How it Feels to be Free

Discover icons Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier.

  • Fred Vigeant
Watch How it Feels to Be Free on American Masters Monday, January 18 at 9:00pm on WITF. You can stream WITF TV live on our website and through the PBS Video app on Roku, Apple TV and iPhone and Android smartphones. The program is also available on-demand through the PBS Video app.

This documentary tells the inspiring story of how six iconic African American female entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier – challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process.

Based on the book “How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement” by Ruth Feldstein, the film tells the story of how these six pioneering women broke through in an entertainment industry hell-bent on keeping them out and situates their activism as precursors to contemporary movements like #TimesUp, #OscarsSoWhite and #BlackLivesMatter.

Award-winning director Yoruba Richen (The Green Book: Guide to Freedom, POV: Promised Land, Independent Lens: The New Black) examines the impact these trailblazing entertainers had on reshaping the narrative of Black female identity in Hollywood through their art and political activism while advocating for social change.

The film highlights how each woman — singer, dancer and actress Lena Horne; jazz vocalist, songwriter and actress Abbey Lincoln; Tony-winning actress, singer and model Diahann Carroll; jazz, blues and folk singer Nina Simone; actress and model Cicely Tyson; and actress Pam Grier — harnessed their celebrity to advance the civil rights movement.

Watch How it Feels to Be Free on American Masters Monday, January 18 at 9:00pm on WITF.

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next
Programs

Summer of Rockets