Black History Month on BritBox: A celebration of Black British voices

Discover new films, ground-breaking comedy series and classic documentaries in BritBox’s Black History Month Collection.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 6 October 2020 - 10.28pm
BritBox Black and British: A Forgotten History presented by historian David Olusoga

Black History Month is being marked on BritBox with a collection of programmes that celebrate Black British voices.

From documentaries telling untold and inspiring stories and vital, powerful dramas with a different perspective, to sitcoms and sketch shows that gave a voice to black people – BritBox has brought a mix of archive TV and modern classics all in one place.

Here are just a few of our picks from the Black History Month Collection...

Unsaid Stories

Unsaid Stories on ITV ITV

A series of short films inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, which star Nicholas Pinnock, Yasmin Monet Prince, Adelayo Adedayo, Paapa Essiedu, Nicole Lecky and Pippa Bennett-Warner.

Created during lockdown, each of the drama shorts are powerful and impactful stories which illustrate the importance of black perspectives.

Africa and Britain: A Forgotten History

Historian David Olusoga explores the enduring relationship between Britain and people whose origins lie in Africa. From the African Romans who guarded Hadrian's Wall in the 3rd century AD to the black trumpeter of the Tudor courts, Olusoga uncovers a history that is as surprising as it is revealing.

Mo Farah: Race of His Life

The life story of one of Great Britain's greatest ever athletes, filmed in the build-up to his history-making runs at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The film shows just how hard he pushes himself, openly discusses controversies surrounding his coach and includes a trip to Djibouti in Africa, where he grew up, and a visit to his his twin brother, from whom he was separated from for many years when the family moved to the UK to live with Mo's father.

Shirley: The Shirley Bassey Story

Ruth Negga stars in this drama charting the rise to fame of singer Dame Shirley Bassey.

Born in Cardiff's Tiger Bay to a white mother and Nigerian father, Shirley was the youngest of eight children in a family living well below the poverty line. By the time she was a toddler, the family had moved to the all-white area of Splott. But Shirley took no prisoners when faced with racist taunts and the stares of local kids.

The film charts Bassey's early career, from her humble roots to the start of her rise to stardom.


Desmonds on Channel 4 Channel 4

The late great Norman Beaton’s sitcom about a Peckham barbershop is a timeless classic.

Running for six seasons, the show’s portrayal of black family live, business and friendships stood out in 1989 when it debuted on Channel 4 and despite the passing of 30 years, it still feels like a rare moment in which black comedians were given a voice on British TV.

Martin Luther King by Trevor McDonald

Sir Trevor McDonald BritBox

To mark 50 years since the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, Trevor McDonald travelled to America's Deep South in the hope of getting closer to the man who meant so much to him and so many others.

He uncovers new sides to the story, speaks to a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and interviews an expert on the horrors of lynching in 20th-century America.

He also asks some of black role models, including Naomi Campbell, General Colin Powell and the Rev Al Sharpton, what Martin Luther King means to them.

Lenny Henry Go Home

Lenny Henry, one of Britain's best loved comedy actors, went back to his roots in the West Midlands to film this 1991 live special.

Watch one of Britain’s greatest stand-ups at the very top of his game as he recalls hilarious tales about his childhood, early career and Jamaican heritage.

Chewing Gum

Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum BritBox/Channel 4

Before I May Destroy You turned Michaela Coel into a global star, she was picking up awards and critical acclaim for her sitcom Chewing Gum.

Playing the motormouth Tracey Gordon, Coel delivers an incredible performance which earned her two Baftas.

Gordon is a young shop assistant growing up on a London council estate, who is trying to learn about sex and the world within a restricted and religious household.

In the Shadow of Mary Seacole

Actor and presenter David Harewood BBC

Homeland and The Night Manager star David Harewood embarks on a personal, three-year journey across Britain, Jamaica and the Crimea, tracing the creation of a statue honouring Mary Seacole, the Jamaican woman who set up a British hotel and served as a nurse during the Crimean War.

Seacole has always been one of Harewood's heroines, and here he tells the story of how the unveiling of her memorial statue - standing opposite the Houses of Parliament at St Thomas's Hopital, London - marks the first time a statue has been created in honour of a named black woman.

Watch the Black History Month Collection on BritBox.

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