Mara Brock Akil’s “Stamped From the Beginning” Examines America’s History of Anti-Black Racism

The film features prominent Black women scholars, like Angela Davis and Dr. Imani Perry, who frame the narrative as the documentary examines the origins and perpetuation of anti-Black racism and white supremacy in the United States.

Mara Brock Akil’s “Stamped From the Beginning” Examines America’s History of Anti-Black Racism
The Netflix documentary hybrid marks the fourth adaptation of "Stamped From the Beginning" by Ibram X. Kendi.

This week, Netflix released the trailer for “Stamped From the Beginning” (2023), a hybrid film that is part documentary and part scripted feature. Roger Ross Williams directed the film, which was based on Ibram X. Kendi's 2017 book of the same name. The film was executive produced by Muslim American filmmaker Mara Brock Akil.

“Stamped From the Beginning” features prominent Black women scholars, including Angela Davis, Dr. Imani Perry and activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham, who frame the narrative as the documentary examines the origins and perpetuation of anti-Black racism and white supremacy in the United States. In the film, Williams covers historical injustices and dehumanizing myths, diving deep into the ways that the media and politics have portrayed Black people as dangerous.

In a statement, Williams said that, “I read Dr. Kendi’s book and it transformed me in many ways … It made me confront how I see myself as a Black man, and I immediately knew I had to go on this journey of a personal and collective dispelling of racist ideas about Black people. Dr. Kendi is probably one of the most banned authors in America — which I believe is a badge of honor — and it is my personal honor to have created this necessary film using all the tools in my toolbox; VFX, animation, archive, graphics and kick-ass Black women experts.”

Throughout the documentary, Kendi appears throughout to deconstruct the myths around anti-Black racism while the scholars centered at the core of the documentary seek to answer one question: “What is wrong with Black people?”

The Netflix adaptation of “Stamped From the Beginning” marks the book’s fourth adaptation, following a YA remix and a children’s edition for even younger readers, both co-authored with Jason Reynolds, as well as a graphic nonfiction book. The various versions of “Stamped From the Beginning” have received both immense acclaim and devastating backlash for their portrayal of white supremacy in the United States, making it the second-most challenged book in schools and libraries in 2020.

"Stamped From the Beginning" will be available on Netflix starting Nov. 20. You can watch its trailer below.

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