Recently the Ava DuVernay directed film Selma, has been in the news a lot due to its inexplicable and insulting omission from this years major Academy Awards nominations. The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences has been under criticism for decades about how whitewashed their membership is, and recent events only seem to confirm that there is a definite racial bias in which films are considered important and noteworthy. Selmas snub has also again brought to the fore many discussions about how African American history is depicted on film (and in wider popular culture), because the legacy of African American freedom struggles on film has been troublesome at best. There have been some films that are masterpieces and present their complex issues in a gripping, unique, and powerful way that leaves the audience engaged and educated. Unfortunately though, more often than not, films dealing with African American freedom struggles tend to tell stories that should be about African American agency and courage, from the perspective of a white, male protagonist. This has the effect of neutering African American influence, and it also whitewashes history so that its links to conflicts in the present are all forgotten. Here are five of the best films that deal with African American freedom struggles, and then contrasted with five of the most woeful examinations of these important events so you can see what makes a good historical film, and what makes a terrible one
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