TV shows that amplify and celebrate black voices

TV shows that amplify and celebrate black voices

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Friday, 10th July 2020
Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

From laugh out loud comedy, to eye-opening dramas, to heart breaking true stories, there is a lot of talent within the black community and black voices to be heard.

Here are some of our favourite series and documentaries that tell the stories of black people.

I May Destroy You

BBC iPlayer

Created by, executive produced and starring Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You explores the intricacies of sexual consent, dating and relationships.

Arabella Essiuedu (Coel) finds herself hailed as the ‘voice of her generation’ when a piece of her writing receives critical acclaim.

Carefree, non-attached and easily distracted, Essiuedu lands an agent, a book commission and the pressure to live up to her so-called literary genius. But one night she is assaulted in a nightclub and her whole life is turned upside down. 

Essiuedu doesn’t know how to come to terms with what has happened and is forced to rethink how she sees her career, her friends and even her family.

Dear White People


Inspired by the 2014 film of the same name, Dear White People follows the experiences of black students at the fictional, mainly white, Ivy League Winchester University.

Created by Justin Simien, the topic of identity is explored as the students grapple with the stereotypes placed upon them as black people.  

Despite coming from middle class backgrounds, the black students often find their race alienates them from the mainly white community.

Sam White (Logan Browning), a mixed-race student at Winchester, tries to teach her fellow students about the daily microaggressions and slights that minority student face every day.

The series tackles issues such as overt racism in the form of a blackface party, the problems with white feminism, white privilege, police brutality and harmful stereotypes ad tropes about black people.



Created by and starring Kenya Barris, who plays an exaggerated version of himself, #BlackAF sees Barris and his family navigate their success and wealth along with new and existing relationships, race and culture.

The series follows Barris, his wife Joya (Rashida Jones) and their six children in LA and is filmed in a mockumentary format from the perspective of daughter Drea (Iman Benson), who is creating a documentary about the family.

The series features fun cameos from big names like Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe and Will Packer.

Genneya Walton plays Chloe Barris, a popular student unaware of her entitlement, Scarlet Spencer plays Izzy Barris who enjoys being difficult, Ravi Cabot-Conyers plays Cam Barris, a pathological liar and mischievous troublemaker, Justin Claiborne plays Pops Barris who is too trusting but very loveable, and Richard Gardenhire Jr plays Brooklyn Barris, a surprisingly smart and articulate toddler.

Blood and Water


South African series Blood and Water follows the mystery of Puleng (Ama Qamata), a teenager who starts at a new school Parkhurst College and believes one of the students, Fikile, is her long-lost sister Phumelele (Khosi Ngema), who was kidnapped as part of a human trafficking ring as a baby.

Fikile is a star student and popular athlete at the college but has always felt like something is missing and couldn’t put her finger on what.

Growing up, Puleng has always lived in the shadow of her missing sister and the possibility that she may have found her is something she is determined to get to the bottom of.

As she tries to piece the clues together and find out the truth, Puleng discovers other secrets her friends and family have been hiding.

When They See Us


Based on a true story, When They See Us tells the tragedy of five teenagers from Harlem who were falsely accused and convicted of a brutal attack they didn’t commit.

Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, the drama tells the shocking and heart-breaking story of a 28-year-old white female jogger, Trisha Meili (Alexandra Templer), who was beaten, raped and left for dead in New York’s Central Park in 1989.

Five young black and Latino boys aged 14-16 years old were accused and convicted of the crime. Kevin Richardson (Asante Blackk and Justin Cunningham), Raymond Santana (Marquis Rodriguez and Freddy Miyares), Anton McCray (Caleel Harris and Jovan Adepo), Yusef Salaam (Ethan Herisse and Chris Chalk) and Korey Wise (Jharrel Jerome) were subjected to seven hours of interrogation without their parents, leading to a coerced confession.

Despite the DNA at the scene matching none of the five boys, they were sentenced to between six and 13 years in prison.

After the five had served years in prison, convicted murder and serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to committing the crime and the charges of the five were vacated, but the emotional and physical damage had already been done.

Noughts and Crosses

BBC iPlayer

Based on the cult dystopian novel by Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses explores racism, forbidden love and privilege, set in a world in which white and black people are segregated, with black people (Crosses) defined as the ruling class and white people (Noughts) defined as the underclass.

Childhood friends Sephy (Masali Baduza) and Callum (Jack Rowan) start to see their relationship change and they embark on a passionate but dangerous romance, but Sephy is a member of the ruling class and daughter of a prominent politician and Callum is a Nought.

The series is not short on star power with Stormzy playing newspaper editor Kolawale, a character created especially for the TV series.

The rest of the cast includes Helen Baxendale and Ian Hart who play Callum’s parents Meggie and Ryan, and Josh Dylan who plays Callum’s older brother Jude.

Paterson Joseph plays Home Secretary Kamal Hadley, Bonnie Mbuli plays Sephy's mother Jasmine and Kike Brimah plays her sister Minerva.

Who Killed Malcom X


Decades after civil rights activist Malcom X was assassinated, historian, activist and investigative journalist Abdur-Rahman Muhammad delves into the troubling details surrounding his assassination.

The documentary combines interviews with historians, civic leaders, journalists and eyewitnesses of the assassination, including Muhammad A. Aziz who was one of the three men convicted of the murder and the only one still alive, but Aziz has always protested his innocence.

Malcom X was frequently portrayed negatively in the American media and the police were eager for a quick conviction, even if it was at expense of the truth.

Malcom X’s relationship with the Nation of Islam is also explored, plus the alternative theories about the assassination including the theory that it was set up by the FBI and carried out by white nationalists.  



Ava DuVernay’s 13thdelves into the systematic and overt racism that plagues America and has seen a disproportionate number of African Americans placed behind bars.

In the documentary, DuVernay picks apart the belief of inherent black criminality and instead investigates how the 13th amendment in the American Constitution has caused a form of modern-day slavery.

The 13th amendment makes it unconstitutional to hold someone as a slave or force someone into involuntary servitude, but there is an exception if that person has been convicted of a criminal act.

The documentary reveals how this amendment has been exploited to create a mythology of black criminality.

Archival footage is mixed with interviews with incarcerated men and women, politicians, historians and activists, to see how race and justice are intertwined in the US, and the money to be made through mass incarceration.

I Am Not Your Negro

BBC iPlayer

Raoul Peck’s documentary I Am Not Your Negro takes inspiration from novelist, playwright and poet James Baldwin who wrote about racial, sexual and class distinctions in the West.

The documentary is inspired specifically by Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House, which was going to be filled with personal memories of his friends the civil rights leaders Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers.

I am Not your Negro is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and follows Baldwin’s life through the civil rights movement and the anti-black sentiment that plagued the US during that time and beyond, deconstructing white heroism, racial forgiveness and the white exclusivity of the American dream.

Scenes of police violence faced by black people in the 60s are intercut with similar scenes of violence directed towards black people today, including the deaths of black people such as Aiyana Jones, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and many more.

Black and British: A Forgotten History

BBC iPlayer

David Olusoga (Credit: BBC)
David Olusoga (Credit: BBC)

Written and presented by historian David Olusoga, Black and British: A Forgotten History looks at the relationship between Britain and people whose origins lie in Africa.

Olusoga uncovers the stories of the African Romans who guarded Hadrian’s Wall in the 3rd century and the black trumpeter who entertained at Tudor courts.

The business of slavery is also investigated, famous black figures are celebrated and how black British identity was moulded in the 20th century is examined.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story


Kalief Browder was a teenager from the Bronx who spent three years in jail despite having never committed a crime, the documentary Time: The Kalief Browder Story was produced by Jay Z and explores the injustices of the US prison system.

When Browder was 16 he was arrested for stealing a backpack and sent to Rikers Island jail, although Browder was innocent he spent three years in jail and was subjected to attacks from other inmates, deprived off food, beaten by prison officers and forced to spend more than two years in solitary confinement.

A multitude of errors such as the improper recording of Browder’s arrest, the victim’s statement, a failure to investigate CCTV of the incident and the prosecution losing contact with the victim, all led to Browder’s extended incarceration.

Browder repeatedly maintained his innocence even when he was offered a plea deal and was finally released once prosecutors admitted they didn’t have a case.

After his release following the trauma he suffered in jail, Browder endured more violence, became psychotic and paranoid and eventually at the age of 22 killed himself.

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From laugh out loud comedy, to eye-opening dramas, to heart breaking true stories, there is a lot of talent within the black community and black voices to be heard.