This February, WSBE Rhode Island PBS will commemorate Black History Month by presenting a series of insightful documentaries on Thursday nights from 8 to 11 p.m. on Learn (36.2) and at 9 p.m. on Rhode Island PBS (36.1).
February 7 and 14 at 8 p.m.: For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots - This two-part story, presented over two weeks, is an inspiring, definitive and unprecedented look at the largely untold history of African-American participation in America's armed forces, from the earliest days of the Revolutionary War to the conflict in Afghanistan. Ten years in the making, the four-hour mini-series examines why, despite enormous injustice, these men and women fought so valiantly for freedoms they did not enjoy. Introduced by General Colin Powell and hosted by Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry, the film uses letters, diaries, speeches, journalistic accounts, historical text and military records to document and acknowledge the profound sacrifices and largely ignored of African-American service men and women. The films also include dramatic readings by an all-star roster of actors, including Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby, Susan Sarandon, Lou Gossett Jr., John Travolta, Ossie Davis, Robert Duvall, Danny Glover, Sam Elliot, Delroy Lindo, Isaac Hayes, John Goodman, Ice-T and many others.
February 7 at 10 p.m. – AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange: "A Lot Like You" – This documentary takes audiences on a personal journey into the most vulnerable corners of a family history spanning generations and continents. Filmmaker Eliaichi Kimaro is a mixed-race, first-generation American with a Tanzanian father and Korean mother. When her retired father moves back to Tanzania, Eliaichi begins a project that evocatively examines the intricate fabric of multiracial identity, and grapples with the complex ties that children have to the cultures of their parents. This layered documentary starts with a familiar exploration of mixed-race identity, but brings the discussion to surprising levels of personal and political self-awareness.
February 14 at 10 p.m. – AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange: "Dear Mandela" – Destroyed homes, threats at gun point and high court action, this battle by three young people is a testimony to people power. When the South African government promises to 'eradicate the slums' and begins to evict shack dwellers far outside the city, three friends who live in Durban's vast shanty towns refuse to be moved. DEAR MANDELA follows their journey from the shacks to the highest court in the land as they invoke Nelson Mandela's example and become leaders in a growing social movement.
February 21 at 8 p.m.: Slavery By Another Name - This documentary challenges one of America's most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. This documentary tells a harrowing story of how in the South, even as chattel slavery came to an end, new forms of involuntary servitude, including convict leasing, debt slavery, and peonage, took its place with shocking force -- brutalizing and ultimately circumscribing the lives of hundreds of thousands of African Americans well into the 20th century. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. The program spans eight decades, from 1865 to 1945, revealing the interlocking forces in both the South and the North that enabled this "neoslavery" to begin and persist. Using archival photographs and dramatic re-enactments, filmed on location in Alabama and Georgia, it tells the forgotten stories of both victims and perpetrators of neoslavery and includes interviews with their descendants living today. The program also features interviews with Douglas Blackmon, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Slavery by Another Name," and with leading scholars of this period.
February 21 at 9:30 p.m.: Unforgettable Hampton Family – This 30-minute documentary explores how Deacon Clark Hampton, a son of slaves, lifted his twelve children out of poverty by making them into successful musicians.
February 21 at 10 p.m.: Underground Railroad: The William Still Story – This is the dramatic story of William Still, one of the most important yet largely unheralded individuals of the Underground Railroad. Still was determined to get as many runaways as he could to "Freedom’s Land,” smuggling them across the US border to Canada. Although bounty hunters could legally abduct former slaves living in the so-called free northern states, Canada provided sanctuary for fugitive slaves. William Still was the director of a complex network of abolitionists, sympathizers, and safe houses that stretched from Philadelphia to what is now Southern Ontario. Still kept meticulous records of the many escapes slaves who passed through the Philadelphia "station." In his fourteen years in the service of the Underground Railroad, he helped nearly eight hundred former slaves to escape.
February 28 at 8 p.m.: Roads to Memphis: American Experience -- "We were never concerned with who killed Martin Luther King but what killed Martin Luther King," says Andrew Young, former aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in ROADS TO MEMPHIS. From Emmy Award-winning director Stephen Ives, this film tells the wildly disparate yet fatefully entwined stories of an assassin, James Earl Ray, and his target, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., against the backdrop of the seething and turbulent forces in American society that led these two men to their violent and tragic collision in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. ROADS TO MEMPHIS features eyewitness testimony from King's inner circle and the officials involved in Ray's capture and prosecution, and Hampton Sides, author of the upcoming book, "Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin."
Rhode Island PBS: Thursdays at 9:00 p.m.
February 7: Meet Mary Pleasant – This one-hour unique 'performance documentary' takes a colorful look at the unsung and daring 19th-century African-American activist and entrepreneur Mary Ellen Pleasant, now called 'The Mother of Civil Rights in California.' Pleasant, born a slave, was a 19th-century Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks combined, and she changed modern day civil rights law. The film interweaves an acclaimed one-woman enactment with photo montages and expert commentary, punctuated by live re-enactments and song. Acclaimed actress Ruby Dee narrates. The film has won both national and international film festival awards.
February 14: The Evolution of the Nation of Islam - This documentary chronicles the creation, rise and evolution of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam - a movement that challenged black Americans to reclaim their lost identity. As Americans, both black and white, sacrificed life and property to end segregation Elijah Muhammad preached a unique brand of separation with a do-for-self philosophy. While Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali exemplified the uncompromising stance that the Nation of Islam maintained, the movement headed for an abrupt change. Upon the death of Elijah, his son Wallace Muhammad became the new leader and ushered in a new thinking. Through honest dialogue with the original high-ranking members of the Nation of Islam we get an in-depth look at life after Elijah Muhammad.
February 21: Black Kungfu Experience - introduces kungfu's African-American pioneers, men who challenged convention and overturned preconceived notions while mastering the ancient art. The four martial artists profiled include Ron Van Clief, an ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran who starred in more than 40 kungfu films and earned the nickname "Black Dragon" from Bruce Lee. Their compelling stories illustrate how kungfu began as - and remains - a unique crucible of the black experience. In particular, kungfu's themes of the underdog triumphing against the odds resonated in black communities across the United States.
February 28: Colored Frames - reflects on the last 50 years in African-American art by exploring the influences, inspirations and experiences of black artists. Beginning at the height of the civil rights era and leading up to the present, it provides a truthful, unflinching look at often-ignored artists and their progeny. Impressionistic video collages showcase the wide variety, both thematically and stylistically, of contemporary pieces of black artists working in the genres of illustration, abstraction and surrealism, among others. The film also chronicles the black artist's struggle for visibility and acceptance in mainstream art society as well as their experiences challenging assumptions about what constitutes "blackness," even within their own community.
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WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) programming over the air on digital 36.1; on Rhode Island cable: Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon FiOS 08 / 508HD, and Full Channel 08; on Massachusetts cable: Comcast 819HD and Verizon FiOS 18 / 518HD; on satellite: DirecTV 36 / 3128HD, Dish Network 7776.
WSBE Learn transmits over the air on digital 36.2; on Cox 808; Verizon 478; Full Channel 109; and Comcast 294 or 312.