Celebrate Black History Month with WETA, as we bring you a wide variety of unique television programs during the month February. So join us as we retrace history from musicians to civil rights figures to sports icons who helped shape culture.
MUSIC AND CULTURE
The “Black Dragon”
Ron Van Clief, an African-American kungfu martial artist, starred in more than 40 kungfu films. His discipline, technique, and resulting success earned Van Clief the nickname “Black Dragon” from Bruce Lee. Discover Van Clief’s and other African-American men’s challenge to overcome the kungfu status quo as they mastered the ancient martial art and created a resonation in black communities across the United States.
The Bravado Man
Cab Calloway had the moves, the voice, and the charm to forge new ground for African-American jazz musicians. Explore the life of this pioneering jazz legend who led one of the most popular African-American big bands during the jazz and swing eras of the 1930s-40s. Best known for his signature song “Minnie the Moocher” and for his role in The Blues Brothers (1980), countless performers and audiences look up to Calloway’s talent and showmanship.
An Indelible Mark
Entrepreneur, songwriter, record and movie producer and director: Berry Gordy. Gordy has left a permanent mark on music and films in the U.S. and beyond. Gordy is the founder of Motown Records, the most successful African-American-owned enterprise in the nation. Join WETA’s Gwen Ifill as she interviews the widely celebrated Gordy.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) is considered the “godmother” of rock ’n’ roll. During the 1940s-60s, Sister Tharpe introduced the spiritual passion of her gospel music into rock ’n’ roll’s secular world. A flamboyant superstar and electric guitarist, Sister Tharpe was a major influence on musicians such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash. Rock out with Sister Tharpe as American Masters explores the life, music, and influence of this African-American gospel singer and guitar virtuoso.
Charged for Change
Between 1967 and 1975, America’s black communities experienced an era of convulsive change. Through candid 16mm footage and contemporary audio interviews with leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, experience a cinematic and musical journey exploring the people, society, culture and style that led to the black communities’ transformation during this fiery time period.
The One and Only…
Join Gwen Ifill and Smokey Robinson himself for an insider’s look at the life and career of this Motown legend. Taped in 2009 before a theater audience at Northwestern University’s Thorne Auditorium, this program features former Motown executive and film producer Suzanna de Passe as mistress of ceremonies and musical tributes from Grammy-nominated artists such as Teena Marie, Howard Hewett, and Musiq Soulchild.
A New American Sound
Before Otis Redding, before Motown, before Aretha Franklin became the Queen of Soul, Sam Cooke put the spirit of the black church into popular music. The first African-American artist to reach #1 on both the pop charts and R&B, Cooke forever altered popular music’s course and race relations in America. American Masters explores Cooke’s life and music and how he came about to creating a new American sound.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, millions of people of African descent have had an extensive impact on the countries’ history and culture; however, their contributions have been largely unknown. In this 4-part series, join Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. as he unravels the African influence on society in six Latin American countries.
Part 1 of 4 Haiti & the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided
Saturday, February 9 at 3:30am
Explore how race has been socially constructed in the Dominican Republic, a society whose people reflect centuries of intermarriage. Then, learn about the birth of the first-ever black republic, Haiti, and how the slaves’ hard-fought liberation over Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Empire became a double-edged sword.
Part 2 of 4 Cuba: The Next Revolution
Sunday, February 10 at 4:30pm
Discover how Cuba’s culture, religion, politics, and music are inextricably linked to the massive amount of slave labor imported to produce the country’s enormously profitable 19th-century sugar industry. Also, examine how race and racism have fared since Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in 1959.
Part 3 of 4 Brazil: A Racial Paradise?
Sunday, February 17 at 4:00pm
Unmask the façade of Carnival to discover how this “rainbow nation” is waking up to its legacy as the world’s largest slave economy.
Part 4 of 4 Mexico & Peru: The Black Grandma in the Closest
Sunday, February 24 at 4:00pm
Investigate the history of Mexico’s and Peru’s black population-the two countries that received far more slaves than did the U.S.-and discover the worlds of culture that the slaves’ descendants have created.
Unafraid to Speak
Daisy Bates, an African-American feminist, surpassed the odds during a time of extreme turbulence and conflict. In 1957, Bates expressed her public support for nine black students to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Join Independent Lens as they tell Bates’ story of her bold steps that simultaneously sparked fame and hate.
Like a Soldier
From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives to travel together on buses and trains through the Deep South in a challenge to segregation. Purposely violating the Jim Crow laws, these brave men and women became known as the “Freedom Riders” as they endured savage beatings, imprisonment, and bitter racism that tested their belief in nonviolent activism.
A Common Misconception
Explore an entirely new history in Slavery by Another Name, a 2012 Sundance Film Festival selection based on the Wall Street Journal’s senior writer Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book. This documentary confronts one of Americans’ most relished assumptions that the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery; instead, the post-Emancipation-era labor practices and laws pulled thousands of African Americans in both the North and South back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. Hear the voices of the forgotten victims, executers of forced labor, and the descendants living today in this riveting documentary.
Seething and tumultuous powers in American society instigated one of the most tragic encounters in American history. Discover the wildly disparate, yet fatefully entwined stories of an assassin, James Earl Ray, and his target, Dr. Martin Luther King JR., and their violent, tragic collision in Memphis Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.
Determined for Liberty
The 19th-century clandestine Underground Railroad was run by extraordinary people who helped fugitive slaves escape forced labor. William Still was one of the many heroic individuals that put his life at risk for the freedom of another’s. A free black man residing in Philadelphia, William Still accepted delivery of transported crates containing “human cargo.” Journey into the stories behind this humanitarian enterprise and explore key Canadian connections, including the surprising fate of former slaves who crossed the border to “Freedom’s Land.”
The Inside Man
Whitney M. Young, Jr. is one of the least known yet most influential black civil rights leaders. Following his journey from segregated Kentucky to head of the National Urban League, Young fought for civil rights from within. Young took the fight directly to the most powerful white elites ranging from Wall Street, to Fortune 500 companies, to presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson. Follow Young’s unique story and perspective on the most pivotal events of the civil rights era, such as the March on Washington and Brown v. Board of Education, in The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights.