PBS announced today an expansive slate of programs profiling the rich history, culture and contributions of African-Americans. The programs air as part of PBS' celebration of Black History Month, February 2012. With new programs that delve into the archives of history, this year's schedule provides an in-depth look at a variety of historical events from the post-Emancipation era to the rise of the black power movement. Several of the Black History Month programs will be highlighted as part of PBS' presentations at the TCA (Television Critics' Association) Press Tour on January 4-5, 2012, in Pasadena, California. Notable talent appearing as part of PBS' INDEPENDENT LENS panel includes political activist Angela Davis for "Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975" as well as filmmakers Sharon La Cruise ("Daisy Bates") and Shukree Hassan Tilghman ("More Than a Month"). Additionally, author Douglas A. Blackmon will appear on the SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME panel during TCA.
On Wednesday, January 4, during the PBS/TCA Press Tour, INDEPENDENT LENS will present three new shows. "Daisy Bates: The First Lady of Little Rock," premiering Thursday, February 2, at 10:00 p.m., tells the story of Bates' life and her public support of nine black students who registered to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas (See advanced clip here). The film's director, Sharon La Cruise, will appear on the PBS/TCA panel. Premiering on Thursday, February 9, at 10:00 p.m. is a compilation of interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars in "Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975." (See advanced clip here) In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Swedish Television journalists came to America to document the burgeoning black power movement. This long-lost trove of film, combined with contemporary interviews to create an irresistible mosaic chronicling the movement's evolution, features interviews with seminal black power leaders, including Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver, as well as author/activist Angela Davis, who will be a guest on the PBS panel during TCA. And in "More Than a Month," premiering on Thursday, February 16, at 10:00 p.m., Shukree Hassan Tilghman, an African-American filmmaker, is on a cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. Through this tongue-in-cheek and thought-provoking journey, "More Than a Month" investigates what the treatment of history tells us about race and equality in a "post-racial" America. Tilghman will also be part of the PBS panel during Press Tour. (See advanced clip here.)
In the compelling story of an unsung hero, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: THE William Still STORY, airing Monday, February 6 at 10:00 p.m., explores one man's mission to help slaves escape to freedom. The program looks at the inner workings of the Underground Railroad through detailed records, diaries and other written accounts of the freedom seekers who made their way across the U.S. border to Canada.
Also presented during PBS' session of the TCA Press Tour is SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, premiering Monday, February 13, at 9:00 p.m. A Sundance Film Festival selection for 2012, this new documentary based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal senior writer Douglas A. Blackmon examines the concept of "neoslavery," which sentenced African-Americans in the post-Emancipation South to forced labor for violating an array of laws that criminalized their everyday behavior. Award-winning actor Laurence Fishburne narrates the film. Blackmon and filmmaker Sam Pollard will appear on the SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME panel during TCA.
FRONTLINE "The Interrupters," premiering Tuesday, February 14, at 9:00 p.m., follows a group of former gang leaders in Chicago who try to "interrupt" shootings and protect their communities from the violence they themselves once committed. From director Steve James (HOOP DREAMS, Stevie), "The Interrupters" is a compelling observational journey into the stubborn, persistent violence that plagues American cities.
Rounding out the Black History Month programming are three shows that highlight the artistic contributions of African-Americans. On Friday, February 24, at 9:00 p.m., turn the radio dial back to the 1950s for the tale of a black singer, a white DJ, forbidden love and the birth of rhythm and blues in GREAT PERFORMANCES "Memphis." The original Broadway cast members of the 2010 Tony Award-winner for Best New Musical reprise their roles in this roof-raising celebration of music.