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Black History Month Programming on PBS

by Cass Teague
On March 18, 1990, sopranos Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle joined Maestro James Levine and an orchestra consisting of members of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic for a program of spirit. (photo by Steve J. Sherman.)

PBS has new specials, broadcast and digital programming to commemorate Black History Month. Here’s a look at some of the new programming. Locally these can be seen on TV free on digital channels 8.1 NPT in HD (high definition) and NPT2 in SD (standard definition). All titles are also available for streaming on pbs.org and the PBS App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. Check your cable or streaming service provider for other viewing options. Check the NPT website for listings at: wnpt.org/schedule

Monday, January 16, Independent Lens premiered “The Big Payback,” following the passage of the first-ever reparations for slavery bill in Illinois, stirring up a national debate. Monday, January 23, Independent Lens premiered “No Straight Lines,” following five queer comic book artists as they journey from the underground comix scene to mainstream acceptance.

Monday, January 30, 9:00 -10:30 p.m. CST, “The Picture Taker,” introduces audiences to Ernest Withers, African American civil rights photographer and FBI informant. Monday, February 6, 9:00 – 10:30 p.m. CST, Independent Lens “Outta the Muck” features the people of Pahokee as they rise “outta the muck” to celebrate family history and big-time football.

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. airs Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. CST. January 17, the “Secret Lives” episode featured Niecy Nash-Betts and Carol Burnett; January 31, “Rising from the Ashes” features Viola Davis and Brian Cox; February 21, “And Still I Rise” with Angela Davis and Jeh Johnson airs. March 28, Van Jones is a featured in “Anchormen,” and April 4, Tamera Mowry-Housley is featured in “Out of the Past.”

Tuesday, January 17, American Experience premiered “Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space,” a new biography of the influential author whose groundbreaking anthropological work challenged assumptions about race, gender and cultural superiority that had long defined the field in the 19th century.

Tuesday, January 24, 8:00 – 9:30 p.m. CDT, American Masters premiered “Roberta Flack,” following the music icon from a piano lounge through her rise to stardom. Friday, January 27, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. CDT, Next At The Kennedy Center “The Roots Residency” features electrifying performances of The Roots.

Airing Tuesdays, January 31 – February 21, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. CDT is “Fight The Power: How Hip Hop Changed The World,” by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, a narrative of struggle, triumph and resistance about the art form that chronicles the emotions, experiences and expressions of Black and Brown communities.

Wednesday, February 8, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. CDT, NOVA presents “Star Chasers of Senegal”, following a team of Senegalese scientists as they set out to capture crucial data to help NASA navigate its Lucy mission and its asteroid targets across millions of miles of space.

Friday, February 24, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. CDT, Great Performances presents “The Magic of Spirituals,” a glimpse behind the curtain at opera stars Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman’s famed 1990 concert. In February, “Black Broadway: A Proud History, A Limitless Future,” will be available for streaming and through PBS stations (check local listings). Additional programming, including encore specials, will be available to stream on PBS.org and the PBS App.

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