Tag Archives: documentaries

Harriet Tubman: They Called Her Moses: A Review

Harriet Tubman: They Called Her Mosus directed by Robert Fernandez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is finally a documentary that I feel like I could recommend to slightly younger audiences (like middle school or maybe older elementary).  It was a pretty straightforward biography of Harriet Tubman, who is pretty well known as a Black history figure.  But there were definitely some things I learned.  It was well-paced, and the narration was dynamic, along with the interviews.

She had a lot of obstacles in her life.  She was hit in the head at 13 which caused her to have seizures and fainting.  She married a free man who refused to run when she was ready to escape.  And she was helped in her escape by Quakers.  She had a strong faith in God.  Christianity empowered her, especially the slave church which was considered an invisible institution. 

There wasn’t any profanity.  There was mention of rapes and brief mention of whippings, but it was pretty tamed compared to other documentaries I’ve watched recently.

An Uncomfortable Truth: A Review

An Uncomfortable Truth directed by Loki Mulholland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent and fascinating documentary that I watch on Amazon Prime.  It follows the history of the director of the film, Loki Mulholland as he navigates the history of his family.  It also includes interviews with Luvaughn Brown, a black civil rights activist, who gives his perspective on American history as well as the civil rights movement, even Mulholland’s family.  I felt like the two narratives intertwined to produce a balanced story.

Mulholland’s mom is a civil rights activist who used her white privileges to combat systemic racism in the 60s and 70s era.  But as he goes back into his family history, it is revealed this he is the direct descendent of slave owners.  Of course, the story that is told to him by his family is that they were the benevolent slave owners.  When they told the slaves that they could leave or stay after the Emancipation Proclamation, only one of their 100 slaves left because they were so beloved.

The reality was that they probably only owned about 6 slaves, and only one actually stayed.  He continued to explain how his family, and ultimately how he, benefited from being white.  The opportunities they were given.  And even though his grandmother was a poor sharecropper who worked hard within the real estate business to provide for her family.  Even though she did fight the discrimination of being a woman, she never had to worry about her skin being a factor that would keep her from her accomplishments.

He also revealed a lot of things that happened around his family in Georgia.  Like the lynching of Leo Frank in Marietta, Georgia.  And how the KKK was reborn at Stone Mountain, burning crosses at the top.  I actually had family in Marietta, Georgia, and I had been to Stone Mountain quite a bit as a kid.  I learned a lot about the history around my own family, which has prompted my own search through family history.

Just a few warnings.  There is profanity, the use of the n-word as well as other words.  Sexual content mainly consists of mentions of rapes.  Violent content includes accounts of lynchings and the pictures from the lynching postcards, as well as details of how these people died slowly, even being burned.  It gets pretty detailed.

Despite those warnings, this was engaging and fascinating and prompted my own dive into family and American history, which I think is what a good documentary does – prompts further action and/or investigation.  Definite recommend!

John Waller: Striving for Equality: A Review

John Waller: Striving for Equality directed by David M Talley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Last week, I shared a list of movies and documentaries that I’ve been watching over the month June.  Most of which I really enjoyed, and all of which I learned a lot.  I want to continue this education into a history of my own country that I didn’t learn in school by watching more available documentaries on Amazon Prime, specifically, but hopefully including other platforms as well.

So, the latest documentary I watched was John Waller: Striving for Equality on Amazon Prime.  This is a PBS documentary from 2010.  I’ve been trying to find family-friendly documentaries.  All of the ones I mentioned last week include nudity and photographs and accounts of lynchings as well as profanity.  This particular film was a lot more family friendly.  There were some drawings of lynchings that were going on, but it was not nearly as explicit as other documentaries.

However, this film is quite dry.  It recounts the life of John Waller with a mix of interviews with various history college professors.  I felt the dryness of this film took away from the absolutely fascinating life of John Waller.

He was born to house slaves in Missouri who escaped just a few months before the Emancipation Proclamation.  His father purchased some land to farm in Iowa and John learned how to read and write from a neighboring white farmer who tutored him.  He valued education and played many roles throughout his life, including journalist, lawyer, diplomat, and soldier.

He also had his setbacks.  He wasn’t able to go to college because his family needed him on the farm.  He faced racism and discrimination throughout his life but continued to fight for equality and justice.  He tried to create a place in Madagascar that would give Black people opportunities to grow financially, but was imprisoned by the French, only later to be released on the request of the American president, though he did lose the land in Madagascar in the process. He is an excellent role model of perseverance, and I hope that there will be more films in the future about his fascinating life.  It is still an excellent story of a man who faced adversity and yet seemed to do the next right thing in his life.  Good information, dry presentation.