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“What Killed Michael Brown?” was banned on Amazon earlier this year. | Col­legian

In 2014, the death of an African American teenager sparked a cul­tural uprising. This past October, Amazon attempted to block the release of Shelby Steele’s doc­u­mentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?” which seeks to retell this story and show the power of media nar­ra­tives.

The Dow Jour­nalism Program will be screening Steele’s doc­u­mentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?” this Friday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. The movie will be shown in the Hames Room of the Fine Arts Building.

The film explores the con­tro­versy and media reaction sur­rounding the police shooting of black teen Michael Brown in Fer­guson, Mis­souri, which birthed the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The doc­u­mentary explores the ideas sur­rounding sys­temic racism in America and the origins of the BLM movement. African American con­ser­v­ative scholar Shelby Steele wrote and nar­rated the doc­u­mentary, while his son Eli Steele directed the film. Their aim was to con­tribute to today’s dia­logue as race rela­tions con­tinue to consume the American con­ver­sation, espe­cially after the death of George Floyd this past summer.

The film was finally released on Amazon.com on Oct. 16, 2020, after Amazon said they would not release the film and that they would not recon­sider their decision on its ban. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the reason for Amazon’s course of action was that the film “doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expec­ta­tions.”

Amazon decided to release the film after public outcry.

After hearing about the con­tro­versy swarming around the film’s release, the directors of the Dow Jour­nalism Program felt it was important for stu­dents to have an oppor­tunity to view the movie.

“As soon as I heard that Amazon.com had banned this doc­u­mentary, I wanted to show it on campus. We began to make plans right away,” Director of the Dow Jour­nalism Program John J. Miller said. “Thank­fully, Amazon.com reversed its lousy decision, but we’re still going to show the film. Shelby Steele is one of Amer­ica’s great public intel­lec­tuals and I’m eager to hear what he says in this doc­u­mentary.”

Nathan Estruth, father of Hillsdale College senior Jolene Estruth, said he’s watched the doc­u­mentary and highly rec­om­mends stu­dents to watch it.

“How could you not watch it, after all the con­tro­versy?” Estruth said. “The film goes through the nar­rative of ‘Hands up, don’t shoot,’ versus the facts on the ground, and the causal gov­ernment policies that led to those events.”