witf and PBS broadcast programming created by and about African Americans year-round, from public affairs to history to independent film to kids programming. For this year's Black History Month, PBS programming commemorates the contributions of African Americans in culture and civil rights, providing an in-depth look at key figures and events that shaped black — and American — history. Here are a few highlights for February:
Pioneers of Television - February 5th at 8:00pm
Miniseries still rank among the top-rated programs in television history; they were major events that captured the nation’s imagination. “Roots” was the biggest — interviewed about that groundbreaking series are stars LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett Jr., Leslie Uggams, Ben Vereen, John Amos, Georg Stanford Brown and Ed Asner. This episode also considers the very first miniseries, “Rich Man, Poor Man,” as stars Peter Strauss and Susan Blakely offer fresh insights. All of the key players from the landmark miniseries “The Thorn Birds” appear, providing surprising commentary about the romance seen by more viewers than any other in TV history. New interviews with Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown mark the 30th anniversary of one of television’s biggest events.
INDEPENDENT LENS - February 18th at 10:00pm
Whitney M. Young, Jr. was one of the most celebrated — and controversial —leaders of the civil rights era. In “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights,” follow his journey from segregated Kentucky to head of the National Urban League. Unique among black leaders, Young took the fight directly to the powerful white elite, gaining allies in business and government, including three presidents. He had the difficult tasks of calming the fears of white allies, relieving the doubts of fellow civil rights leaders and responding to attacks from the militant Black Power movement.
The Black Kungfu Experience - February 21st at 8:00pm
This documentary 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.
AMERICAN MASTERS - February 22nd at 9:00pm
Discover the life, music and influence of the African-American gospel singer and guitar virtuoso Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973). During the 1940s-60s, she introduced the spiritual passion of her gospel music into the secular world of rock ’n’ roll, inspiring some of its greatest stars, including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Tharpe may not be a household name today, but the flamboyant superstar, with her spectacular playing on the newly electrified guitar, played a pivotal role in the creation of rock ’n’ roll.
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