The Black British Resistance Explored in New Documentaries

Amazon debuted three new documentaries highlighting Black Resistance in Britain. All three documentaries explore critical themes and events depicted in Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” Anthology. The “Small Axe” Anthology explores the joys and pains of Black British life covering two decades from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Uprising (A 3-Part Docuseries)

Uprising is a three-part series that examines three key events in the United Kingdom in 1981. The New Cross Fire opens the docuseries. In 1981, in South London, 13 black youths were killed in a birthday party that ended in a deadly fire. Witnesses believe a firebomb started the fire and think it was a racist attack. Families of the victims received hate mail and death threats, but police focused blame on the partygoers. The indifference to the lives lost by the government and police ignites an uprising by the black British community.

The Second Episode focuses on the formation of the Black People’s day of Action, which was a mass demonstration organized to bring attention to the tragedy. Finally, the third episode covers the Brixton Riots. Tensions with Black British residents and the police came to a fever pitch in 1981. Young blacks, fed up with random “stop and frisk” searches by the police, led to a heated confrontation that became one of the biggest riots in British history.

Uprising links all three events in one year and shows how a generation was affected by the hostile race relations in Britain.  “Uprising’s director, Oscar Winner, Steve McQueen, said, “It is an honor to make Uprising with testimonials from the survivors, investigators, activists, and representatives of the machinery of state. We can only learn if we look at things through the eyes of everyone concerned; the New Cross Fire passed into history as a tragic footnote, but that event and its aftermath can now be seen as momentous events in our nation’s history.”

Black Power in Britain

Directed by George Amonsah, “Black Power: A British Story of Resistance” is a 90-minute documentary highlighting the Black Power movement in Britain. In the 1960s, black brits challenged and fought back against racism and police brutality using principles established by the Black Power movement happening in the United States. The documentary features rare footage of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and Stockley Carmichael in Britain and their influence on black residents living in the UK.

Educational Racism in Britain

“Subnormal: A British Scandal” is directed by Lyttanya Shannon and tells the disturbing account of one of the biggest education scandals in Britain. In the 1960s and 70s, a disproportionately large number of black children were sent to schools for the “educationally subnormal.” The docu-film features accounts from parents and the affected students about the devastating impact on black British children and how racism led to the scandal.

The film highlights how Black parents, teachers, and activists exposed the injustice and forced a change within the British educational system.

All three documentaries seemingly connect black Americans with the struggles of Black British people in reference to racism, inequalities, and struggles. Our stories are filled with similarities that continue to connect Black people across the diaspora.

All three documentaries and the “Small Axe” Anthology are available on Amazon Prime Video.


Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSanders20 or @DanieSandersOfficial.


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