7 Inspiring Documentaries and Books about Women of Color for Women’s History Month

Photo by Rachel Chou

Women’s history month is a reminder that we should ruminate on the legacies that women history makers have left for us. Their stories serve as inspiration, reminding us that change emerges out of struggle, the benefits of persistence and hard work, and how rising above from the social norm is the formula to any semblance of change. Here are seven inspiring documentaries and books about women of color that can be watched or read any time of the year.

  1. He Named Me Malala (Documentary) Inspiring women come in different shades, sizes, and ages. Malala Yousafzai is an activist championing education, well known for her incredible story when she was just fifteen years old and spoke out against the Taliban after they banned girls from going to school in her Pakistani hometown. Targeted and shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, she survived to continue her fight for education, established a charity called the Malala Fund, and became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. This engaging, inspiring, and emotional documentary allows us to understand the social issues that prevent women and children from gaining an education in parts of the world, how Malala came to be a voice of those people, and how despite her extraordinary achievements, she is still just an ordinary girl who giggles about famous cricket players.
  2. American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (Documentary) Grace Lee Boggs was a philosopher, social activist, author, and human rights activist who was active in the labor, civil rights, and Black Power movements, and continued to be a revolutionary until her passing in 2015. This documentary is a portrait of a remarkable Asian American woman who lived a full and inspiring life championing social change, exemplifying how much change a single person can affect if they have the drive and passion to move forward.
  3. Period. End of Sentence (Documentary) In Hapur, India women are told their God(s) don’t listen to their prayers when they are on their periods, taboos surrounding menstruation make their lives difficult, and they aren’t encouraged to work or be independent. This 26-minute short film follows a group of local women who are finding a way to provide access to biodegradable and affordable feminine hygiene to women in their community, empowering and educating them about their periods and shedding taboos. Defying norms, questioning the status quo, following their dreams, in a patriarchal society that makes it increasingly hard for a woman to do all those things, they not only create economic opportunities for themselves but create them for other women.
  4. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (Documentary) Marsha P. Johnson was transgender, African American, an advocate, a revolutionary, and co-founder of STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). She was called the  “Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ movement” by Mariah Lopez, a transgender activist, having allegedly started the historical Stonewall riots that were a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the ’70s. Although the film is structured as a true crime whodunnit investigation into the unsolved mystery of her death, it opens a look into the flagrant violence and homophobia towards the queer community at the time, and purposeful disregard law enforcement had towards an investigation into Marsha’s case. Black trans women are murdered at much higher rates than any other segment in the LGBTQ community, and the police did very little to protect them.
  5. What Happened Miss Simone? (Documentary)This documentary on Nina Simone chronicles the life of the African American singer, the High Priestess of Soul. She was an activist during the civil rights movement, performing and writing protest songs that addressed racial inequality. She believed her job was to make black people more curious about where they came from, to have pride in their identity, to give them black power. In this documentary you get to witness the intensity and emotion of her voice and music in her live performances, making it easy to understand the power of her music, why people connected to it, and to her.
  6. In search of our mothers gardens by Alice Walker (Book) In Search of Our Mothers Gardens is a collection of essays by Alice Walker, who also wrote The Color Purple. She defines a Womanist at the start of the book as a black feminist or feminist of color, a courageous, willful, curious person who loves other women, loves the struggle, loves herself. She says, “Womanist is to feminist as purple to lavender” because she feels that black women were left out of the feminist movement. Her essays are thus womanist, they are personal and written in stunning prose. She covers many things but major themes are race, gender, and feminism.
  7. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston (Book) In this autobiographical book, Maxine uses traditional Chinese folktales to introduce and give context to her experiences being Chinese, being a woman, emigrating to the United States, and the complexities and clash of her identities while having to navigate a strange and different world. I think in most if not all immigrant stories, there’s inspiration in the bravery, strength in withstanding all odds to survive in a new country and achieve your dreams.

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