9 incredible docs featuring Chris Rock, Tiffany Hadish, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and more

Stream them all for free on CBC Gem

Stream them all for free on CBC Gem

Three images: one of a young Muhammad Ali, one of a young Black boy, and one of a young Maya Angelou.
10 incredible documentaries for Black History Month, all streaming for free on CBC Gem. (CBC Docs)

February is Black History Month, a time to learn about and appreciate the profound impact Black culture and individuals have had on shaping our world. 

This collection of international documentaries — featuring iconic figures like Muhammad Ali and Maya Angelou, Black comedy pioneers and Zimbabwe's first ever wine tasting team    — explores and reflects on what it means to be Black today. 

Right to Offend: The Black Comedy Revolution

A hilarious, controversial and raw journey through Black comedy's history and under-appreciated legacy of driving social change. 

This two-part series features Chris Rock, Tiffany Hadish, Kevin Hart and more, and chronicles how the pioneers of Black comedy turned the stand-up stage into one of the most important platforms for social discourse in America. It explores the new breed of Black comedian that surfaced after the Civil Rights movement and the significant challenges they still face.

Blind Ambition 

Having escaped starvation and tyranny in their homeland of Zimbabwe, four refugees have conquered the odds to become South Africa's top sommeliers. Driven by relentless optimism, a passion for their craft and unshakeable national pride, they form Zimbabwe's first ever wine tasting team and set their sights on the coveted title of 'World Wine Tasting Champions.'

From the moment they arrive in France to compete, this team of mavericks turns an establishment of privilege and tradition on its head. A truly uplifting documentary that celebrates just how irrepressible the human spirit can be.

Muhammad Ali

One of the best-known and most indelible figures of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated millions of fans throughout the world with his mesmerizing combination of speed, grace, and power in the ring comes to life in the eight-part series, Muhammad Ali

Crafted by award-winning documentarian Ken Burns with archival footage and interviews with sportswriters, scholars, boxers, and Ali's children and ex-wives, Muhammad Ali is a tribute to a larger-than-life figure and the imprint he left on sports, politics and culture.

"He was," the novelist Norman Mailer wrote, "the very spirit of the 20th Century."

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

As a singer, dancer, activist, poet, and writer, Maya Angelou inspired generations and gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before.

From her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana, to her inaugural speech for President Bill Clinton, award-winning film Maya Angelou weaves her own words with rare archival photos and video to tell the story of her immensely varied and fascinating life.


Hollywood icon and activist Samuel L. Jackson goes on a personal odyssey to explore the history of the transatlantic slave trade. Over 12 million African people were trafficked over centuries. Roughly two million died en route. 

In this 6-part series, a team of investigative journalists and divers locate and explore long-lost slave shipwrecks, collecting and documenting the artifacts left behind.

Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street

On May 31, 1921 a vigilante mob descended upon Greenwood, a Black neighbourhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. More than 35 city blocks were razed as businesses, schools, churches and hospitals burned. Up to 300 Black men, women and children were murdered. Thousands were left homeless.

This two-part series tells the story of one of America's most shocking mass murders — one that many people, including lifelong residents of Tulsa, are just learning about today.

I Am Not Your Negro

"The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of this country."

Based on American novelist James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript, this Academy award-nominated documentary explores the history of racism in the United States through the recollection of Baldwin's friends, civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr — all of whom were assassinated within five years of each other.

How It Feels to be Free

Based on the book, How It Feels to be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement, this is the inspiring story of how six trailblazing African American female entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier – challenged an industry that was hell-bent on keeping them out.

Although they didn't call themselves feminists, with their performances in music, film, and television, they transformed themselves and their audiences while advocating for social change.

Black Boys

"In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body. It is heritage." -Author Ta-Nehisi Coates

Activist and filmmaker Sonia Lowman looks at systemic racism in America and reveals how it feels for young men to live in a world that fears them for no other reason than the colour of their skin.

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For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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