Here are a few notable programs airing in February to celebrate Black History Month. Check back for further updates throughout the month.
Black Experience On Demand — On Demand (check your local cable system On Demand lineup for availability). In recognition of Black History Month in February, the nation’s content providers and cable companies are providing digital cable customers with On Demand access to hundreds of programs and movies, specifically focused on the black experience and history. Multiple genres of programming are available as a part of this “Black Experience On Demand” initiative, including movies, music, biographies, documentaries, news and television series. Shows will be accessible via the On Demand feature whenever the viewer chooses. Viewers can access these programs in a “Black Experience” or “Black History” folder from their Cable On Demand menus. Participating cable companies include Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, Insight, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable. Click here to download a lineup of shows airing on certain On Demand channels.
Black Cinema On Demand — Movies on Demand (check your local cable system On Demand lineup for availability). During February, this new category of Movies on Demand includes some of the most acclaimed and influential films created by or featuring the most celebrated black directors, actors and themes. Movies include: How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Brown Sugar, Facing Ali, Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself, More Than a Game, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, Amistad, Do the Right Thing, Ray, The Best Man, Malcolm X, The Color Purple, Akeelah and the Bee and Blood Diamond.
Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans — PBS; check your local listings throughout February. Lolis Eric Elie, a New Orleans newspaperman, takes viewers on a tour of the city in what becomes a reflection on the relevance of history folded into a love letter to his storied neighborhood, Faubourg Tremé. Arguably the oldest black neighborhood in America and the birthplace of jazz, Faubourg Tremé was home to the largest community of free black people in the Deep South during slavery and a hotbed of political ferment. Here, black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor cohabitated, collaborated and clashed to create America’s first civil rights movement and a unique American culture.
Independent Lens: “Banished” — PBS; check your local listings throughout February. This is the story of three counties that forcefully banished African-American families from their towns 100 years ago – and the descendents who return to learn a shocking history.
POV: “Revolution ’67” — PBS; check your local listings throughout February. This program is an illuminating account of the black urban rebellions of the 1960s. Focusing on the six-day Newark, New Jersey, outbreak in mid-July, “Revolution ’67” reveals how the disturbance began as spontaneous revolts against poverty and police brutality and ended as fateful milestones in America’s struggles over race and economic justice. Voices from across the spectrum – activist Tom Hayden, journalist Bob Herbert, Mayor Sharpe James and other officials, National Guardsmen and Newark citizens – recall the events.
Independent Lens: “Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness” — PBS, Feb. 2 at 10:30pm (check local listings). Using photomontage re-creations, interviews, animation, original field footage and recordings, this film examines the forgotten legacy of Melville Herskovits. The controversial Jewish anthropologist’s writings in the ’40s and ’50s challenged widely held assumptions about race and culture by insisting that we look at the world through each other’s lives and histories.
Prince Among Slaves — PBS, Feb. 5 at 10pm ET (check local listings). Mos Def narrates this documentary about an African prince who was enslaved in Mississippi for 40 years before finally achieving freedom and becoming one of the most famous men in America.
The Great Debaters — BET, Feb. 6 at 6:30pm ET. Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker star in this drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school’s first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.
Ten9Eight — BET, Feb. 7 at noon ET. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio, this documentary tells the inspirational stories of several inner city teens from Harlem to Compton and all points in between, as they compete in an annual business plan competition run by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
Great Performances: “Harlem in Montmartre” — PBS, Feb. 7 at 10pm ET (check local listings). This program tells the story of the jazz age in Paris between the First and Second World Wars, exploring a fascinating yet often neglected era in African-American cultural history. After peace was signed at Versailles, many black Americans remained in Europe rather than return to the brutal segregation and racism of America; over the next two decades, they created an expatriate community of musicians, entertainers and entrepreneurs, primarily congregating in Paris’ hilly Montmartre neighborhood. Some achieved enduring fame, while others faded into history. Inspired by William A. Shack’s book and using rare archival material from both France and America, this remarkable documentary features footage of such key figures as James Reese Europe, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Bricktop, Eugene Bullard, Django Reinhardt and many more. S. Epatha Merkerson narrates.
The Black List: Volume Three — HBO, Feb. 8, 13, 17, 19, 21, 23 & 26. This latest installment of the documentary series features African-American notables sharing candid and revealing insights into the struggles, triumphs and joys of black life in the United States. Among those features are director/producer Lee Daniels (Precious), Whoopi Goldberg, Hill Harper, model Beverly Johnson, BET CEO Debra L. Lee, John Legend, United Negro College Fund president Dr. Michael Lomax and actress LaTanya Richardson.
In Performance at the White House: “A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement” — PBS, Feb. 11 at 8pm ET (check local listings). President and Mrs. Obama host a concert in the White House East Room in honor of Black History Month. The music special will include Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, John Mellencamp, Smokey Robinson, Seal, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Yolanda Adams, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon and the Howard University Choir perform. Guest speakers are Morgan Freeman and Queen Latifah.
American Masters: “Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun” — PBS, Feb. 22 at 10pm ET (check local listings). Writer, cultural anthropologist, chronicler of folk roots and ethnic traditions, daughter of a former slave, Hurston was one of the most celebrated – and most controversial – figures of the Harlem Renaissance. She attained unique success in all areas, but her words and her conclusions were often mired in contention – she was called everything from flamboyant to outrageous, unpredictable to bodacious. She collaborated with Langston Hughes, was criticized by Richard Wright and ultimately died a pauper’s death in total obscurity. Now considered a lioness of African-American literature, she was resurrected by Alice Walker; such works as Dust Tracks on a Road and Their Eyes Were Watching God are essential reading today. S. Epatha Merkerson narrates this look at her life.
Independent Lens: “Behind the Rainbow” — PBS, Feb. 23 at 10pm ET (check local listings). Over two tumultuous decades, South Africa has finally arrived on its own bumpy road to democracy. With the 2009 presidential election looming as a historical turning point, this film is a previously untold account of the country’s political problems, struggles and realities.
Independent Lens: Georgia State Archives/ITVS
Howard University Choir: Courtesy of Howard University
Zora Neale Hurston: © Corbis