Theater Seating
Image: Lloyd Dirks

Black History Month is upon us, and we are celebrating by highlighting some movie adaptations from black writers. We have a literary classic, and contemporary bestseller, and a current Oscar contender. Happy Reading!


Synopsis: After the American Civil War, a former slave, Sethe, is haunted by a poltergeist and visited by the reincarnation of the baby daughter she murdered to save from the plantation owner.

Beloved is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Toni Morrison. It was released in 1998 with critical acclaim, but without box-office success. Beloved is currently available for streaming with a Hulu subscription.

The Color Purple

Synopsis: A black Southern woman struggles to find her identity after suffering abuse from her father and others over four decades.

The Color Purple is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Alice Walker. It was released in 1985 with both critical acclaim and box-office success. Currently, The Color Purple is available for purchase everywhere digital movies and DVDs are sold.


Synopsis: A father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life.

Fences is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by August Wilson. The film was released nationwide in theaters on December 25, 2016 to much critical fanfare. The Blu-Ray and DVD are scheduled to be released in March 2017.

Hidden Figures

Synopsis: A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.

Hidden Figures is based on the biography, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. It was released nationwide on January 6, 2017 to both critical acclaim and box office success.

Waiting to Exhale

Synopsis: The story centers on four female friends living in the Phoenix, Arizona area and their relationships with men and each other. All of them are “holding their breath” until the day they can feel comfortable in a committed relationship with a man.

Waiting to Exhale is based on the book of the same name by Terry McMillan. The movie was released in 1995 with mixed critical reviews, but major box-office success. It is currently available anywhere you can buy physical or digital copies.

Your Turn

So…have you seen any of these movies? Have you read the original written works? What black Reel Lit would you add to the list? Which movies are you renting? Which movies are you buying? Let us know in the comments! |RL

P.S. Want more Reel Lit? Check out the literary news you may have missed!

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