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PBS Releases Black History Month Programming Lineup & Online Content Offerings

PBS Releases Black History Month Programming Lineup & Online Content Offerings

It’s that time of the year again…

Here’s PBS’ Black History Month lineup of programming lineup and online content offerings.

– Beginning in February, “Antiques Roadshow” premieres “Celebrating Black Americana,” where, among other items, participants bring, for appraisal, an 1821 citizenship certificate for a free man of color and an African American beauty book written by entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker, the first American female millionaire. On “Genealogy Roadshow,” where professional genealogists use history and science to uncover fascinating family secrets, participants in New Orleans explore family links to the Civil War and connections to the famous New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.  

– INDEPENDENT LENS will air 2 new documentaries: “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” tells the story of pioneering African American photographers who have recorded the lives and aspirations of generations of people, from slavery to present; and “American Denial,” which uses the story of Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 investigation of Jim Crow racism as a springboard to explore the power of unconscious biases and how the ideals of liberty, equality and justice still affect notions of race and class today. 

– AMERICAN MASTERS premieres “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand,” which examines the legacy of August Wilson, whom some call America’s Shakespeare, in honor of the 70th anniversary of his birth and 10th anniversary of his death. Directed by Sam Pollard, film and theater luminaries such as James Earl Jones, Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne, Charles Dutton and others share their stories of the career and life experience of bringing Wilson’s rich theatrical voice to the stage.

– Also airing in February is “Shakespeare Uncovered,” with programs that combine history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis and the personal passion of its celebrated hosts, including Morgan Freeman and David Harewood, to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.

“PBS strives to create a Black History Month lineup that provides our audience with insight on a wide range of topics and events that helped shaped our nation,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager of General Audience Programming for PBS. “We’re always looking for ways to delve deep into the stories of notable people and historical topics as only PBS can, telling stories of a diverse America not only during Black History Month, but all year round.”

In addition to on-air programs, the PBS Black Culture Connection (BCC), an extension of PBS.org, featuring black films, stories and discussion across PBS, will debut several new “Top 10” lists, with recommendations for must-see documentaries and must-read authors, as well as little-known black history facts. 

The full Black History Month programming lineup is listed below (check local listings) and will also be available for online streaming on the BCC after premiere:

GENEALOGY ROADSHOW, Season 2 
“New Orleans – Board of Trade” 
Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET
A team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family stories at the New Orleans Board of Trade. A local man seeks to recover essential history washed away in Hurricane Katrina; a woman discovers she has links to both sides of the Civil War; another unravels the mystery behind her grandfather’s adoption; and one man explores a link to the famous New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.

“St. Louis – Union Station” 
Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET
At St. Louis’ historic Union Station, a team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family stories from across Missouri. A musician hopes to find connections to a famous St. Louis jazz composer; two sisters explore links to a survivor of the legendary Donner Party; an Italian-American woman finds out if she is related to Italian royalty; and a schoolteacher who has all the answers for her students has very few about her own past.

“Philadelphia – Historical Society of Pennsylvania” 
Tuesday, February 17, 2015 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET
A team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family histories at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. One woman’s ancestor may have sparked historic labor laws; a pastor may have an outlaw in her family tree; a woman learns about slave genealogy and, with the help of DNA testing, gets the answer she has waited for; and another woman learns her ancestor may have helped others escape the Holocaust.

SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED 
“The Taming of the Shrew With Morgan Freeman” 
Friday, February 6, 2015, 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. ET 
In 1990, Morgan Freeman famously starred in a Wild West version of The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park in New York.  Here he sets out to understand how and why the play, one of the Bard’s first works, was written. Interviewees include Tracey Ullman, Sinead Cusack and Julia Stiles.

“Othello With David Harewood” 
Friday, February 6, 10:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET
In 1997, David Harewood was the first black actor to play Othello on stage at the National Theatre in London. In this episode, he unravels the complex issues of prejudice and jealousy that are threaded throughout the play, and returns to the National to meet Adrian Lester, the most recent actor to take on the role at the theatre. Interviewees include Simon Russell Beale, Ian McKellen, Julia Stiles and Patrick Stewart.

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW “Celebrating Black Americana” 
Monday, February 9, 2015, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW honors Black History Month with this new special that features items seen together for the first time.  Highlights include an 1821 U.S. citizenship certificate for George Barker, a free man of color; an African-American beauty book written by Madame C.J. Walker, the first American female millionaire; and a trip with host Mark L. Walberg and appraiser Leila Dunbar to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. 

INDEPENDENT LENS 
“Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” 
Monday, February 16, 2015, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET 
This is the story of the pioneering African-American photographers — men and women, celebrated and anonymous — who have recorded the lives and aspirations of generations, from slavery to the present. By Thomas Allen Harris.

“American Denial” 
Monday, February 23, 2015, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET 
“American Denial” uses the story of Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 investigation of Jim Crow racism as a springboard to explore the power of unconscious biases and how the ideals of liberty, equality and justice still affect notions of race and class today. By Llewellyn Smith.

AMERICAN MASTERS “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand” 
Friday, February 20, 2015, 9-10:30 p.m. ET 
Explore the life and legacy of playwright August Wilson (April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005), the man some call America’s Shakespeare, from his roots as an activist and poet to his indelible mark on Broadway. Film and theater luminaries including Viola Davis, Charles Dutton, Laurence Fishburne, James Earl Jones, Suzan-Lori Parks and Phylicia Rashad share their stories of the career- and life-changing experience of bringing Wilson’s rich theatrical voice to the stage. Unprecedented access to Wilson’s theatrical archives, rarely seen interviews and new dramatic readings bring to life his seminal 10-play cycle chronicling each decade of the 20th-century African-American experience, including the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Fences and Pulitzer-winningThe Piano Lesson. Family, friends, colleagues and scholars trace Wilson’s influences, creative evolution, triumphs, struggles, and quest for cultural determinism before his untimely death from liver cancer. Directed by Emmy-winner Sam Pollard (If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise; When the Levees Broke; Slavery by Another Name).

Classroom Resources on PBS LearningMedia 
PBS LearningMedia – PBS’ 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 inquiry in their classrooms and strengthen students’ personal connection to black history and culture. For more information on the latest digital resources for classroom instruction, please visit pbslearningmedia.org.

Free Streaming on the 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 nationwide (check local listings).

  • The African Americans:  Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights (Independent Lens)
  • Spies of Mississippi (Independent Lens)
  • The Trials of Muhammad Ali (Independent Lens)
  • American Promise (POV)
  • Underground Railroad: The William Still Story
  • The March 
  • Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson 
  • Daisy Bates, Black Power Mixtape, Soul Food Junkies (Independent Lens)
  • Memories of the March
  • Bill T. Jones: A Good Man (American Masters)
  • Cab Calloway: Sketches (American Masters)
  • Dreams of Obama (Frontline)
  • Endgame: AIDS in Black America (Frontline)
  • Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Freedom Riders (American Experience) 
  • Interrupters (Frontline)
  • Jimi Hendrix—Hear My Train A-Comin’ (American Masters)
  • Jesse Owens (American Experience)
  • “Roots” Special (Pioneers of TV “Miniseries”)
  • Not in Our Town: Class Actions 
  • Slavery by Another Name
  • Too Important to Fail (Tavis Smiley)
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll (American Masters)
  • Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth (American Masters)
  • POV – Black Male Achievement documentary special series: Teaching Fatherhood, The Jazz Ticket, The Algebra Ceiling 

Other PBS series that routinely offer programming to commemorate Black History Month include FRONTLINEGREAT PERFORMANCESPOVPBS NEWSHOUR,TAVIS SMILEY and WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL.

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