Gripped by Killers of the Flower Moon? Netflix’s new doc delves into another dark part of America’s past

Stamped from the Beginning
(Image credit: Netflix)

Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon is a commercial and critical hit based on a terrifying true story: the murders of Osage Americans in the 1920s. It's a beautiful piece of filmmaking about one of America's darkest hours, and sadly there's plenty more where that came from. 

A new Netflix documentary, Stamped from the Beginning, uncovers some of the roots of American racism and while it's hardly comfortable viewing, it's utterly compelling. Stamped from the Beginning is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Ibram X Kendi, a professor of history and international relations at American University in Washington DC. 

Kendi's book follows five key figures: 17th-century Puritan preacher Cotton Mather; Thomas Jefferson; the 19th-century abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; activist and author WEB Dubois; and 1960s activist legend Angela Davis. It's a powerful, ambitious and compelling book, and early reviews suggest that the best streaming service's adaptation is just as powerful, making it a high contender for our best Netflix documentaries list. 

Should you stream Stamped from the Beginning?

The Hollywood Reporter says yes, although it would have liked the program to dig deeper. The review praises its "quiet power" and its decision to centre Black women, but felt that it sometimes "wades in shallow historical waters before returning to shore with familiar conclusions". says it's "a visually and sonically swirling text" that stands apart due to its "captivating animation, deep rhythms and beats, and needle drops like 'Fight the Power' to imbue [the] interrogation with a sense of modernity"; the program "understands that history is often written with lightning".

POV, Canada's magazine dedicated to documentaries, also praises the film's power without downplaying its flaws. Sometimes it doesn't do the material justice, such as in a section about lynching that chooses to use an awards montage that doesn't quite work. However, director Roger Ross Williams "doesn’t limit Black experiences to pain" and focuses on Black joy as well as anti-Black racism. "If there's anything wrong with the images the film presents," Pat Mullen writes, "it’s the system that creates inequality and the people who turn a blind eye to it."

Stamped from the Beginning is available on Netflix from 20 November. 

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.