Teachers dedicate their lives to helping their students succeed, sometimes against all odds. They are some of the most important, influential people in our society. These black films show teachers going above and beyond to make a difference in their students’ lives. They are funny, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking. But they all inspire us to be better.
Lean on Me
Principal Joe Clark is appointed to transform a failing inner-city school into a model institution. Despite having no experience, Clark is determined to save the school from ruin using whatever means necessary, even if it means breaking the rules.
A group of at-risk students are assigned to a first-year teacher who uses unconventional methods to inspire them to succeed. Based on a true story, Freedom Writers is an uplifting film about the power of education.
Based on a true story, Coach Carter is about a high school basketball coach who benchs his entire team after they fail to meet his academic standards. Despite the community’s outrage, Carter is adamant about preparing his players for success in life, even if it means sacrificing their chance at a championship.
The Great Debaters
The Great Debaters is based on the true story of a debate team at a small, all-black college in the 1930s. The team becomes one of the best in the country, but their success is threatened by racism and bigotry.
Akeelah and the Bee
Akeelah is an intelligent young girl from a poor, inner-city neighborhood. When she qualifies for the National Spelling Bee, she must overcome her own doubts and fears to compete against the best spellers in the country.
In the 1970s, Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) works as a janitor to reclaim an abandoned pool building with Elston (Bernie Mac), a retired swimming champion. But when city authorities declare the facility for development, he fights back by establishing an all-black swim club. Jim tries to prepare his greenhorns for the state while facing racism, violence, and a hostile city official.
Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, Precious is the story of an illiterate, obese teenager who is pregnant with her second child. She attends an alternative school where she is taught by a dedicated teacher (Paula Patton) who sees potential in her.
Remember the Titans
In 1971, African American football coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is hired to lead a newly-integrated high school team in Alexandria, Virginia. Despite the protests of some students and parents, Boone sets out to build a winning team. Along the way, he teaches his players the importance of unity and understanding.
To Sir, with Love
Engineer Mark Thackeray arrives to teach at an inner-city school and encounters a group of belligerent students. Through patience and understanding, Thackeray gains the students’ respect and leads them to success.
The Karate Kid is a 2010 remake of the 1984 film of the same name. The film stars Jaden Smith as Dre Parker, a12-year-old who moves from Detroit to China with his mother (Taraji P. Henson). While there, he is bullied by a group of kids who know kung fu. He soon befriends Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man at his apartment complex who just happens to be a kung fu master. Han teaches Dre the basics of kung fu and prepares him to compete in a tournament against the bullies.
The Blind Side
Based on the true story of Michael Oher, The Blind Side is the story of a poor, African American teenager who is taken in by a wealthy white family. They help him develop his skills as a football player and he eventually goes on to play for the NFL.
Sister Act II: Back in the Habit
In this sequel to Sister Act, Whoopi Goldberg returns as Deloris Van Cartier, a former lounge singer who is now a nun. When she is assigned to teach at an inner-city school, she uses her musical talents to help turn the students’ lives around.
Based on the true story of James Robert “Radio” Kennedy, Radio is about a mentally challenged man who becomes a fixture at a local high school football games. The students and teachers soon grow to love him, but he faces challenges when the town’s prejudice begins to surface.
These are just a few of the best teacher movies that feature African American characters. These films are inspiring and engaging, and they offer a unique perspective on education. Whether you’re looking for a film to watch with your students or one to enjoy on your own, these movies are sure to please.