Black History Month: PBS Programming Highlights February 2017 by Photojournalist Lisa Pacino
To honor Black History Month, February 2017, and as part of its commitment to celebrate the diversity of America year-round, PBS kicks off a new year with documentaries and specials that highlight the African-American experience through content on-air on PBS member stations and online through the PBS Black Culture Connection. This year PBS will offer new programs that reflect on the contributions of icons like the late Dr. Maya Angelou, applaud beloved artists like Smokey Robinson, discover stories from Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and showcase independent documentaries about the valiant efforts of those pushing for change through dialogue.
Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Photograph by Lisa Pacino.
On Monday, February 6, 2017 Emmy Award winning documentary series Independent Lens presents Birth of a Movement, based on the book The Birth of a Movement: How Birth of a Nation Ignited the Battle for Civil Rights by Dick Lehr. The documentary tells the little-known story of William Trotter, an African-American journalist who launched a protest against the 1915 release of D. W. Griffith’s controversial epic, which laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement to come. Featuring interviews with historians and filmmakers such as Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Spike Lee, Birth of a Movement also explores how Griffith’s film continues to motivate African-American filmmakers and the artists as they work to reclaim their history and their onscreen image.
Spike Lee, The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess on Broadway, Opening Night, New York, January 12, 2012. Photograph by Lisa Pacino.
On Friday, February 10, 2017 airing as part of PBS Arts programming, Smokey Robinson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honors singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson during this star-studded music special, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, with a special appearance by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. and featuring performances by BeBe Winans, Ledisi, and CeeLo Green, to name a few. Robinson, a rhythm and blues icon nicknamed the “King of Motown,” has enjoyed a career spanning more than half a century. The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is awarded annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime achievements exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the George and Ira Gershwin.
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, autographed promo photo for Tamla Records.
Also from Independent Lens, airing Monday, February 13, 2017 is Accidental Courtesy, featuring Daryl Davis, an African-American musician who meets and befriends members of the Ku Klux Klan in an attempt to change their minds and forge racial conciliation, one racist at a time.
The Talk- Race In America, premiering Monday, February 20, 2017 is a two-hour documentary about “the talk,” the conversation parents of color have with their children about how to behave if stopped by the police. The film illustrates the issue from multiple points of view: parent, child, the police and the community. The film, airing in the wake of shootings of unarmed men of color such as Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and more, features interviews with Kenya Barris, creator/writer of Peabody Award-winning ABC series black-ish, musician/activist Nas, actor/director/activist Rosie Perez, director/screenwriter/producer John Singleton, New York Times columnist Charles Blow, and Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by the Cleveland police in a local park.
On Tuesday, February 21, 2017 American Masters presents Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, the first documentary feature about the incomparable author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014), best known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The film weaves her words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos that paint hidden facets of her exuberant life during some of America’s most defining moments. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana, to her inauguration poem for President Bill Clinton, the film takes a journey through the life of a true American icon. The documentary features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.
Dr. Maya Angelou, New York, 2014. Photograph by Lisa Pacino.
Also airing throughout February is the second season of the PBS original series Mercy Street on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET, beginning January 22, 2017, a Civil War-era drama about the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War. The original PBS drama explores, among other topics, the role that African Americans – including slaves, free blacks and contraband (African Americans who fled slavery in the hope of securing their freedom behind Union lines) – played in the hospital and the city. This season introduces newcomer Charlotte Jenkins who is played by Tony Award winning actress Patina Miller, a runaway slave turned abolitionist who goes to Alexandria to help the contraband population adapt to freedom.
Patina Miller, star of Broadway’s Pippin, backstage with cake, March 26, 2014. Photograph by Lisa Pacino.
New on February 27, 2017 – March 1, 2017 from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an epic new documentary series, Africa’s Great Civilizations, brings to life stories of both little-known and celebrated African kingdoms and cultures, and includes a historical reflection on the slave trade to the Americas.
In addition to on-air programs, the PBS Black Culture Connection (BCC), an extension of PBS.org, features black films, stories and discussion across PBS, and provides audiences with a catalogue of more than 30 programs available for streaming. Most PBS programs are available for streaming following their broadcast via various PBS apps.
Lisa Pacino and Under The Duvet Productions are based in New York. Photography services are available worldwide. If you wish to book photography services, receive information, and/or license images for commercial and/or promotional use please E-mail: UnderTheDuvetProductions@gmail.com