Kids’ Movies & Shows to Help Spark Conversations on Race & Prejudice

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Learning about race and prejudice starts at home. And one thing that’s helping support these vital conversations in my house is the media we consume. We’re in a moment right now where we’re all largely inside our homes, trying to digest news events as citizens and parents. So one of the ways we can teach our kids (and ourselves) is by watching shows and movies that can jump start the conversations we need to be having. Here’s where I’m starting.

Note: Age suggestions via Common Sense Media

Sesame Street -2+ (PBS) You’re just not going to top Sesame Street. We all grew up on this show and we’re so lucky it’s still around for our kids. It continues to innovate, tackling tough topics like homelessness, grief and autism, among many others. Their CNN town hall meeting on racism is worth watching as a family.

Motown Magic – 2+ (Netflix) My favorite show to fold laundry to, this one features a boy, Ben, who brings colorful street art to life with a magic paintbrush. Viewers will have fun seeing the sights and sounds of his community, including lots of classic-era Detroit soul music.

The Snowy Day – 3+ (Amazon) Based on the award-winning 1962 picture book by Ezra Jack Keats, younger kids will love following Peter on a magical, wintery adventure to his grandmother’s house. The 40-minute movie extends the book’s message with images of an aspirational city block with shining diversity and multicultural friendships.

The Magic School Bus – 3+ (Netflix) This classic cartoon features characters from all kinds of backgrounds, and, for this age group, that can be a great conversation-starter in itself.

Recess – 5+ (Disney+) This cartoon from the ‘90s and early ‘00s is pure fun and achieves the gold standard: it takes kids seriously. The playground crew that hangs out at recess is racially diverse and each episode has teachable moments. Drop in on Season 1, Episode 4, “The Great Jungle Gym Standoff” for a kid-sized dose of activism.

Liberty’s Kids – 8+ (Hulu) This animated show from PBS Kids walks viewers through major events in American history and deals with issues of race and the history of oppression. Check out season 1’s episode, “Born Free and Equal,” which focuses on one slave’s fight for her freedom.

Hidden Figures – 8+ (Hulu) The Oscar-nominated film tells the story of the African-American women at NASA who helped win the space race in the deep age of Jim Crow.

Ruby Bridges – 10+ (Disney+) This movie tells the story of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to integrate the local all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Her story can serve as a springboard for conversations about the history of segregation, racism, and bravery.

Black-ish – 12+ (Hulu) Here’s a family comedy that centers around an advertising exec in Los Angeles. Specifically relevant to this moment is the episode on police brutality (Season 2, Episode 2). It’s also worth checking out the spinoff series, Mixed-ish, starring goddess Tracee Ellis Ross.

Remember the Titans – 13+ (Disney+) Here’s the story of the forced integration of a high school football program in 1971 Virginia and the racial tensions that surrounded it. Added bonus: the awesome soundtrack.

Just Mercy – 13+ Michael B. Jordan stars as a lawyer defending a Black man wrongly convicted of murder in 1987 Alabama. Thanks to Warner Bros, this streams for free this month (YouTube, Google Play, Amazon) to help educate people on systematic racism.

Everybody Hates Chris -13+ (Amazon) Chris Rock (whose “Bad Apple” joke is making the rounds right now) narrates this hilarious autobiographical show about a teenager growing up in Brooklyn during the early 1980s. As usual, he puts a comedic lens on serious issues and socioeconomic realities.

Selma -13+ (Amazon) Ava DuVernay’s fantastic film chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Streams for free for the month of June on all digital platforms.

Hoop Dreams -14+ (Hulu) One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams follows the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who dream of becoming college basketball players. The film raises issues of race, education, and socioeconomic division in our country.

The Hate U Give – 14+ (Hulu) This one feels especially timely right now. A thought-provoking movie about race and activism that examines how a community handles the aftermath of a white polite officer killing an unarmed black teenager.

See You Yesterday – 15+ (Netflix) Two teenage geniuses create a time machine in an attempt to stop one of their brothers from being shot and killed by a police officer. Produced by Spike Lee, this is a sci-fi adventure with a social message. And a dash of Back to the Future.

If Beale Street Could Talk – 15+ (Hulu) A beautiful adaptation of James Baldwin’s love story set in early 1970s Harlem, this film deals with themes of societal oppression and police bias.

Mudbound -16+ (Netflix) Two families—one Black, one white— manage their uneasy friendship as they deal with graphic racial violence in 1940s Mississippi. This movie will invite conversations about subjects that are unfortunately as relevant today as they were decades ago.

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Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Nashville. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.