One of the most important and influential figures in American history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is celebrated and commemorated just once a year, while many of the struggles he fought for remain a part of everyday American lives. With the hostile and rapidly changing political and cultural climate, it’s important to revisit his plight and compassion, especially with the next generation. If you’re looking for a way to connect your children to the significance of his legacy, there are some great kid-friendly movies about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a few others that were inspired by his movement.
No matter what color you are, talking about race with your children can be a difficult and daunting task. Kids are naturally loving and inclusive, so it's not easy for them to grasp the concept of segregation and prejudice. But as hard as it is, teaching your children to stand up for equality and dignity for all humans is what will make them better people, and in turn, will make the world a better place.
To get the conversation started, you can look to storytelling, particularly through movies, because it's a great way to add depth and dimension to the discussion and it can give your child some emotional perspective into the struggles people face. In honor of his legacy and on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, here are some impactful, family-friendly films about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement he inspired that you can watch with your kids right now.
'Our Friend, Martin'
One of the best kid-friendly films about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the 1998 animated film Our Friend, Martin. It follows a young student, Miles, who finds himself traveling back in time to learn the significance of Dr. King’s fight for civil rights. It’s a great way for kids to make a connection with the past from a present day point of view. The film features a star-studded cast including Whoopi Goldberg, John Travolta, Angela Bassett, and James Earl Jones. You can watch Our Friend, Martin on YouTube.
If you want to teach your kids that they too can make a difference, there’s no better example than Ruby Bridges, and you can get the conversation started by watching Disney’s Ruby Bridges. The movie tells the true story of the 6-year-old girl who bravely integrated New Orleans public schools in 1960, despite the harassment she faced walking into school everyday. Her story is one about courage, bravery, and above all, the importance of taking a stand for what you believe is right. Disney’s Ruby Bridges is available on Amazon Video and YouTube.
'Selma, Lord, Selma'
Disney’s Selma, Lord, Selma is a great kid-friendly film that tells the story of 11-year-old Sheyann Webb (played by Jurnee Smollet) who is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to participate in the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. The movie reflects her perspective and desire to take part in events including the right-to-vote protests and the infamous 1965 Bloody Sunday march. You can find the DVD for Disney’s Selma, Lord, Selma on Amazon Video.
'March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World'
March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World is a Scholastic Storybook DVD based on Christine King Farris’ book. which was a tribute to her brother Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The movie features narrations, historical photographs and clips, artwork from the book, and pays homage to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. You can watch the short movie, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World on YouTube.
One of my all time favorite movies is Hidden Figures, inspired by the true lives of the female scientists Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, who played an integral role in early American spaceflight. Not only does the film give some perspective to the struggles of African-American women during the '60s, it also offers a representation of strong, real-life role models for young girls. You can buy or rent Hidden Figures on Amazon Video.
'An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win'
The Amazon Prime Original movie, An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win is a great film that follows the journey of a young African-American girl, Melody Ellison, in 1963 Detroit. The movie covers Melody’s struggle with racial inequality, and shows her perseverance to overcome her challenges with her passion for designing. You can watch An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win on Amazon Prime Video.
'The Color Of Friendship'
The Disney Channel movie, The Color of Friendship, is based on a true story of friendship and follows two girls, Piper Dellum and Mahree Boik. Mahree, who comes from apartheid-era South Africa unknowingly comes to live with Piper’s African-American family. The movie focuses on the two girls and their friendship, despite the cultural biases they were brought up with. You can find The Color of Friendship on Amazon Video.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.