Black History Activators is a timely educational documentary, directed by Beverly Davis, about prominent African American figures and milestone events that contributed to the civil rights movements in the United States. The slightly over an hour film is a succession of vignettes about American history and the many people that made crucial and long-lasting contributions over the last 100 years, including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Maya Angelou, and many others. It also highlights lesser-known but equally important individuals such as Sojourner Truth, Nannie Helen Burroughs, the Tuskegee Airmen, and Dr. Charles Drew. So if you don’t know them, you can either Google them right now or, you can watch the documentary.
Although quite short, Black History Activators is very dense and covers well-known events such as the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Even though we learn about the life, achievements, or meanings of everyone and everything, the, at best, five minutes spent on each segment is not enough, so the movie plays out more like a tease of the colossal legacies Davis shines a light on. However, it could be a great resource for younger viewers or an excellent way to start for those looking to learn about African American heritage and Black history. Black History Activators is a true pedagogic tool, and one cannot stress enough how important it is that everybody, not only those interested, should at least know the basics of everything discussed in it.
“…about prominent African American figures and milestone events that contributed to the civil rights movements…”
That being said, because of the film’s sizable amount of knowledge delivered in short bursts, it can create information overload. This is also due to its format that is, at the same time, refreshing and bothersome. So being sharply segmented, it could work very well for some specific viewing purpose. It is easily foreseeable that Black History Activators could be screened in bits in classrooms for children to absorb the content better as it feels quite fitted for elementary or middle school students (if there’s not already something like this in place in their US history curriculum).
Maybe cut as shorts and turned into a series that could then be expanded to include more vignettes about the many other Black activists and landmarks left out – particularly the more contemporary ones. Which makes one wonder what was the train of thought in choosing these people and events. Not going to name names since there are too many, and it would feel wrong to omit some over others. Maybe that’s what the filmmaker did in picking who or what made it on screen.
"…we are at a critical point, with the Black Lives Matter movement and protests."