decade).
2. Black Panther (2018)
This superhero film is a fan favorite and for good reason. Based on the Marvel comics character with the same name, Black Panther features a predominantly Black cast and showcases the journey of T ’Challa, the heir to Wakanda, a fictional African nation. The film does a great job representing Black female power, as most of the women in Wakanda are in the front lines leading the troops. Black Panther teaches the importance of understanding and respecting other cultures, while also fighting for justice, which makes it a truly empowering film.
3. Princess and the Frog (2009)
Who doesn’t love this beautiful and independent Princess? Tiana is a dedicated woman who has dreams of opening her own restaurant while juggling two jobs. Her life takes a turn when she kisses a frog, and the rest is history. This film was iconic for many reasons but the most notable is that she was Disney’s first Black princess. This was important because it helped many little girls feel represented in animated movies and with a good role model. Tiana is the perfect embodiment of what it means to be a Princess while also teaching the value of courage and hard work.
4. That’s So Raven (2003-2007)
Oh snap! This hilarious sitcom features an African American family living in San Francisco. However, this family is nothing short of ordinary. The eldest daughter, Raven, has visions and the ability to see the future. The show centers on her as she faces high school drama, love, and explores important topics such as racism, bullying and body image. This comedic program did a fantastic job representing diversity in the media during the early 2000’s. I consider this show a gem that is sure to make you laugh out loud.
5. JUMP IN! (2007)
Categorized as a sport and romance film, Jump In! features a young Keke Palmer and Corbin Bleu. Izzy (Bleu) is conflicted throughout the film as he discovers a love for jump rope while also being a boxer. He joins Mary’s (Palmer) all-Black Double Dutch team while also balancing love, family drama and what it means to be true to your heart. This movie was one of my favorites growing up and it could be yours too!
6. Soul (2020)
Soul was Pixar’s first film to feature an African American protagonist. Joe Gardner is a middle school music teacher who has dreams of being a professional jazz player. Throughout the film, Joe learns what it means to truly live, while also facing mishaps along the way. Pixar wanted to make sure that the way Joe was depicted was not a part of racist imagery; they worked hard to create accurate ethnic features to represent the character. The story, characters, music, and overall lesson of this film deserve all sorts of acclaim.
Black History Month allows us to honor the triumph, strength, and contributions of African Americans throughout the United States. The Disney company has made many changes in response to minorities, and we can see it through film. I truly hope, dear reader, that these well-written movies and shows motivate you to celebrate Black culture and their legacy.
Featured Photo: Disney.