The Oscar buzz is loud for 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o for her riveting portrayal of Patsey, an enslaved woman who manages to out-pick her male counterparts in the cotton field and find a sliver of happiness despite her circumstances. Nyong’o’s performance—which earned her a best supporting actress nomination—is the most recent in a long list of portrayals of black women who persevere when the world is trying to beat them down.
In celebration of Black History Month, here are 10 movies that empower black women.
The Dream Catcher
Tracy (Diana Ross) has a talent that can’t be confined to her job at a Chicago department store job or be quelled by a boyfriend (Billy Dee Williams) who puts his goals first. She chooses to chase her dreams all the way to Italy, where she reaches international fame as a model and launches her fashion career. When she gets in over her head, she heads back home where love, more appreciative this time around, awaits her.
The Color Purple (1985)
This big-screen version of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel follows Miss Cellie (Whoopi Goldberg), who has had a hard life (to put it mildly)—first being raped by her stepfather and having her children taken away, then married off to an abusive husband (Danny Glover) and separated from her sister, Nettie. But in the end—and with the support of her sister-friends—she finds the strength to start over as an entrepreneur and is eventually reunited with her family.