NPT celebrates Black History Month in 2012 with a slate of extraordinary documentaries and specials, among them a Tony Award Winner, a Sundance selection and an encore of a Civil Rights story with strong Nashville ties. A complete list follows.
(INDEPENDENT LENS) DAISY BATES: FIRST LADY OF LITTLE ROCK — As a black woman who was a feminist before the term was invented, Daisy Bates refused to accept her assigned place in society. This program tells the story of her life and public support of nine black students who registered to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, which culminated in a constitutional crisis — pitting a president against a governor and a community against itself. Unconventional, revolutionary and egotistical, Bates reaped the rewards of instant fame, but paid dearly for it. Thursday, February 2, 9:00 p.m.
(INDEPENDENT LENS) HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG? “THE BOTTOM LINE” — The most effective tactic in globalizing the fight against apartheid was the grassroots boycott and divestment campaign that targeted Western corporations doing business with the South African regime. Sunday, February 5, 9:00 p.m.
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: THE WILLIAM STILL STORY– Extraordinary people risked their lives to help fugitive slaves escape via the clandestine Underground Railroad. Among them was William Still of Philadelphia, a free black man who accepted delivery of transported crates containing human “cargo.” This documentary reveals some of the dramatic, lesser-known stories behind this humanitarian enterprise, and explores key Canadian connections, including the surprising fate of former slaves who crossed the border to “Freedom’s Land.” Monday, February 6, 9:00 p.m.
(AMERICAN EXPERIENCE) FREEDOM RIDERS (ENCORE) — In 1961, segregation seemed to have an overwhelming grip on American society. Many states violently enforced the policy, while the federal government, under the Kennedy administration, remained indifferent, preoccupied with matters abroad. That is, until an integrated band of college students — many of whom were the first in their families to attend a university — decided, en masse, to risk everything and buy a ticket on a Greyhound bus bound for the Deep South. They called themselves the Freedom Riders, and they managed to bring the president and the entire American public face-to-face with the challenge of correcting civil-rights inequities that plagued the nation. Tuesday, February 7, 7:00 p.m.
FREEDOM RIDERS: THE NASHVILLE CONNECTION (ENCORE) – Several original riders whose journey originated in Nashville, among them Rip Patton, Susan Wilbur Wamsley, Catherine Burke Brooks and Matthew Walker, join John Seigenthaler, renowned journalist, First Amendment advocate and host of NPT’s “A Word on Words,” in front of a live audience for a discussion on the Freedom Rides. Tuesday, February 7, 11:00 p.m.
(INDEPENDENT LENS) THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975 — Combining startlingly fresh and candid 16mm footage that had lain undiscovered in the cellar of Swedish Television for the past 30 years, with contemporary audio interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, ”Mixtape” looks at the people, society, culture and style that fuelled an era of convulsive change, 1967-1975. Utilizing an innovative format that riffs on the popular 1970s mixtape format, this is a cinematic and musical journey into the black communities of America. Thursday, February 9, 9:00 p.m.
(INDEPENDENT LENS) HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG? “FREE AT LAST” — The apartheid regime in Pretoria crumbles under pressure from a united popular uprising inside its borders and crushing international pressure to reform. Nelson Mandela is freed from prison and in 1990 is elected president of a democratic South Africa. Sunday, February 26, 9:30 p.m.
SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME — A Sundance Film Festival selection for 2012, this new documentary based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal senior writer Douglas A. Blackmon, explores the little-known story of the post-Emancipation era and the labor practices and laws that effectively created a new form of slavery in the South that persisted well into the 20th century. Blackmon examines the concept of “neoslavery,” which sentenced African-Americans to forced labor for violating an array of laws that criminalized their everyday behavior. Actor Laurence Fishburne (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” Thurgood) narrates. Monday, February 13, 8:00 p.m.
(GREAT PERFORMANCES) MEMPHIS — Winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best New Musical, “Memphis” turns the radio dial back to the 1950s to tell the story of a white DJ, named Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball), whose love of music transcends race lines and airwaves. His romantic interest is Felicia Farrell (Montego Glover), a young black singer whose career is on the rise but who can’t make the break out of segregated clubs on her own. When the two collaborate, her soulful music reaches radio audiences everywhere, and the golden era of early rock ‘n’ roll takes flight. But as things heat up, whether the world is really ready for their music — or their love — is put to a test. With an original story by Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) and a new score with music by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan, the production is directed by Christopher Ashley (Xanadu) and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys). Friday, February 24, 9:00 p.m.
(AMERICAN MASTERS) CAB CALOWAY: SKETCHES — “Minnie the Moocher,” with its popular refrain “Hi de hi de hi de ho,” was Cab Calloway’s signature song, and Harlem’s famous Cotton Club was his home stage. A singer, dancer and band leader, he was an exceptional figure in the history of jazz: a consummate musician, he charmed audiences around the world with boundless energy, bravado and elegant showmanship. His back glide dance step is the precursor to Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, and his scatting lyrics find their legacy in today’s hip-hop and rap. An ambassador for his race, Calloway was one of the first black musicians to tour the segregationist South, as early as 1932. At the top of his game in the jazz and swing eras of the 30s and 40s, he toured as Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess, forever putting his personal stamp on “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” His career flagged until he was rediscovered in 1980’s The Blues Brothers and even on SESAME STREET, becoming a new cult hero of sorts. Monday, February 27, 9:00 p.m.
Black History Month on NPT is made possible by the generous support of Baker Donelson.