Public Media Amplifies African American Voices During Black History Month
February 1, 2022
For Black History Month, public media is showcasing African American experiences, from trailblazers like classical singer Marian Anderson and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer to the still-unsolved 1967 killing of Wharlest Jackson, a NAACP leader in Natchez, Mississippi.
From national premieres of documentary films to interviews with local Black musicians on public radio, a wide range of programs will broadcast on air and stream online and on demand in February (check local listings).
On PBS and WORLD Channel
Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands, featuring rare interview recordings of the contralto, premieres at 9 p.m. February 8 on the PBS series American Masters and streaming on PBS.org and the PBS app. According to director Rita Coburn, this documentary features audio of Anderson discussing her personal experiences, allowing the viewer to explore history from her point of view.
The American Diplomat, which tells the stories of African American U.S. Ambassadors Edward R. Dudley, Terence Todman and Carl Rowan, premieres on PBS’ American Experience at 9 p.m. on February 15. Directed by Leola Calzolai-Stewart, the film explores how the three men were asked to represent the best of American ideals abroad while facing discrimination at home, at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States.
Immediately following “The American Diplomat” is American Reckoning, a FRONTLINE collaboration with Retro Report, at 10 p.m. on February 15. This documentary looks at the civil rights era - the violence and resistance - through rare footage filmed more than 50 years ago in Natchez, Mississippi, and the still-unresolved killing of local NAACP leader Wharlest Jackson.
Jackson’s killing is included in Un(re)solved, a multiplatform investigation that tells the stories of African American lives cut short, and examines a federal effort to grapple with America’s legacy of racist killings through the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. A collaboration among FRONTLINE, Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, StoryCorps and Ado Ato Pictures, Un(re)solved includes a web interactive, a podcast hosted by James Edwards and distributed by PRX, and installation exhibitions, currently on display at the Museum of African American History in Boston and at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.
Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, which tells the story of the Mississippi-born sharecropper who became a voting rights and women’s right activist in the 1960s, premieres at 9 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel, a multicast public television channel available on three-quarters of TV households. The America ReFramed special, from WORLD Channel, American Documentary and Black Public Media, is produced in part by Fannie Lou Hamer’s great-niece, Monica Land. The program is the centerpiece of WORLD Channel’s Black History Month broadcast and on-demand programming, including “Growing Up Black,” a two-part “Stories From the Stage” special airing February 21 and 28.
PBS also offers encore broadcasts of “Muhammad Ali,” “John Lewis: Get in the Way and “Miles David: Birth of the Cool” (check local listings).
On Public Radio
NPR opened its Black History Month series with the story behind Black History Month and why it’s celebrated in February and will feature coverage across its daily news magazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, along with their weekend versions. In addition, special programming will be featured on programs such as From The Top and It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders. NPR Music will showcase legacy artists in R&B, jazz, hip hop and gospel in a Tiny Desk series throughout the month.
WBGO’s Jazz Night in America, airing nationwide, offers episodes that narratively touch on social justice and empowerment, and musically showcase a wide spectrum of music. Episodes feature host Christian McBride performing his suite “The Movement Revisited” (February 3); Samora Pinderhughes performing “Transformations Suite” (February 10); Jazzmeia Horn, winner of the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition (February 17); and Damien Sneed, performing at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center (February 24).
WXPN’s World Café, airing nationwide, features the digital premiere of the video documentary “Divine Intervention: The D-Vine Spirituals Story,” on February 1; plus a new interview with Questlove (February 4); new interviews and performance sessions with Big Freedia with Tank & the Bangas (February 10), Christone “Kingfish” Ingram (mini-concert, February 14), Chris Pearce (February 17) and Black Opry Review (February 28). The radio program will highlight new artists each day and deeper dives into “The Black Roots of Rock & Roll” with John Morrison every Tuesday.
In Philadelphia, WXPN will feature “Black Inspirations,” highlighting contemporary Black musicians and the albums that have inspired them, each weekday on The Weekday Show at 10:30 a.m. On the XPN Local Show, Rahman Wortman hosts a series, “Give Them Their Flowers” with Four Black local musicians talking about the music that inspired them and how Philly's Black music history has inspired them.
Jazz station WCLK in Atlanta will air an hourlong special recognizing the 50th Anniversary of “Truth Is On Its Way,” the groundbreaking album by poet Nikki Giovanni and New York Community Choir, at 7 p.m. February 26. The special edition of “S.O.U.L. of Jazz,” featuring an interview with Giovanni, is hosted by WCLK afternoon drive host Jamal Ahmad.
Throughout the month, WCLK will air WCLK Black History Moments, recognizing prominent African Americans, a series of vignettes highlighting prominent African Americans, prominent Clark University Atlanta alumni and Black jazz pioneers.
KTSU’s The Choice 90.9 and the CPB-supported Urban Alternative station The Vibe will highlight Houston African American history makers including Barbara Jordan, George Foreman and Beyonce, every day through on-air and online vignettes and social media posts. Free community events highlighting different music genres and including Black vendors, visual artists, and health education vendors, will be held every Saturday afternoon at Avenida de las Americas.
PBS’s online Black Culture Connection has curated articles and a playlist of streaming programming on PBS.org, including programs such as “The Murder of Emmett Till” and “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song.” PBS Digital Studios has updated its Celebrating Black History YouTube playlist of Black history, culture, arts and politics from a range of PBS channels, including PBS Voices, a PBS Digital Studios channel dedicated to documenting our shared human journey and helping us better understand each other.
StoryCorps conversations, heard on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” offers an online Black History Month story collection, which includes animations, audio clips and behind-the-scenes information connecting to broadcasts and podcast episodes.
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting offers online exhibits Televising Black Politics in the Black Power Era: Black Journal and Soul! and Freedom Song: Interviews from Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965, as well as special collections including episodes of WGBH’s Say Brother (1968-1997) and KUT’s In Black America, plus raw interviews from acclaimed PBS documentaries The Murder of Emmett Till, Freedom Riders, Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory, The Abolitionists, and Reconstruction (a 2004 American Experience documentary).
Top photo: Marian Anderson sings before an integrated audience of 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Photo courtesy of World History Archive/Alamy Stock Photo
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