Those Who Show Up

As I was considering movies and television series to commemorate Black History Month, I realized that I gravitate toward movies about everyday people. There are numerous references to people like Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and we should remember their strength and courage. But there are men and women who are not so well-known and should be remembered as well. People who took a step toward righting wrongs and improving the lives of everyone. These movies are based on true stories of those who worked for the rights and dignity of themselves and others.

  • Buffalo Soldiers (1997) -- Fact-based story about the all-Black U.S. Cavalry Troop H, which protected the Western territories in post-Civil War times. The movie stars Danny Glover, Carl Lumbly, Glynn Turman, Mykelti Williamson, and Bob Gunton. The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is located here in Houston for those who would like to know more about these remarkable men.
  • The Tuskegee Airmen (1995) – Set during the Second World War, this is the story of four newly recruited pilots, serving their country when Black flyers are not welcomed in the Air Corps. The pilots set out to prove that courage knows no color. Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Courtney Vance, Andre Braugher, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Chris McDonald, John Lithgow star.
  • Men of Honor (2000) -- The story of Carl Brashear, an African American sailor who dreamed of becoming a U.S. Navy Master Diver. Despite a ruthless training officer and a tragic shipboard accident, his will is never broken and against all odds, he pushes on to achieve the impossible. Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as Brashear.
  • 10,000 Black Men Named George (2002) -- The true story of the formation of the first Black-controlled union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Asa Philip Randolph, a Black journalist, established a voice for the forgotten workers of the Pullman Rail Company, all Black porters who were simply called "George", after George Pullman, the first person to employ emancipated slaves. This movie stars André Braugher, Charles S. Dutton, Mario Van Peebles, and the great Brock Peters.
  • The Great Debaters (2007) – In 1935, Professor Melvin B. Tolson inspired students at Wiley College in Texas to form the school's first debate team. Tolson turned a group of underdog students into a historically elite debate team which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship. Denzel Washington plays Tolson. Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, Forest Whitaker, and Kimberly Elise also star.
  • Something the Lord Made (2004) – The emotional true story of two men who defied the rules of their time to launch a medical revolution, set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South. Working in 1940s Baltimore on an unprecedented technique for performing heart surgery on "blue babies", Dr. Alfred Blalock and lab technician Vivien Thomas formed an impressive team. As Blalock and Thomas invented a new field of medicine, saving thousands of lives in the process, social pressures threatened to undermine their collaboration and tear them apart. Mos Def stars as Thomas with Alan Rickman as Blalock. Gabrielle Union and Kyra Sedgwick co-star.
  • Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story (2009) – Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, who overcame problems in school and obstacles in life to become a world-renowned neurosurgeon. His lifelong journey led him to become director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, a bestselling author, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Kimberly Elise co-stars in this incredible, moving story.

There is a saying that history is made by those who show up. I'm happy to know that we have a time set aside to remember those who showed up.