AMERICAN MASTERS Presents “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,”
Reflecting on the Life of the Renowned Author/Activist; and Smokey
Robinson Is Honored With the Esteemed Library of Congress Gershwin
Prize for Popular Song
THE TALK – RACE IN AMERICA and New Documentaries from INDEPENDENT
LENS Discuss Race Relations Then and Now
ARLINGTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–To honor Black History Month, and as part of its commitment to celebrate
the diversity of America year-round, PBS kicks off a new year with
documentaries and specials that highlight the African-American
experience through content on-air on PBS member stations and online
through the PBS Black Culture Connection. New offerings include programs
that reflect on the contributions of icons like the late Maya Angelou,
applaud beloved artists like Smokey Robinson and showcase independent
documentaries about the valiant efforts of those pushing for change
through thoughtful dialogue.
“Audiences turn to PBS year-round to find thoughtful programs about
topics and issues that are top of mind in our nation and inclusive of a
diverse America,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and
General Manager of General Audience Programming at PBS. “Black History
Month provides a special opportunity to highlight the contributions of
African Americans to our history and culture. Whether on-air or online,
viewers can watch programs that honor the triumphs and achievements of
many great Americans anytime and anywhere.”
On Monday, February 6, Emmy-winning documentary series INDEPENDENT
LENS presents “Birth of a Movement,” based on the
book The Birth of a Movement: How Birth of a Nation Ignited the
Battle for Civil Rights by Dick Lehr. The documentary tells the
little-known story of William Trotter, an African-American journalist
who launched a protest against the 1915 release of D. W. Griffith’s
controversial epic, which laid the groundwork for the civil rights
movement to come. Featuring interviews with historians and filmmakers
such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Spike Lee, “Birth of a Movement” also
explores how Griffith’s film continues to motivate African-American
filmmakers and the artists as they work to reclaim their history and
their onscreen image. Also from INDEPENDENT LENS, airing Monday,
February 13, is “Accidental Courtesy,” featuring Daryl
Davis, an African-American musician who meets and befriends members of
the Ku Klux Klan in an attempt to change their minds and forge racial
conciliation, one racist at a time.
On Friday, February 10, airing as part of PBS Arts programming, SMOKEY
ROBINSON: THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS GERSHWIN PRIZE FOR POPULAR SONG
honors singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson during this star-studded music
special, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, with a special appearance by
Motown founder Berry Gordy and featuring performances by BeBe Winans,
Ledisi and CeeLo Green, to name a few. Robinson, a rhythm and blues icon
nicknamed the “King of Motown,” has enjoyed a career spanning more than
half a century. The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
is awarded annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime
achievements exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the
THE TALK – RACE IN AMERICA, premiering Monday, February 20, is a
two-hour documentary about “the talk,” the conversation parents of color
have with their children about how to behave if stopped by the police.
The film illustrates the issue from multiple points of view: parent,
child, the police and the community. The film, airing in the wake of
shootings of unarmed men of color such as Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin
and more, features interviews with Kenya Barris, creator/writer of
Peabody Award-winning ABC series black*ish, musician/activist Nas,
actor/director/activist Rosie Perez, director/screenwriter/producer John
Singleton, New York Times columnist Charles Blow, and Samaria
Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by the Cleveland
police in a local park.
On Tuesday, February 21, AMERICAN
MASTERS presents “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,”
the first documentary feature about the incomparable author and activist
Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014), best known for her autobiography I Know
Why the Caged Bird Sings. The film weaves her words with rare and
intimate archival photographs and videos that paint hidden facets of her
exuberant life during some of America’s most defining moments. From her
upbringing in the Depression-era South to her work with Malcolm X in
Ghana, to her inauguration poem for President Bill Clinton, the film
takes a journey through the life of a true American icon. The
documentary features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends
and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard,
Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John
Singleton and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.
Also airing throughout February is the second season of the PBS original
STREET (Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET, beginning January 22), a
Civil War-era drama about the chaotic world of Union-occupied
Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years
of the Civil War. The original PBS drama explores, among other topics,
the role that African Americans — including slaves, free blacks and
contraband (African Americans who fled slavery in the hope of securing
their freedom behind Union lines) — played in the hospital and the city.
This season introduces newcomer Charlotte Jenkins (played by Tony
Award-winning actress Patina Miller), a runaway slave turned
abolitionist who goes to Alexandria to help the contraband population
adapt to freedom.
New on February 27 – March 1 from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an epic new
documentary series, AFRICA’S GREAT CIVILIZATIONS, that brings to
life stories of both little-known and celebrated African kingdoms and
cultures, and includes a historical reflection on the slave trade to the
In addition to on-air programs, the PBS
Black Culture Connection (BCC), an extension of PBS.org, features
black films, stories and discussion across PBS, and provides audiences
with a catalogue
of more than 30 programs available for streaming. Most PBS programs
are available for streaming following their broadcast via the PBS apps
for iOS and Android devices and via station-branded digital platforms
including Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast.
A complete preview of programs related to the African-American
MERCY STREET, Season 2
Sundays, February 5-19, 2017,
8:00-9:00 p.m. ET
Allegiances blur and loyalties shift as the
war pushes the drama beyond the hospital. Follow the growing chaos at
Alexandria’s Mansion House, the precarious position of the
Green family and the changing situation of
the burgeoning black population.
INDEPENDENT LENS “Birth of a Movement”
6, 10-11 p.m. ET
Learn how D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film The
Birth of a Nation unleashed a battle still being waged today over
race relations and representation, and the power and influence of
Hollywood. Featuring Spike Lee, Reginald Hudlin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS GERSHWIN PRIZE FOR POPULAR
Friday, February 10, 2017, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET
host Samuel L. Jackson for an all-star tribute to singer and songwriter
Smokey Robinson, the 2016 recipient of the Gershwin Prize, with a
special appearance by Berry Gordy, founder of Motown.
INDEPENDENT LENS “Accidental Courtesy”
13, 10-11:30 p.m. ET
Meet African-American musician Daryl
Davis, who has a peculiar passion — meeting and befriending members of
the Ku Klux Klan in an attempt to change their minds and forge racial
THE TALK – RACE IN AMERICA
Monday, February 20, 2017,
9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
In the wake of recent tragic and fatal
events between men of color and law enforcement, learn how black and
Hispanic families counsel their kids to stay safe if they are stopped by
AMERICAN MASTERS “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise”
February 21, 2017, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Journey through the
prolific life of the I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings author and
activist who inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American
thought. Features new interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Common, the
Clintons and others.
AFRICA’S GREAT CIVILIZATIONS
27-March 1, 2017, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Beginning with Africa’s
ancient history as the cradle of mankind, this documentary series with
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. brings to life the epic stories of both
little-known and celebrated African kingdoms and cultures.
Additional Programs (check local listings for
AUSTIN CITY LIMITS “CeCe Winans/St. Paul & The Broken Bones”
4, 2017, 9:00-10:00 p.m.
Thrill to an hour of soul and gospel.
Grammy-winning legend CeCe Winans sings new songs and classics from her
catalog, while breakout sensations St. Paul & the Broken Bones support
their acclaimed album Sea of Noise.
AMERICAN MASTERS “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth”
Explore the dramatic life of writer/activist Alice Walker.
Filmmaker Pratibha Parmar’s portrait of The Color Purple author
features new interviews with Walker, Steven Spielberg, Danny Glover,
Quincy Jones, Gloria Steinem, Howard Zinn, and Sapphire.
AUSTIN CITY LIMITS “Kendrick Lamar”
February 25, 2017,
Experience an hour of contemporary hip-hop from
Grammy-nominated superstar Kendrick Lamar. The Compton rapper plays
songs from his acclaimed LP, To Pimp a Butterfly, alongside his
AMERICAN MASTERS “B.B. King: The Life of Riley”
Explore B.B. King’s challenging life and career through
candid interviews with the “King of the Blues,” filmed shortly before
his death, and fellow music stars, including Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos
Santana, Eric Clapton, John Mayer and Ringo Starr.
BLACK AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE
Louis Gates, Jr. looks at the last 50 years of African-American history
— from Stokely Carmichael to Barack Obama, James Brown to Beyoncé —
charting the remarkable progress made and raising hard questions about
the obstacles that remain.
“Out of the Shadows/Move on Up”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
takes a personal journey through the last 50 years of African-American
history, charting the incredible progress made — as well as the
obstacles that remain. Features conversations with Jesse Jackson, Nas
and Donna Brazile.
“Keep Your Head Up/Touch the Sky”
Henry Louis Gates,
Jr. explores America’s changing racial landscape — celebrating how far
we have come toward equality and asking why we still have so far to go.
Features conversations with Eric Holder, Shonda Rhimes and DeRay
THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION
Revisit the turbulent 1960s, when a revolutionary culture
emerged with the Black Panther Party at its vanguard. Stanley Nelson
tells the vibrant story of a pivotal movement that feels timely all over
BRIDGING THE DIVIDE: TOM BRADLEY AND THE POLITICS OF RACE
Learn how Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, the first black
mayor elected in a major U.S. city with a white majority, united a
divided city through a unique multi-racial coalition, ushered in police
reform and transformed American politics.
DEEP CITY: THE BIRTH OF THE MIAMI SOUND
how two musical geniuses created the first black-owned record label in
Florida. Explore the early days of 1960s soul music in Miami, the
pioneers of that era and their lasting contributions to the broader
American musical landscape.
FINDING YOUR ROOTS, Season 3
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he delves into the genealogy
of 27 guests. Each story illuminates the vast patchwork of ethnicity,
race and experience that makes up the fabric of America.
VEL PHILLIPS: DREAM BIG DREAMS
the story of Wisconsin’s Vel Phillips — the nation’s first
African-American, and woman, elected to executive office in state
government — and one of the pioneers of the civil rights era.
Emmy-winner S. Epatha Merkerson narrates.
Classroom Resources Celebrating Black History
LearningMedia − PBS’ online destination for educators and students −
offers a range of curriculum-targeted resources that support lessons on
black history and spotlight the leaders, thinkers, and innovators that
helped shape our nation’s history. Through discussion questions,
worksheets, videos, and digitized primary sources, PBS LearningMedia
helps teachers to promote curiosity in their classrooms and strengthen
students’ personal connection to black history and culture. Featured
resources illuminate the life of figures like Harriet Tubman, Jesse
Owens, and Rosa Parks and delve into key themes relevant to the Civil
Rights Movement. PBS LearningMedia also offers related resources from
recent PBS programs like SOUNDBREAKING,
AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE, MERCY
STREET and will soon offer content from AFRICA’S GREAT CIVILIZATIONS.
For more information on the latest digital resources for classroom
instruction, please visit pbslearningmedia.org.
Free Streaming on the PBS
Black Culture Connection (BCC)
The following is a
sample of the more than 30 programs available for online streaming on
the BCC in February. Some of these encore programs will also feed on-air
on local PBS stations (check local listings).
- Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
- Freedom Riders (American Experience)
Freedom Summer (American Experience)
- Jimi Hendrix — Hear My Train A-Comin’ (American Masters)
- The March @50
- Underground Railroad: The William Still Story
Find more information and high-resolution images from these programs on PBS
About PBS Black Culture Connection (BCC)
The PBS Black Culture Connection, featuring video from films,
award-winning documentaries and popular series like AMERICAN
EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE,
links the diverse national content found on PBS with local programs,
interviews and discussions from PBS member stations and from around the
web. In addition to aggregating more than 100 digital resources about
black history and culture in one place within PBS.org, the PBS Black
Culture Connection features thematic film collections, biographies
and profiles, original productions made just for the web and local
station spotlights. After exploring the site, users are encouraged to
connect with others through online discussion and to challenge
themselves with a suite of quizzes. The PBS Black Culture Connection
is made available through partnerships with member stations, including
WNET and WGBH, and public media partners like the National Black
Programming Consortium. It will also feature the works of producers like
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Stanley Nelson and Tavis Smiley.
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