Black History Month 2009 Is HERE

Posted by: kjpaloucek

Unless you’re living under a rock, you should be aware that Black History Month has a bit more to celebrate this year than in previous years. Thankfully, that means that there’s a bit more to look forward to in terms of meaningful Black History Month-themed programming on TV … because, frankly, we know — things had been getting a little wanting during February. (An explicit reminder to network programmers: Slotting repeated showings of Pootie Tang is not only NOT acceptable Black History Month programming, it diminishes the dignity of the occasion.) Here’s an overview of some the highlights this month will bring from here on out:

Black Stories
BET J, Feb. 3

BET J’s documentary series showcasing the African-American experience as told by African-American filmmakers presents a marathon of storytelling during prime time tonight.

The Color of Friendship
Disney Channel, Feb. 3

This Humanitas Prize- and Emmy-winning original film tells the story of African-American Congressman Ron Dellums and his family, who invited an African exchange student to come and live with them. They’re surprised when a white South African girl arrives, but the girl is even more taken aback, as she has been raised as a product of South African apartheid, and views her hosts as her inferiors. It’s a tense circumstance, but one that presents an opportunity for everyone to learn valuable lessons about tolerance and racism.

IFC Spotlight: African-American Directors
IFC, Feb. 5

It takes more than one night to celebrate Black History Month, but if you’re gonna celebrate African-American culture, doing it the IFC way isn’t a bad way to go. All evening long, the network will air some of the best and brightest works by African-American filmmakers in recent decades, including Joe Angio’s study of filmmaker Mario Van Peebles, How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company and Enjoy It, Denzel Washington’s unforgettable Antwone Fisher, Spike Lee’s satirical look at the television industry, Bamboozled, and Charles Burnett’s tale of police corruption and racial tension, The Glass Shield.

Black Filmmaker Showcase:
Blacks Without Borders: Chasing the American Dream in South Africa

Showtime, Feb. 7

Part of Showtime’s annual Black Filmmaker Showcase highlighting short-subject films by African-American directors, this film, helmed by Stafford Bailey, illuminates the experiences of African-American entrepreneurs seeking to foster innovation and free enterprise in South Africa.

The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
Starz InBlack, Feb. 7

Robinson himself stars in the unique story of the first African-American baseball player to make it to the major leagues, detailing the adversity he faced and the grace with which he handled it. If the film itself seems dated, never mind — Robinson and his place in history are timeless.

Nick News With Linda Ellerbee: We Shall Not Be Moved
Nickelodeon, Feb. 8

Linda Ellerbee once again provides the forum that shows that kids can speak with intelligence and wisdom about the tough problems that society faces. In this edition, she meets with a diverse group to discuss the state of racism in our world. In the wake of the Obama election, it might be tempting for the young and idealistic to feel that race-based hatred and prejudice are a thing of the past. These kids show they’re no fools, and do so by taking action, whether it’s through programs encouraging interracial childhood friendships to sustain the difficult periods of middle school and high school when cultural differences can find them most vulnerable, poetry slams to combat hatred or front-line challenging politicians for equality in education.

In addition, every other Sunday in February, Nickelodeon will run a different Nick News With Linda Ellerbee focusing on volatile topics in African-American history, including Nick News With Linda Ellerbee’s Do We Need a Black History Month? (Feb. 1), Martin Luther King (Feb. 15) and The Legacy of Slavery (Feb. 22.) Several of these episodes also will air on Wednesday and Friday mornings throughout the month, as part of Nickelodeon’s Cable in the Classroom initiative.

Nickelodeon will also feature a series of DREAMS, short clips that will appear between programs that will pull excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech through President Obama’s 2009 Inaugural Address. Look for them throughout February and through the rest of the year.

The Josephine Baker Story
BET, Feb. 8

Few could claim to have had as colorful a life as African-American expatriate and chanteuse Josephine Baker. A onetime exotic dancer turned famed singer, Baker earned the Croix de Guerre for her work with the Resistance during WWII and actively participated in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, becoming a symbol of not just tolerance but love, adopting 12 children of different races. But this just scratches the surface. Lynn Whitfield and Louis Gossett Jr. are among the stars who tell her story in this 1991 biopic.

The BET Honors
BET, Feb. 9

In the midst of Black History Month, BET takes time to recognize the movers and shakers in the entertainment industry who are the face of African-American entertainment today. Among others, honorees this year include singer Mary J. Blige, playwright and filmmaker Tyler Perry, dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison, and basketball legend and philanthropist Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Uneven Fairways
GOLF Channel, Feb. 11

Yeah, we were surprised to see it, too — Black History Programming on GOLF Channel. But we’re thrilled all the same. Based on the books Uneven Lies and Forbidden Fairways, this documentary illustrates the rich, untold history of African-American golfers, from the pioneers who have been underacknowledged for decades to the strivers who broke down the barriers of accepted convention.

For Us, the Living: The Medgar Evers Story
Starz InBlack, Feb. 11

This stark look at the life of the slain Civil Rights activist makes a perfect prelude to Rob Reiner’s Ghosts of Mississippi airing later in the month. (See below.)

40th NAACP Image Awards
FOX, Feb. 12

Past Image Award winners Tyler Perry and Halle Berry (Did they do that on purpose?) will host this event, during which top honors will be bestowed upon Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Former Vice President Al Gore and Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai, who will receive the NAACP Chairman’s Award for distinguished public service.

A Raisin in the Sun
BET, Feb. 15

You really might want to make time for this. Adapted from the 2004 Tony-winning production of Lorraine Hansbury’s landmark play, this film features a compelling and dynamic contemporary ensemble including Sean “Diddy” Combs and Phylicia Rashad. (Is there ANYthing that that Diddy guy can’t do?)

Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings
PBS, Feb. 16
Arguably modern television’s preeminent historian, Simon Schama takes a look at the largely unknown story of thousands of African-American slaves who, at the end of the American Revolution, were promised freedom by British abolitionists in exchange for their assistance in fighting the Colonials. Through journals, other autobiographical accounts and careful dramatizations, Schama retraces the epic journey these people endured as they were shipped from Georgia to Nova Scotia and finally to Sierra Leone, where the dream came to a shattering end.

The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306
HBO2, Feb. 18

This documentary short presents a recounting of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last days, hours and minutes, told from the perspective of the Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who stood next to King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., when an assassin’s bullet claimed the Civil Right’s leader’s life. Through interviews and archival footage, the film explores the circumstances of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that brought King to town, and Rev. Kyles examines his feelings of why he was present at such a pivotal moment in history.

Soul of the Game
BET, Feb. 22

If you want to know the backstory behind The Jackie Robinson Story, this film will offer you a clear picture of the field and life to which players like Robinson and contemporaries like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson would have had access. Blair Underwood and Delroy Lindo star in this film that sheds light on events slighted in Robinson’s earlier film biography.

Malcolm X
BET, Feb. 22

He had a different vision of the path to true equality than Dr. King’s, and as such he became a symbol of the fight and desperation of the movement he took pains to lead and for which he was martyred. Spike Lee’s historic tribute to the slain leader features a gripping portrayal of the man by Denzel Washington.

NEWBOs: The Rise of America’s New Black Overclass
CNBC, Feb. 26

This special, hosted by Wall Street Journal reporter and CNBC correspondent Lee Hawkins, is based on Hawkins’ forthcoming book. Both examine the sociological impact of the growing wave of young, African-American multimillionaires — athletes, entertainers and creative entrepreneurs — and their emerging place in society. NEWBOs examines the experiences of these young men and women who frequently rise from relative poverty to immense wealth over an astoundingly short period of time, and how their fast-track paths to success have exerted a disproportionately heavy influence on millions of lives.

The Black List: Vol 2
HBO, Feb. 26

A collaboration between director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and noted journalist Elvis Mitchell, this film interviews a number of African-American artists, academics, athletes, authors and others to gain insight into the African-American experience. Exploring its subjects’ ambitions, inspirations and memories, The Black List: Vol. 2 offers a cross-section of the zeitgeist of black America. Personalities profiled include activist/academic Angela Davis, producer Suzanne de Passe, actor Laurence Fishburne, Anglican Bishop Barbara Harris, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, pastor T.D. Jakes, filmmakers Tyler Perry and Melvin Van Peebles, and a host of others.

Ghosts of Mississippi
Starz InBlack, Feb. 26

As I said above, this film, Rob Reiner’s telling of the decades-long struggle to bring to justice the man responsible for the 1963 slaying of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers, ideally should be seen with For Us, the Living as its prologue.

The Wiz
Starz InBlack, Feb. 28

The 1978 African-American musical takes the classic L. Frank Baum “Oz” story and makes it its own. It may have its flaws as a film, but the musical numbers are unforgettable, and over the years, The Wiz has become a staple of African-American film culture.

ALSO: In between Black History-related programming, you might want to check out a couple of websites devoting relevant focus to the occasion. At sister sites and you’ll find an array of video clips, some of the pop-culture variety, some of a more historic nature. Featuring an interactive timeline that allows you to take a virtual trip through Black History, spotlights on the hallowed Apollo Theater and the people and events of the Harlem Renaissance, and much more, both are worthy online resources for Black History Month.


  1. @Ms. Tanenbaum-Gordon:

    We endeavor to make our entries like these as comprehensive as possible, and you’re correct — “The Great Debators” should have been among them. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but we hope you appreciate that we continue to strive to update this entry with current Black History Month programming as we continue to receive it. Thank you for taking the time to let us know what you’re thinking!


  2. This is the BEST site for highlighting shows that will be shown this month. I came here for this show, following the viewing of the wonderful debate show The Great Debaters! with Forest Whittaker and Denzel.

    Blacks Without Borders: Chasing the American Dream in South Africa
    Showtime, Feb. 7
    Part of Showtime’s annual Black Filmmaker Showcase highlighting short-subject films by African-American directors, this film, helmed by Stafford Bailey, illuminates the experiences of African-American entrepreneurs seeking to foster innovation and free enterprise in South Africa.
    Having myself lived in Black Countries, ie. Jamaica, St. Croix, Hawai’i on the Big Island that has more people of ALL colours than whites; my husband and I found this show very interesting. I hope many people watch it and learn something!
    I was disappointed and surprise to NOT see The Great Debaters among this list of Black History Month 2009 shows.

Comments are closed.