PBS SoCal and KCET celebrate February 2020 as Black History Month with new programs that honor the legacy of African Americans. From the story of the “Architect to the Stars” Paul R. Williams to an exploration of the life of author and activist Maya Angelou, this lineup of documentaries and performances highlight the spectrum of the black experience in the United States.
See the full line-up below.
Independent Lens: Cooked: Survival by Zip Code
Monday, February 3, 10:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
Learn the story of a heat wave that overtook Chicago in July 1995, killing 739 residents, most of them poor, elderly and African American. The heat wave revealed a long-term crisis of poverty, racism, and economic and social isolation in the city. Watch Now.
Maya Angelou: American Masters
Wednesday, February 5, 9:00 p.m. on KCET
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. Watch Now with PBS Passport.
Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story
Thursday, February 6, 8:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
Sunday, February 23, 4:00 p.m. on KCET
Nicknamed “Architect to the Stars,” African American architect Paul R. Williams had a life story that could have been dreamed up by a Hollywood screenwriter. From the early 1920s until his retirement 50 years later, Williams was one of the most successful architects in the country. His list of residential clients included Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. And his name is associated with architectural icons like the Beverly Hills Hotel, the original MCA Headquarters Building and LAX Airport. But at the height of his career Paul Williams wasn’t always welcome in the restaurants and hotels he designed or the neighborhoods where he built homes, because of his race. “Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story” will explain how he used talent, determination and even charm to defy the odds and create a body of work that can be found from coast to coast. Narrated by Emmy award winning actor Courtney B. Vance. Watch Now.
Charley Pride: American Masters
Friday, February 7, 11:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
Explore the complicated history of the American South and its music through the life of country star Charley Pride. Raised in segregated Mississippi, his journey shows the ways that artistic expression can triumph over prejudice and injustice. Watch Now with PBS Passport.
Finding Your Roots: Slave Trade
Tuesday, February 11, 8:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
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. Watch Season Preview. Watch Now.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: American Masters
Wednesday, February 12, 9:00 p.m. on KCET
Explore the entertainer’s vast talent and journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th-century America. Features Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and clips from his TV, film and concert performances. Watch Now with PBS Passport.
Rising from the Rails: The Story of the Pullman Porter
Wednesday, February 19, 9:00 p.m. on KCET
“Rising from the Rails: The Story of the Pullman Porter” explores the little-known history of the African American men hired to work on railroad sleeping cars beginning in the late 1860s. Serving wealthy, white passengers in the golden age of rail travel, the Pullman Porters carried labor organizing skills, civil rights ideals, and elements of black culture – such as jazz and blues – across the country. As trailblazers in the struggle for African American self-sufficiency, the Pullman Porters inspired future generations of independent black leaders, including their own future descendants. Watch Preview.
An Evening with Debra Lee
Wednesday, February 19, 10:00 p.m. on KCET
“An Evening With Debra Lee” explores the interesting life and career of one the nation’s top women in media and entertainment and features tribute performances from Eric Benet and Chaka Khan. Watch Preview.
An Opry Salute to Ray Charles
Friday, February 21, 11:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
“An Opry Salute to Ray Charles” celebrates 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’s songs by Boyz II Men, Brett Eldredge, Leela James, Ronnie Milsap, Lukas Nelson, LeAnn Rimes, Allen Stone, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, and Chris Young. Watch Now.
Independent Lens: Always in Season
Monday, February 24, 10:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
“Always in Season” follows the tragedy of African American teenager Lennon Lacy, who in August 2014, was found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina. His death was ruled a suicide, but Lennon’s mother and family believe he was lynched. The film chronicles her quest to learn the truth and takes a closer look at the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans. Watch Preview.
Miles Davis: American Masters
Tuesday, February 25, 9:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
Discover the man behind the legend. 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. Watch Preview.
Richard Pryor: Icon
Tuesday, February 25, 11:00 p.m. on PBS SoCal
Richard Pryor was one of the first black men ever on television, he pioneered a new brand of humor and he was a hit. This show defines his lasting impact on comedy and culture, often in his own words, showing us why he is an icon. Watch Preview.