Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ Released As A Single
March 31, 1996
Michael Jackson - They Don't Care About Us single cover

“They Don’t Care About Us” was written and produced by Michael Jackson, and released on this day as the fifth single from the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future—Book I. The single reached the Top 10 in 16 countries, and hit #1 in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. “They Don’t Care About Us” also reached the Top 10 of Billboard‘s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Hot Dance Music charts. The song was written as a protest against all forms of prejudice.

Michael chose Spike Lee to direct two short films for the song. The most well-known of these films was shot in Salvador de Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including the favela of Dona Marta – a shantytown known at that time for poverty and drug trafficking. Government officials attempted to ban filming but were unsuccessful. The completed film featured residents of Dona Marta and included 200 members of the cultural music group Olodum. After the filming in Dona Marta, conditions in the favela improved, credited in part to the attention that Michael brought to the area.

The second short film for “They Don’t Care About Us” was shot in a prison, juxtaposed with footage of war and unrest around the world. The imagery and lyrics of this short film prevented it from being shown during primetime hours on music channels.