11 of Netflix's Most Powerful Documentaries on Racial Justice

Following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and, sadly, many others, people are seeking more information about the systemic oppression and racism that is interwoven in the justice system of the United States and beyond. There are plenty of educational resources for white allies, including books about racism and documentaries for visual learners. Netflix has an array of documentaries on topics ranging from police brutality and poorly handled investigations to stories of activists fighting for change. If you've been seeking resources to educate yourself on the reality of what injustice looks like, keep reading for some documentaries that can help to deepen your understanding.

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Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story

Cyntoia Brown's case represents just one of many failures within the US justice system. Tried as an adult at the age of 16, Brown was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man who had purchased her for sex. For this act of self-defense, she spent 15 years in prison before regaining her freedom.

Watch Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story on Netflix.

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The US prison system is disproportionately filled with people of color, particularly Black people. Ava DuVernay's documentary, titled after the 13th Amendment, explains the history of inequality in the justice system. Netflix has made the documentary available for free on YouTube.

Watch 13th on Netflix.

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Who Killed Malcolm X?

Fifty-five years after the death of civil rights leader Malcolm X, Netflix released a documentary about his assassination. Who Killed Malcolm X? is about more than the killing of one man; it's about politics, a failed investigation, and a conspiracy to evade justice.

Watch Who Killed Malcolm X? on Netflix.

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LA 92

This emotional tale shows real footage of the riots that shook Los Angeles in 1992 following the acquittal of the four police officers who were caught on tape severely beating Rodney King, a Black motorist.

Watch LA 92 on Netflix.

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The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson was a driving force behind the Stonewall uprising that sparked the gay rights movement, and remains an inspiration to many worldwide. This Netflix film explores the mysterious death of the incredible black transgender woman, diving into why it was never fully investigated.

Watch The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson on Netflix.

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Let It Fall

Let It Fall goes even deeper into the tensions that led to the riots of '92, breaking down the key events that took place in LA from 1982 up until the tipping point 10 years later.

Watch Let It Fall on Netflix.

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ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke, also known as the King of Soul, was a Black singer, songwriter, and activist in the civil rights movement. He was murdered in a motel in LA when he was only 33, and this film explores how the public expression of his views may have led to his tragic death.

Watch ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke on Netflix.

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ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff?

Five years before losing his battle to melanoma at the age of 36, Bob Marley survived an assassination attempt in which three gunmen approached his home with the intention of ending his life. American involvement is speculated, as the CIA had concerns about the power of Bob Marley's music. Watch this film to learn about this man who lived every day to spread messages of justice, freedom, and love through his highly influential music.

Watch ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff? on Netflix.

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Documenting the excessive force and deaths caused by police officers has been key in recent years. This short documentary focuses on the NYPD and the citizens who are watching their every move.

Watch Copwatch on Netflix.

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Strong Island

This investigative documentary seeks to find truth and justice for the murder of a young Black man named William Ford Jr. while also highlighting how the American justice system fails Black people. The filmmaker, Yance Ford, is also the victim's brother, which makes the telling of a very emotional story even more heart-wrenching.

Watch Strong Island on Netflix.

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The Innocence Files

This docuseries tells the stories of eight wrongful-conviction cases. Eight innocent men placed behind bars are able to share their personal tales, and the journeys that brought them to freedom through the Innocence Project.

Watch The Innocence Files on Netflix.