Skip to Content

10 free documentaries and reality series about racism in America

10 free documentaries and reality series about racism in America
A memorial for George Floyd where he was killed, as seen in PBS' Race Matters: America in Crisis (Photo via PBS)

Today is Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Of course, the legacy of slavery—and all that followed it, like segregation—is still very much with us today.

While reality TV has been part of the problem, perpetuating systemic racism, both unscripted series and documentaries can also show us what people’s lives are like, and take us back into history and teach us the things that our schools did not.

For me as a white person, that gap in historical knowledge about race and racism is vast. I certainly never learned about Juneteenth, nor the Tulsa Massacre, which I first learned about last year when I saw the first episode of Watchmen. (That show, which is the best TV show I saw last year, is free this weekend on HBO.com and on demand, and blends historical events with fiction.) I grew up in the suburbs but only learned about redlining from Adam Ruins Everything.

So my goal in assembling this list was not to provide an exhaustive list, but to share a few documentaries and series I found to be illuminating, insightful, and informative—and that are free to watch for everyone (though some will be available only for a limited time). Some of them explore history, and some look in-depth at recent events.

Certainly, there are many outstanding shows and docs, like Ava DuVernay’s 13th on Netflix, which are worth watching, too. But I hope you’ll find some of these to be useful.

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion

I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to them.

Happy discussing!