Just because Black History Month is over, that doesn’t mean it is too late to learn about African-American history. “Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History” premiered on Netflix in order to present black history in an entertaining way.
The special has a notable scene in the beginning showing Hart’s daughter frustrated after she watches the critically acclaimed movie “12 Years a Slave.” “I was tired of watching black people getting whipped by white people,” she explains to her father.
Hart consoles his daughter, explaining that “There is so much more to black history than people getting whipped.” What is taught in schools tends to center around the horrible details of slavery and segregation, so it can be difficult to understand that there is much more history involving black people that isn’t focused on discrimination. Over the course of an hour, Hart is determined to teach his daughter about many of the prominent African-American people in history.
In addition to expanding on black history, Hart starts by explaining the commonly learned Underground Railroad and paying homage to Harriet Tubman. Additionally, he explains the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave that found his freedom by shipping himself away in a box for 26 hours with the help of white abolitionists. Hart mentioned that in 1850 there was an act called the Fugitive Slave Act that encouraged people to capture runaway slaves. Blacks had to go through great lengths to achieve their deserved freedom.
Frederick Douglass was born in 1818 and escaped slavery in Maryland by disguising himself as a sailor and boarding a train to Philadelphia. His first biography “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” received rave reviews, becoming a bestseller. The book also played a major part in the abolitionist movement, giving a detailed account of his life as a slave. He is also the most photographed American of the 19th century, beating out President Abraham Lincoln. Hart explained that although Douglass sat for over a hundred photographs, he didn’t smile because he wanted to combat the inaccurate way that slaves were portrayed: as happily enslaved individuals.
Hart also told the story of Robert Smalls. Smalls played a major part of the Civil War. The 22 year old slave from South Carolina encouraged Lincoln to change the policy that prohibited blacks from fighting in the war. Smalls led thousands in successful battles. After the war, he became a businessman. 179,000 black soldiers died during the Civil War.
Matthew Henson was the first African-American arctic explorer, and the first person to step foot on the North pole. Although Henson led his team of men to the North Pole in success, his white colleague Admiral Peary took credit. Hart’s daughter mentioned the painful fact that many historical black figures never received their due credit until after they were dead.
To comedically act out the stories of the important historical figures, Hart was accompanied with prominent actors such as Tiffany Haddish, Lil Rey Howery, Alphonso McAuley, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. By the end of the special, Hart’s daughter realizes the importance of being aware of black history, and understands that she is capable of doing great things.
Hart’s Netflix special is a way of showing a more holistic and in depth history of African-Americans. The dramatization of the historical instances keeps the audience captivated throughout the special. Additionally, connecting the histories to present day life allows the viewer to understand their relevance. Rated TV-PG, this is a perfect way to show children of all races a more positive vision of black history. Additionally, people of all ages could learn something from this hour-long feature.