PBS Celebrates Black History Month With a Slate of Special Programming

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — PBS broadcasts programming created by and about African Americans year-round, from dramato public affairs to history to independent film. In celebration of Black History Month, February 2007, PBS will broadcast a lineup of new and encorepresentations honoring and exploring African-American history.

NOVA “Forgotten Genius” tells the story of one of the great African-American scientists of the 20th century — Percy Julian.

“Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life” profiles Duke Ellington’s co-composer, arranger and right-hand man.

“Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes” is an in-depth look, through the lens of former college star athlete Byron Hurt, at the sexism, violence and homophobia in rap music and hip-hop culture.

Also new in February is an examination of the role that Catholic nuns played in the Selma-to- Montgomery voting rights marches of 1965 in SISTERSOF SELMA: BEARING WITNESS FOR CHANGE.

THE STORY OF OSCAR BROWN JR., a new profile of the legendary performer and producer of the landmark musical Opportunity Please Knock, will also air.


First-rate programming with a depth and breadth that can only be found on PBS, these programs document and examine the rich heritage and cultural
contributions of African Americans.

Broadcast Premieres

NOVA “Forgotten Genius” (New)
Tuesday, February 6, 2007, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET
His house was firebombed. A scandalous affair got him fired in the middle of the Depression. The doors of academia were slammed in his face,
since no one expected an African American to rise higher than teaching high school. Yet Percy Julian overcame every obstacle to become a world-classscientist, self- made millionaire and civil rights pioneer. NOVA presents his dramatic life story in a two-hour “Lives in Science” biography.

INDEPENDENT LENS “Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life” (New)
Tuesday, February 6, 2007, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET
As Duke Ellington’s co-composer, arranger and right-hand man, Billy Strayhorn wrote some of the greatest American music of the 20th century.But as a gay man in the 40s and 50s, Strayhorn had to lead a discreet existence, while Ellington played to thunderous applause on center stage. This film tells the story of the unheralded man who changed jazz and popular music forever, maintaining artistic and personal integrity whilechallenging prejudice along the way. By Robert Levi.

THE SUPREME COURT “A Nation of Liberties” (New)
Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
“A Nation of Liberties” focuses on the Supreme Court’s reaction to state and federal legislation on Bill of Rights freedoms, with special attention to the explosion of civil rights cases from the early 1940s to the present. The program highlights the Warren Court as it confronted the issues of race, gender and religion in the post-war period, when six newly appointed justices were just beginning to find their way on the Court. Over the next quarter- century, the belief in individual freedoms and rights would push the nation, and the Supreme Court, towards a new agenda.

Monday, February 12, 2007, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
From director Stephen Ives and writer Michelle Ferrari comes a fascinating portrait of one of America’s most distinctive and beloved cities: a small French settlement surrounded by water that ultimately would become the home of America’s biggest party, Mardi Gras, and its most original art form, jazz; the site of explosive struggles with both integration and segregation, and a proving ground for national ideas about race, class and equality; a mirror that reflects both the best and the worst in America. Jeffrey Wright narrates.

INDEPENDENT LENS “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”(New)
Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
This film takes an in-depth look at machismo in rap music and hip-hop culture — where creative genius, poetic beauty and mad beats collide with misogyny, violence and homophobia. By Byron Hurt.

February 2007 (check local listings)
THE 9TH ANNUAL SPHINX COMPETITION is a classical music competition featuring finals performances from the 9th Annual Sphinx Competition Concert. The competitors, all Hispanic and African-American, are accompanied by an orchestra composed entirely of Hispanic and black musicians. This program features performances from the three junior division finalists and the senior division laureate.

February 2007 (check local listings)
This program is an unabashedly spiritual take on the Selma, Alabama, voting rights marches of 1965 from some of its unsung foot soldiers — Catholic nuns. Following the violence of “Bloody Sunday,” sisters from around the country answered Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to join the protests in Selma. Never before in American history had avowed Catholic women made so public a political statement. Risking personal safety to bring change, the sisters found themselves being changed in turn — and they tell viewers how. Selma blacks testify about the importance of Catholic clergy in their lives, and explain why it took until the year 2000 for them to become fully enfranchised. Newfound dramatic archival footage carries much of the story. In 2003, director Jayasri Hart reunited the nuns to let them view themselves and the protests on tape for the first time. Their recorded reactions help narrate the film. Other Selmians, Catholic and Protestant, white and black, give their views on the nuns’ contributions to history.

February 2007 (check local listings)
This documentary focuses on Chicago native Oscar Brown Jr.’s work as a writer and performer for over a half a century. Starting at the tender ageof 15 he was a radio performer with the network series “Secret City.” He also was a key player in Richard Durham’s “Destination Freedom: Black RadioDays” series from 1948-1950. Brown’s musical explorations included sharing the bill with such greats as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderly. His one-man show Oscar Brown Jr. Entertains led one critic to hail him as “a musical genius.” In 1967, heproduced the musical Opportunity Please Knock in conjunction with a huge youth gang known as the Blackstone Rangers and gained national recognitionwhen gang members appeared on the Smothers Brothers CBS television show. He also hosted the popular PBS television show FROM JUMP STREET – THE STORY OF BLACK MUSIC.

Encore Presentations

Sunday, February 4, 2007, 10:30-11:00 p.m. ET
Harmonica virtuoso DeFord Bailey was one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry. Yet history knows almost nothing of this lost legend. In the 1930s, at the height of Jim Crow, rising country stars like Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff would take DeFord on the road because they knew that his name and talent would draw crowds. Because his medium was radio, listeners never knew that DeFord was black until they saw him live. He would often sacrifice comfort, dignity and safety to travel and perform. Considered one of the most unexplained events in Grand Ole Opry history, DeFord left the stage in the early 1940s and refused to perform professionally. This half-hour documentary tells the story of DeFord’s career and early departure from the stage, and reveals how black musicians have influenced many legends of country music. Lou Rawls narrates. http://www.pbs.org/deford

February 2007 (check local listings)
Renowned scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., W.E.B. DuBois Professor of the Humanities and Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, takes Alex Haley’s Roots saga to a whole new level. Using genealogy and DNA science, Dr. Gates tells the personal stories of eight accomplished African Americans — a neurosurgeon, a TV host, an astronaut, a music entrepreneur, a sociologist, a movie star, a minister and a comedian — tracing their roots through American history and back to Africa.

February 2007 (check local listings)
Henry Louis Gates Jr., W.E.B. DuBois Professor of the Humanities and Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American
Research at Harvard University, travels the length and breadth of the United States to take the temperature of black America at the start of the new century. In four programs, Gates travels to four different parts of America — the East Coast, the deep South, inner-city Chicago and
Hollywood. He explores this rich and diverse landscape, social as well as geographic, and meets the people who are defining black America, from the most famous and influential to those at the grassroots.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “Eyes on the Prize” (Encore)
February 2007 (check local listings)
The groundbreaking documentary series examining America’s civil rights years returns to public television as part of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Covering the period from the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, and the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott through school desegregation, the march from Selma to Montgomery and the Voting Rights Act, “Eyes on the Prize” is considered the definitive history of this formative time in the nation’s life. Narrated by Julian Bond, the acclaimed six-hour production includes interviews with key figures of the movement, stirring music from Bernice Johnson Reagon (founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock) and rare archival footage of the struggle to make America be America for all her people. http://www.pbs.org/eyesontheprize

February 2007 (check local listings)
Using archival footage and interviews with those who knew her well and were affected by her actions, this program chronicles the extraordinary
life of Fannie Lou Hamer and introduces her to a new, younger generation. Mrs. Hamer attended the 1964 Democratic National Convention as a member of the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party and challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation. Many credit her presence at the convention as the impetus for the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Interviews include Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women; Rutgers University history professor Clement Price; and numerous members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, narrates.

P.O.V. “Chisholm ’72 – Unbought & Unbossed” (Encore)
February 2007 (check local listings)
This documentary recaptures the times and spirit of a watershed event in American politics, when Shirley Chisholm, an African-American woman, dared to take an equal place on the presidential dais. The New York Democratic congresswoman’s bid engendered strong and sometimes bigoted opposition, setting off currents that affect American politics and social perceptions to this day. http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2005/chisholm/

February 2007 (check local listings)
SHARED HISTORY is the intimate story of the relationship between two families whose connection was forged in slavery and has endured to the present. The filmmaker, the great-great-granddaughter of a slave owner, and Rhonda Kearse, a descendant of one of the enslaved families, seek to understand and reconcile the reality of slavery with the shared lives and affections between the families.

February 2007 (check local listings)
This groundbreaking series chronicles the institution of American slavery from its origins in 1619 — when English settlers in Virginia purchased 20 Africans from Dutch traders — through the arrival of the first 11 slaves in the northern colonies (in Dutch New Amsterdam), the American Revolution, the Civil War, the adoption of the 13th Amendment and Reconstruction. With such unprecedented breadth come entirely new perspectives on and facts about slavery. These new perspectives challenge many long-held notions (such as the idea that slavery was strictly a southern institution; it was, in fact, a national institution) and highlight the contradictions of a country that was founded on the principle of “liberty and justice for all” but embraced slavery. Morgan Freeman narrates. http://www.pbs.org/slavery

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