5 Best Civil Rights Movies to Show Your Kids

Stories are the most immediate and impactful way we have of teaching our children about fairness, justice, and respect for all people.

We live in a democracy, a radical social experiment unlike any other in history. The idea of self-governance and a lack of mandated religious belief were altogether unheard of in terms of developed and organized systems. At the core of this radical idea is the firmly held conviction that everyone living here gets a fair shake. This idea lies at the very heart of our constitution.

And yet throughout our often-perilous history, ethnic groups have been excluded from the God-given rights endowed to them under the constitution. To access those rights, many people stood up and fought to be seen and heard by their government.

The Civil Rights Movement in America is a story of almost super human bravery. It’s a multi-layered story about courageous communities of people who organized and protested, who used all the means they had available under the law to achieve justice.

This is a difficult and painful period in history that can be very off-putting for parents. Exposing our kids to the cruel side of human nature is something we actively avoid. This is why movies are such a valuable medium for educating our kids about civil rights. These films introduce the realities in a way that allow kids to start to build a value system around fairness and kindness.

Here is a list of age appropriate movies that will help children understand history, prejudice, and social justice.


  1. Strange Fruit, 2002. This documentary is recommended for grade four and up, uncovering the mystery and sorrow of a song written by Abel Meeropol, an unassuming high school teacher in the Bronx, and how that composition came to be the quiet but powerful protest song performed by Billie Holliday in 1937.
  1. Salt of the Earth, 1951. This film is unlike anything produced at the time, a low-budget true story about the miners in New Mexico and how the women drove the battle for decent pay and living conditions to victory.
  1. Ruby Bridges, 1997. Adapted from the book by Robert Coles, this Disney film tells the story of Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old African American girl who is chosen to be the first student to desegregate a New Orleans elementary school.
  1. Freedom Song, 2006. By 1961, the movement was in full swing, and student groups were staging nonviolent protests throughout the South. Starring the ineffable Danny Glover, this is great flick about personal struggle and triumph amid larger social upheaval.
  1. A Ballerina’s Tale, 2015. This recent and inspiring story about the New York City Ballet’s first African American dancer is not about the civil rights movement directly, but it does address the complexity of race and bigotry in a very inspiring way. This one is great for little girls.


Our kids can learn a great deal about the struggle of these communities within our society by absorbing well-told true stories. We can read to them, talk to them, and watch movies with them that will plant the seeds of empathy and basic human dignity.



About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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