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Black History Month 2023

Black History is American history. It honors our past, present and future. NEPM is committed to sharing programs this month — and every month — that explore the Black experience. We celebrate Black achievements in history, art, music, culture and more.

Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World
Tuesdays, Jan. 31 through Feb. 21 at 9 p.m.
Authored by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who famously labeled Hip Hop as “the Black CNN” for bringing the stories of the street to the mainstream, this 4-part series ncludes personal testimonies of the MCs, DJs, graffiti artists, filmmakers, politicians and opinion formers who created and shaped its direction as it grew from an underground movement in the Bronx to the most popular music genre in the U.S. and the fastest growing genre in the world today.

Independent Lens: Mr. Soul
Thursday, Feb. 2 at 9 p.m.
Premiering in 1968, SOUL! was the first nationally broadcast all-Black variety show on public television, merging artists from the margins with post-Civil Rights Black radical thought. Mr. SOUL! delves into this critical moment in television history, as well as the man who guided it. The impact of the show continues to resonate to this day.

Independent Lens: Outta the Muck
Monday, Feb. 6 at 10 p.m.
Wade into the rich soil of Pahokee, Florida, a town on the banks of Lake Okeechobee. Beyond its football legacy, including sending over a dozen players to the NFL (like Anquan Boldin, Fred Taylor, and Rickey Jackson), the fiercely self-determined community tells their stories of Black achievement and resilience in the face of tragic storms and personal trauma.

American Masters
Sammie Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me
Thursday, Feb. 9 at 9 p.m.
Stream now
The first major film documentary to examine Sammy Davis, Jr.'s vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th century America.

The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song
Thursday, Feb. 16 at 9 p.m.
Continues Thursday, Feb. 23 at 9 p.m.
Watch with NEPM Passport
An intimate four-hour series from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. It explores the 400-year-old story of the black church in America, the changing nature of worship spaces, and the men and women who shepherded them from the pulpit, the choir loft, and church pews.

Finding Your Roots: And Still I Rise
Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.
Henry Louis Gates reveals the unexpected family trees of activist Angela Y. Davis and statesman Jeh Johnson, using DNA and long-lost records to redefine notions of the black experience — and challenge preconceptions of America’s past.

Great Performances: The Magic of Spirituals
Friday, Feb. 24 at 9 p.m.
Glimpse behind the curtain at opera legends Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman’s famed concert at Carnegie Hall on March 18, 1990. With legendary African American contralto Marian Anderson in attendance, many wondered if the two singers would compete or join forces and sing together. Showcasing extended excerpts of Norman and Battle in performance, the documentary examines the historic concert’s enduring impact.

Black Broadway: A Proud History, A Limitless Future
Tuesday, Feb 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Celebrate the rich history of Black roles and voices on Broadway with an all-star cast including Stephanie Mills, Nova Payton, Corbin Bleu, Norm Lewis, Tiffany Mann, John Manzari, Amber Iman, Peppermint, Nikki Renée Daniels, Leah Flynn and Sydney James Harcourt. Selections include songs from The Wiz, The Color Purple, Company, Porgy & Bess, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and more.


William Grant Still Photo: Eastman School of Music

Black Composers on NEPM Classical Music
Listen Weekdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on NEPM 88.5
William Grant Still Eastman School of Music
Throughout the month, Classical Music Host John Nowacki will present works by Black composers including Adolphus Hailstork’s Symphony No. 1, Three Spirituals, An American Port of Call, Fanfare on Amazing Grace and Whitman’s Journey, with settings of texts by Walt Whitman and Daniel Bernard Roumain’s Voodoo Violin Concerto. You will also hear selections from the African Heritage Symphonic Series including David Baker's Cello Concerto, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's "Generations,” William Banfield's “Essay for Orchestra,” Michael Abel's “Global Warming, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's “Danse Negre,” Fela Sowande's “African Suite,” and William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American.”

Thelonious Monk in 1961

Black Composer-Pianists on Jazz à la Mode
Listen Tuesdays in February on NEPM 88.5 FM
On Tuesday evenings during Black History Month, NEPM Jazz à la Mode Host Tom Reney will explore seminal albums of four renowned composer-pianists: Duke Ellingtons’ Uptown on Feb. 7, Thelonious Monk’s Misterioso on Feb 14, Horace Silver's Further Explorations on Feb. 21 and Randy Weston’s Highlife on Feb. 28.

Black History Month on The Long Form
Listen Sundays at 6 p.m. on NEPM 88.5

The Lost Cause — the Civil War, then and now
Sunday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. on NEPM 88.5
Are we still living with the racial divide left over from the Civil War? Has it resurfaced today in the rise of white supremacism, election denialism, the attack on Critical Race Theory and the Confederate flags brought into the Capitol during the insurrection on January 6, 2021?

Witness: Black History Month
Sunday, Feb, 12 at 6 p.m. on NEPM 88.5
A special hour-long edition of Witness History from the BBC World Service. Hear about the mother who created a ‘little black book’ to give her son tools to protect his survival when dealing with the police; after the US officially made lynching a federal crime, we meet the great grand-daughter of Ida B Wells who campaigned for the change. And, we hear about the Hollywood practice of ‘painting down’ white stunt actors to portray African Americans.

An American Voice in Paris: The Odyssey of Carole Fredericks
Rhiannon Giddens Celebrates a world of Black music
Sunday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. on NEPM 88.5
In 1979, Carole Fredericks, a Blues singer from Springfield, left for France on a one-way ticket. She became a celebrated interpreter of French Chanson. Then, it’s an interview with Rhiannon Giddens, the classically trained singer, banjo and fiddle-player, and composer who excavates the past to bring forgotten stories and music of African Americans into the present.

Justin Holland: The Guitar’s Black Pioneer
Sunday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. on NEPM 88.5
Justin Holland was a Black guitar virtuoso, educator, and activist in the 19th century who did intricate transcriptions of popular operas, songs, and compositions of his own. Holland was born free and worked to help other enslaved Black people on the Underground Railroad.


NEPM Connecting Point
All year long, NEPM's Connecting Point shares the stories of artists and cultural leaders within our local Black community. You can find these segments here. The Connecting Point team will be adding new stories during Black History Month and beyond.

American Experience: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard
In 1946, Isaac Woodard, a Black army sergeant on his way home to South Carolina after serving in WWII, was pulled from a bus for arguing with the driver. The local chief of police savagely beat him, leaving him unconscious and permanently blind.

Photograph of Emmett Till taken by his mother, Mamie Carthan Till-Mobley.
Mamie Carthan Till-Mobley
Photograph of Emmett Till taken by his mother, Mamie Carthan Till-Mobley.

American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till
The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till's death was a spark that helped mobilize the Civil Rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began.

American Experience: Freedom Riders
From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives — and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment — for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South.

Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the transformative years following the American Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction, and revolutionary social change. The twelve years that composed the post-war Reconstruction era (1865-77) witnessed a seismic shift in the meaning and makeup of our democracy.

Eyes on the Prize
Stream with NEPM Passport
This seminal series tells the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today. Narrated by political leader and civil rights activist Julian Bond (1940-2015).

Muhammad Ali
Watch with Passport
Ken Burns brings to life one of the most indelible figures of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated millions of fans across the world with his mesmerizing combination of speed, grace, and power in the ring, and charm and playful boasting outside of it. He became a global icon and inspiration to people everywhere.

John Lewis: Get in the Way
Follow the journey of civil rights hero, congressman, and human rights champion John Lewis. At the Selma March, Lewis came face-to-face with club-wielding troopers and exemplified non-violence.

America ReFramed: Fannie Lou Hamer's America
Through public speeches, personal interviews, and powerful songs of the fearless Mississippi sharecropper-turned-human-rights-activist, Fannie Lou Hamer's America explores and celebrates the lesser-known life of one of the Civil Rights Movement’s greatest leaders.

Independent Lens: Always in Season
Watch with NEPM Passport
This documentary follows the tragedy of African American teenager Lennon Lacy, who in August 2014, was found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina. His death was ruled a suicide, but Lennon’s mother and family believe he was lynched. The film chronicles her quest to learn the truth and takes a closer look at the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans.

Driving While Black
Discover how the advent of the automobile brought new mobility and freedom for African Americans but also exposed them to discrimination and deadly violence, and how that history resonates today.

American Masters: Roberta Flack
Follow the music icon from a piano lounge through her rise to stardom. From “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly,” Flack’s virtuosity was inseparable from her commitment to civil rights. Detailing her story in her own words, the film features exclusive access to Flack’s archives and interviews with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Peabo Bryson and more.

American Masters
How it Feels to Be Free
A documentary that tells the inspiring story of how six iconic African American women 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.

American Masters
Basquiat: Rage to Riches
One of the most influential American artists of the 20th century, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a rock star of the early ’80s New York art scene. He lived fast, died young and created thousands of drawings and paintings. It took less than a decade for Basquiat, an accountant’s son from Brooklyn, to go from anonymous graffiti writer known as SAMO© to an epoch-defining art star.

American Masters
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers and critics on an exploration of the powerful themes she confronted throughout her literary career in this artful and intimate meditation that examines the life and work of the legendary storyteller.

American Masters
Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands
Watch with NEPM Passport
Learn the story of the 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.

American Masters
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Watch with NEPM Passport
Discover the man behind the legend. With full access to the Miles Davis Estate, the film features never-before-seen footage, including studio outtakes from his recording sessions, rare photos and new interviews.

American Experience
Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming A Space
Meet the influential author and key figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Also a trained anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston collected folklore throughout the South and Caribbean — reclaiming, honoring and celebrating Black life on its own terms.


Celebrate Black History with PBS Kids Read-Along Videos
PBS Kids has curated a collection of videos that offer read-alongs with artists and celebrities — Amanda Gorman, Misty Copeland, Hana Ali, Carla Hall, Christian Robinson, and others.

How Black History Art Can Spark Conversations with Children
When presented in ways that children can appreciate, art has been proven to produce academic benefits such as increased vocabulary, plus math and reading growth, as well as behavioral benefits such as social-emotional learning. The arts in general, and Black art in particular, can help children resist race-based negativity, giving them the strength, confidence and self-assurance that will help protect them from racial injustices for years to come.

Children’s Books to Celebrate Black Culture
Understanding and celebrating diverse cultures begins the moment children begin exploring and reading books. PBS Kids for Parents has a list of books that offer windows into the world of Black lives and culture.

Teachers and parents turn to PBS Learning Media for a wealth of information on just about any school subject — including many relating to Black History month. Units are available on the Freedom Riders, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, and many more.