- Director: Yoruba Richen
- Writer: Elizabeth Trojian
- Type: Documentaries
- Year: 2021
- Language: English
- Length: 113 minutes
This is a featured presentation of our Tear it Down: Dismantling White Supremacy program area.
How It Feels to Be Free takes an unprecedented look at the intersection of African American women artists, politics, and entertainment and tells the story of how six trailblazing performers, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier changed American culture through their films, fashion, their music and their politics. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Yoruba Richen and based on of the book How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement by Ruth Feldstein, the film examines the lives of these women and how they used their ground-breaking careers as platforms to advocate for change and reshape representation of Black women on stage and screen. The film includes archival footage of the six women, as well as original interviews from contemporary scholars and entertainers, including Diahann Carroll, Pam Grier, Alicia Keys, Lena Waithe, Halle Berry, Yolonda Ross, Samuel and Latanya Jackson, and Lena Horne’s daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley.
The first documentary to focus on the crucial role Black female entertainers played in the ongoing struggle over inclusion and representation in American mass media, How it Feels to Be Free provides important context for the highly-charged contemporary debate over race and gender in Hollywood and shows how these women laid the path for the renaissance in Black entertainment that we see today.