A bevy programs for Black History Month 2020 on PBS

PBS has lined up a huge variety of shows about the black experience. Perspectives include the historical, contemporary, celebratory and contemplative.

Here’s a roundup:

Monday, Feb. 3

8 p.m. on World

Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange returns with a compelling slate of documentaries and shorts on life, art and culture in the African diaspora. Season 12 features stories on Nigerian musician Fela Kuti; an African immigrant woman living in Istanbul; an illegal 19th century slave-trade in the Brazilian rainforest; and a secret organization of black women founded on the Underground Railroad. Feb. 3: Daddy and the Warlord. Feb. 10: Gilda Brasileiro: Against Oblivion. Feb. 17: Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela/Spit on the Broom

9 p.m. on World

Local USA: ’63 Boycott

On October 22, 1963, more than 250,000 students boycotted the Chicago Public Schools to protest racial segregation. Many marched through the city calling for the resignation of School Superintendent Benjamin Willis, who placed trailers, dubbed “Willis Wagons,” on playgrounds and parking lots of overcrowded black schools rather than let them enroll in nearby white schools. Combining unseen archival 16mm footage of the march with the participants’ reflections today, ’63 BOYCOTT connects the forgotten story of one of the largest northern civil rights demonstrations to contemporary issues around race, education, school closings, and youth activism.

Wednesday, Feb. 5

9 p.m. on Encore

American Masters: Sammy Davis Jr.

He was “Mr. Entertainment,” a show-business meteor who blazed across the 20th century. Sammy Davis, Jr. had the kind of career that was indisputably legendary, so vast and multi-faceted that it was dizzying in its scope and scale. Yet, his life was complex, complicated, and contradictory. This documentary explores Davis’ journey to create his own identity – as a black man who embraced Judaism –  through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress. A veteran of increasingly outdated show business traditions, Davis strove to stay relevant, even as he found himself bracketed by the bigotry of white America and the distaste of black America. Featuring interviews with such luminaries as Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kim Novak, with never-before-seen photographs from Davis’ vast personal collection and footage of his electric performances, this film explores the life and art of a uniquely gifted entertainer whose trajectory highlighted the major flashpoints of American society from the Depression through the 1980s.

Friday, Feb. 7

8 p.m. on World

Boss: The Black Experience in Business

Learn about the untold story of African American entrepreneurship, where skill, industriousness, ingenuity and sheer courage in the face of overwhelming odds provide the backbone of this nation’s economic and social growth.

Sunday, Feb. 9

11 p.m. on World

1964: The Fight for a Right

By the mid 20th century, Mississippi’s African Americans had suffered from nearly 75 years of slavery by another name – Jim Crow discrimination. In 1964 in Mississippi, people died in an effort to force the state to allow African Americans to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Although, the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer has passed, the struggle for voting rights is still pertinent. According to the NAACP, states have recently passed the most laws limiting voter participation since Jim Crow. Moreover, these laws also disenfranchise other people of color, the elderly, poor, and disabled. With the 2015 anniversary of the Voting Rights Act as well as the upcoming presidential primaries and general election, voting rights will remain at the forefront of a national debate. With historical footage and interview with Freedom Summer architects and volunteers, as well as present day activists, this film uses Mississippi to explain American voting issues in the past 150 years. For instance, why are red states red?

11 p.m. on Encore

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert with the Cleveland Orchestra

Hosted by actor James Pickens Jr., this concert honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Conducted by music director Franz Welser-Most, the Cleveland Orchestra performs classical selections by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Verdi as well as traditional hymns and spirituals, including “Down by the Riverside,” “Precious Lord,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Monday, Feb. 10

9 p.m. on World

Justice in Chester

During the 1990s, residents in Chester, Pennsylvania, a predominantly poor, African-American community, organized a movement to stop the ongoing permitting of waste treatment facilities in their city. This film chronicles the decades-long history of increasing pollution and grievances, and the grassroots struggle to halt the city’s clustering of commercial and hazardous waste facilities. Concerned citizen Zulene Mayfield and Chester Residents Concerned With Quality Living (CRCQL) filed a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court and became the first major environmental case to argue on the grounds of a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a result of Mayfield and CRCQL’s activism, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection modified the permitting process and created a statewide environmental justice workgroup

Tuesday, Feb. 11

8 p.m. on HD

Finding Your Roots: Slave Trade

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. journeys with film director Ava DuVernay, actor S. Epatha Merkerson and musician Questlove to the unexpected places where their ancestors were scattered by slavery, upending their notions of African American history.

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise

8 p.m. on Encore

In his four-hour series, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. embarks on a deeply personal journey through the past 50 years of African American history. Joined by leading scholars, celebrities, and a dynamic cast of people who shaped these years, Gates travels from the victories of the civil rights movement up to today, asking profound questions. Episodes: Out of the Shadows at 8 p.m.; Move on Up at 9 p.m.; Keep Your Head Up at 10 p.m., and Touch the Sky, 11 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 12

9 p.m. on Encore

American Masters: Maya Angelou

Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014) led a prolific life. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. Best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Random House), she gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before.

11 p.m. on Encore

American Masters: Lorraine Hansberry

This is the first in-depth presentation of Hansberry’s complex life, using her personal papers and archives, including home movies and rare photos, as source material. Filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain explores the life and work of this passionate writer and civil rights advocate, who played a significant role in the major cultural and political movements of her time. Narrated by acclaimed actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson and featuring the voice of Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose as Lorraine Hansberry, this film features new interviews with family, friends and colleagues, including Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte and Louis Gossett Jr., creating a nuanced portrait of an activist and artist whose words and ideas are as relevant today as they were when she first wrote them.

Friday, Feb. 14

8 p.m. on World

In Their Own Words: Muhammad Ali

Follow Muhammad Ali’s rise from Louisville, Kentucky, to international fame, as key events unfolded in Ali’s life, including his stunning conversion to Islam and his change of name, his dramatic stand against the Vietnam-era draft, his three-year exile from the ring, his legendary comeback fights, his courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease, and his inspirational reemergence on the world stage at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

9 p.m. on World

Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP

Civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall’s triumph in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision to desegregate America’s public schools completed the final leg of a journey of over 20 years laying the groundwork to end legal segregation. He won more Supreme Court cases than any lawyer in American history, making the work of civil rights pioneers like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks possible.

Saturday, Feb. 15

10:30 p.m. on World

America Reframed: Late Blossom Blues

Late Leo “Bud” Welch’s recording and touring career begins at the age of 81. Born in Mississippi, Welch worked the cotton fields and lumber mills from dawn until dusk. When he picked up a guitar for the first time at the age of 12, his blues were born out of those cotton fields. While his lifelong dream was to be a musician, he turned down the chance to work with the legendary B.B. King, choosing to stay close to his family, his church and the town he loves. With the support of his dedicated manager, Gulf War veteran Vencie Varnado,Welch’s blues career rises. Determined to celebrate and highlight his talent, Vencie books Leo at festivals and clubs across the South and takes him on his first-ever flight – all the way from Mississippi to admiring fans in Austria.


Sunday, Feb. 16

10 p.m. on World

The Talk: Race in America

This is a two-hour documentary about the increasingly necessary conversation taking place in homes and communities across the country between parents of color and their children, especially sons, about how to behave if they are ever stopped by the police.

11 p.m. on HD

The Groveland Four

On the morning of July 16, 1949, a young Lake County farm wife accused four young black men of rape. The case of “The Groveland Four” played out over several years, and led to a race riot, torture, multiple murders, two trials, a Supreme Court reversal and the assassination of a Florida civil rights leader. Though widely reported at the time by the national and international press, the case has been largely forgotten, even though it helped lay a foundation for the end of Jim Crow segregation and the start of the civil rights movement.

Tuesday, Feb. 18

8 p.m. on World

America Reframed: Struggle & Hope

Following the Civil War, all-black towns emerged in what is now modern-day Oklahoma. By 1905, black families seeking to make a new start, enjoy fellowship and get a reprieve from widespread racism, acquired 1½ million acres of land in the state. Initially founded in an effort to convince the United States to create an all-black state, most of these towns have since been swallowed up by nearby counties and cities. A few cling heroically to life. Residents now fight to ensure that their towns retain independence and character. Local community members and historians give contemporary commentary as the story unfolds. A local authentic soundtrack links the past to the present as they search for a way forward.

Wednesday, Feb. 19

9 p.m. on Encore

Opry Salute to Ray Charles

Celebrate the music of an iconic singer, band-leader and pianist, the blind “genius of Soul.” Taped at Nashville, Tennessee’s country music stage The Grand Ole Opry and hosted by Darius Rucker, the program features performances of Ray Charles’ songs by Boyz II Men, Brett Eldredge, Leela James, Ronnie Milsap, Lukas Nelson, LeAnn Rimes, Allen Stone, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, and Chris Young.

10:30 p.m. on Encore

American Masters: Fats Domino

The one-hour documentary traces how Fats Domino’s brand of New Orleans rhythm and blues morphed into rock and roll, appealing to black and white audiences alike. Actor Clarke Peters narrates. Fats Domino was one of the most popular rockers of the 1950s and early ’60s. His achievements and record sales during that time were rivaled only by Elvis Presley. With his boogie-woogie piano playing rooted in blues, rhythm & blues, and jazz, he became one of the inventors, along with Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard of a revolutionary genre of music, rock ’n’ roll. Fats Domino was born Antoine Domino, Jr. on February 26, 1928. He was the last of eight Domino children and the only one of his siblings born in New Orleans. His journey from a poor childhood in the Lower Ninth Ward to a key figure in rock ’n’ roll is told using vintage performances of Domino and his band interwoven with reminiscences of fellow architects of rock ’n’ roll.

11:30 p.m. on Encore

American Masters: Charley Pride

Trace the improbable journey of Charley Pride, from his humble beginnings as a sharecropper’s son on a cotton farm in segregated Sledge, Mississippi, to his career as a Negro American League baseball player and his meteoric rise as a trailblazing country music superstar. The documentary reveals how Pride’s love for music led him from the Delta to a larger, grander world. In the 1940s, radio transcended racial barriers, making it possible for Pride to grow up listening to and imitating Grand Ole Opry stars like Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff. The singer arrived in Nashville in 1963 while the city roiled with sit-ins and racial violence. But with boldness, perseverance and undeniable musical talent, he managed to parlay a series of fortuitous encounters with music industry insiders into a legacy of hit singles, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Narrated by Grammy-nominated country singer Tanya Tucker, the film features original interviews with country music royalty, including Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker and Marty Stuart.

Sunday, Feb. 23

10:30 p.m. on Encore

Smokey Robinson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song

Join 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.

Monday, Feb. 24

8 p.m. on World

Independent Lens: The Black Panthers, Vanguard of the Revolution

In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored — cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. This is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

9 p.m. on HD

American Masters: Miles Davis

This is award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s deep dive into the world of a beloved musical giant, which earned a Grammy nomination in the “Best Music Film” category. A visionary known for his restless aesthetic, Davis is widely regarded as one of the most innovative, influential and respected figures in music. With full access to the Miles Davis Estate, the film features never-before-seen footage, including studio outtakes from his recording sessions, rare photos and new interviews. Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Wayne Shorter, Davis’ son Erin Davis and nephew Vince Wilburn, bassist and Davis collaborator Marcus Miller, and Ron Carter are just a few of the luminaries weighing in on the life and career of the cultural icon.

Wednesday, Feb. 26

11 p.m. on Encore

Great Performances: Nas Live from the Kennedy Center: Classic Hip-Hop

Critically acclaimed hip-hop artist Nas reflects on partnering with the Kennedy Center to perform a symphonic rendition of his album Illmatic alongside the National Symphony Orchestra. National Symphony Orchestra Conductor Steven Reineke discusses branching out into hip-hop and rap for the first time as a classical orchestra conductor.

Author: Dayna Harpster