Welcome to February! In honor of Black History Month, we’ve curated a lineup of shows that focus on black history in America and beyond, including programs that highlight the inspiring lives of a few of our nation’s greatest artists and leaders, as well as documentaries that delve into past and present racial tensions. Here’s a rundown of shows you’ll want to be sure to add to your watchlist this month:
American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
February 21 at 8 p.m.
This unprecedented film celebrates Dr. Maya Angelou by weaving her words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos, which paint hidden moments 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, the film takes us on an incredible journey through the life of a true American icon.
Independent Lens – Birth of a Movement
February 6 at 10 p.m.
In 1915, African American newspaper editor and activist William S. Trotter waged a battle against D.W. Griffith’s notoriously Ku Klux Klan-friendly blockbuster The Birth of a Nation, which unleashed a fight still raging today about race relations and representation, and the power and influence of Hollywood. The Birth of a Movement features Spike Lee, Reginald Hudlin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and DJ
In Their Own Words – Muhammad Ali
February 7 at 7 p.m.
Follow Muhammad Ali’s path from a gym in Louisville to boxing successes, conversion to Islam, opposition to the draft, exile from the ring, comeback fights, Parkinson’s disease and his inspirational re-emergence at the Atlanta Olympics.
Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race
February 9 at 7 p.m.
Thirty-five years before Barack Obama’s election as President, the question of race and the possibility of bridging racial barriers were put to the test in an overlooked story in American politics: Tom Bradley’s 1973 election as Mayor of Los Angeles: The first African American mayor of a major U.S. city elected with an overwhelmingly white majority.
February 9 at 8 p.m.
Korla is the amazing story of John Roland Redd, an African American from Columbia, Missouri who migrated to Hollywood in 1939 and reinvented himself as a musician from India. The newly-named Korla Pandit found fame as an actor, spiritual guide and recording artist, and was later celebrated by a new generation of fans who crowned him the Godfather of Exotica music.
Richard Pryor: Icon
February 9 at 9 p.m.
Richard Pryor’s impact on the craft of comedy and today’s top comics is legendary and unrivaled. See his profound and enduring influence on comedy and culture.
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize – Smokey Robinson
February 10 at 9 p.m.
Watch an all-star tribute to Library of Congress Gershwin Prize recipient Smokey Robinson.
Independent Lens – Accidental Courtesy
February 13 at 10 p.m.
Renowned musician Daryl Davis has an unusual, controversial hobby: meeting and befriending members of KKK, many of whom have never met a black person. When some decide to leave the Klan, Daryl keeps their robes and hoods, a collection built piece by piece, story by story. Accidental Courtesy captures Daryl’s search for answers to the question, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”
The Talk – Race in America
February 20 at 9 p.m.
THE TALK 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.
February 21 at 7 p.m.
BLACK BALLERINA, tells the story of several black women from different generations who fell in love with ballet. Six decades ago, while pursuing their dreams, Joan Myers Brown, Delores Browne and Raven Wilkinson confronted racism, exclusion and unequal opportunity. Today, young dancers of color continue to face formidable challenges breaking into the overwhelmingly white world of ballet.
Africa’s Great Civilizations with Henry Louis Gates
February 27 through March 1 at 9 p.m.
In his six-hour series, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. takes a look at the history of Africa, from the birth of humankind to the dawn of the 20th century. This is a breathtaking and personal journey through two hundred thousand years of history, from the origins, on the African continent, of art, writing and civilization itself, through the millennia in which Africa and Africans shaped not only their own rich civilizations, but also the wider world.
Keep an eye on our schedule for even more broadcast times and programs to watch as we celebrate Black History Month.