PBS has a slate of programming and digital content to mark Black History Month as part of its continued commitment to showcasing important stories, sourced from the people and communities that make up our nation. Lauding the victories and recognizing cultural contributions and sacrifices, these programs will unearth remarkable stories of African Americans across generations, from the famous to the lesser-known.
Programs featuring powerful trailblazers including Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights worker Wharlest Jackson and Black diplomat, Carl Rowan, were each major influences throughout history.
On Tuesday, Feb. 8, 9 to 11 p.m. ET (check local listings), AMERICAN MASTERS will premiere “Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands,” a new documentary providing an intimate look at the life, career and legacy of the African-American contralto and civil rights pioneer in her own words using rare archival interview recordings. The new program shows how her quiet genius and breathtaking voice set the stage for Black performers in classical music, not only in America but around the world.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE premieres “The American Diplomat,” the story of three Black diplomats, Edward R. Dudley, Terence Todman and Carl Rowan, who broke racial barriers at the U.S. State Department during the Cold War. The new documentary, airing Feb. 15, 2022, 9 to 10 p.m. ET (check local listings), portrays their lasting impact on the Foreign Service.
In collaboration with Retro Report, FRONTLINE presents “American Reckoning”: an extraordinary look at the civil rights era – the violence and resistance – through rare footage filmed more than 50-years ago in Natchez, Mississippi, and the still-unresolved killing of local NAACP leader Wharlest Jackson. Premieres Feb. 15, 2022, 10 to 11:30 p.m. ET (check local listings).
Produced in part by Fannie Lou Hamer’s great-niece, Monica Land, FANNIE LOU HAMER’S AMERICA: AN AMERICA REFRAMED SPECIAL from WORLD Channel, American Documentary and Black Public Media premieres Tuesday, Feb. 22 22, 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET (check local listings). Told through Hamer’s public speeches, interviews, powerful songs and never-before-seen family photos and archival footage, the program is a unique portrait of the life and legacy of the Mississippi-born sharecropper whose harrowing encounters with injustice propelled her into leadership in the fight for voting rights.
The PBS Black Culture Connection has curated contextual articles and a playlist on PBS.org to include programs such as AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “The Murder of Emmett Till” and THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG, the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, available on-demand through the end of February. The PBS Black Culture Connection will also spotlight storytellers and amplify films on social media.
PBS Digital Studios has updated its curated YouTube playlist that includes a collection of videos covering topics of Black history, culture, arts and politics from a range of PBS channels. This includes videos from PBS Voices, a channel from PBS Digital Studios dedicated to documenting our shared human journey and helping us to better understand each other.
Bigger than Boxing. Larger than Life. Muhammad Ali is a film by Ken Burns. Check local listings for the four-part series. All titles are also available for streaming on the PBS Video app.
MUHAMMAD ALI “Round One: The Greatest (1942-1964)”
Boxer Cassius Clay rises up the amateur ranks to win gold at the 1960 Olympics. He turns professional, sharpening his boxing skills and honing his genius for self-promotion. In 1964, he upsets Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion.
MUHAMMAD ALI “Round Two: What’s My Name? (1964-1970)”
Cassius Clay publicly joins the Nation of Islam and takes the name, Muhammad Ali. When he refuses induction into the Army, he is stripped of his title and forced into exile. After three years, he returns to the ring, but he’s lost a step.
MUHAMMAD ALI “Round Three: The Rivalry (1970-1974)”
Muhammad Ali battles his fiercest rivals, Joe Frazier and the U.S. government, as he attempts to regain the heavyweight title. He first loses to and then defeats Frazier, but he will have to beat George Foreman to become champion again.
MUHAMMAD ALI “Round Four: The Spell Remains (1974-2016)”
Muhammad Ali shocks the world by defeating George Foreman, winning back the heavyweight title and becoming the most famous man on earth. After retiring in 1981, he travels the world spreading his Islamic faith and becomes a symbol of peace and hope.
Other shows featured on PBS this month:
INDEPENDENT LENS “Owned: A Tale of Two Americas”
Premiere – Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, 10 to 11:30 p.m. ET
Is the “American Dream” of home ownership a false promise? Postwar housing policy created the world’s largest middle class, but it set two divergent paths – one of perceived wealth and the other of systematically defunded, segregated communities.
FINDING YOUR ROOTS “Fighters”
Premiere – Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, 8 to 9 p.m. ET
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. sits down with Terry Crews and Tony Danza, both guests who overcame adversity, to discover they aren’t the first in their families to beat the odds through sheer force of will.
AMERICAN MASTERS “Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands”
Premiere – Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, 9 to 11 p.m. ET
Discover an international singer who captivated royalty in Europe and defied the conscience of 1939 America. Watch rare archival footage and hear audio recordings exploring her life and career from the Metropolitan Opera to the State Department.
FINDING YOUR ROOTS “Forgotten Journeys”
Premiere – Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, 8 to 9 p.m. ET
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps John Leguizamo and Lena Waithe retrace the paths of their ancestors, uncovering crucial pieces of their own identities that were lost on the journey to America.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “The American Diplomat”
Premiere – Tuesday, Feb.15, 2022, 9 to 10 p.m. ET
Discover how three Black diplomats broke racial barriers at the U.S. State Department during the Cold War. Asked to represent the best of American ideals abroad while facing discrimination at home, they left a lasting impact on the Foreign Service.
FRONTLINE “American Reckoning”
Premiere – Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, 10 – 11:30 p.m. ET
An unsolved 1960s murder reveals an untold story of the civil rights movement and Black resistance. With Retro Report, the film draws on rarely seen footage filmed more than 50 years ago in Natchez, MS, and follows one family’s search for justice.
FINDING YOUR ROOTS “Songs of the Past”
Premiere – Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, 8 – 9 p.m. ET
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. accompanies Broadway stars Leslie Odom, Jr. and Nathan Lane as they meet a cast of inspiring ancestors hidden in the branches of their family trees.
FANNIE LOU HAMER’S AMERICA: AN AMERICA REFRAMED SPECIAL
Premiere – Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, 9 – 10:30 p.m. ET
Explore and celebrate the life of a fearless Mississippi sharecropper-turned-human-rights-activist and the injustices in America that made her work essential.
JOHN LEWIS – GET IN THE WAY
Follow the courageous journey of John Lewis, whose unwavering fight for justice spanned the past 50 years, from his youth in the segregated South, through his leadership within the Civil Rights movement, to his role as a powerful voice in Congress.
AMERICAN MASTERS “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”
Discover the man behind the legend in this two-time Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated Stanley Nelson film featuring never-before-seen footage, including studio outtakes from his recording sessions, rare photos and new interviews.
Also available for broadcast in some markets Feb. 1–7 (check local listings) is THROUGH THE BANKS OF THE RED CEDAR a heartwarming journey following the daughter of Minnesota Vikings football legend, Gene Washington, as she uncovers the story of the first integrated college football team in America; and JUST A MORTAL MAN – THE JERRY LAWSON STORY, celebrating the original lead singer of the legendary a cappella group The Persuasions.