In a new Netflix special, “Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History,” available now, the actor and comedian is tackling a new role: Educator.
The one-hour special explores the lives of unsung black heroes through a series of reenactments. Viewers learn about such people as arctic explorer Matthew Henson, astronaut Mae Jemison and performer-turned-Allied-spy Josephine Baker.
Hart has faced recent controversy after he stepped down as this year’s Oscars host following uproar over past homophobic tweets and comments. Last fall, he faced backlash for throwing a “Cowboys and Indians” party for his son Kenzo’s first birthday.
In a bit of a twist for Hart’s brand, “Guide to Black History” is geared toward kids and families, with layers of Hart talking among a series of longer renactments. It’s a refreshing way to teach kids, not only because there are jokes instead of a list of dry facts (plus actual production value), but because the subjects aren’t the usual suspects.
One of the first things Hart says in the special is “There’s so much more to black history than peanuts,” referring to George Washington Carver’s pioneering agricultural work that’s taught in elementary classrooms across American classrooms.
The jokes are of the PG-slapstick variety. Take for instance Hart’s quip that Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to hold a pilot license, got pulled over by cops asking where she got such a nice plane.
Underneath the comedy is the message that the accomplishments and cultural contributions of African-Americans are something to be proud of.
- Robert Smalls escaped slavery to become a Civil War hero and five-term congressman in the House of Representatives.
- Blues great Robert Johnson created music and a guitar style that influenced rock and roll as we know it. George Crum invented the potato chip.
- Josephine Baker was an American performer who moved to France and became an Allied secret agent during World War II. She later became a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement and adopted 12 children from around the world.
As Hart tells his daughter (played by Saniyya Sidney):
“Black history is more than slavery and oppression. Goodness, you have the innovation, the brilliance, the creativity … these were the things that we use to challenge the oppression.”
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