CPB Media Room

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Commemorates Black History Month

  • February 1, 2012

Programming and content funded by CPB is aimed at reaching more diverse audiences

Washington, D.C. — The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) commemorates Black History Month with investments in public media content that explores the history and culture of African Americans.

“We are very proud to have supported the public media content that will be featured during Black History Month,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. “At CPB, we are committed to investing in diverse programming and producers throughout the year to better serve un-served and underserved audiences and ensure public media — on-air and online and in the community — connects with all Americans.”

CPB provided funding for three new documentaries — Slavery by Another Name, Underground Railroad: The William Still Story, and More Than a Month — that will premiere this month. These films each received a grant from the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation (D&I) Fund, which was established to promote content creation by a wide-ranging group of producers and encourage the use of emerging technologies to reach new audiences.

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story premieres Feb. 6 and tells the story of William Still — abolitionist, historian and the first generation of his family born free. Still was determined to get as many runaways as he could across the U.S. border to Canada. He took great risks to keep detailed records of individuals’ stories, which were eventually compiled into a book that is recognized as the most authentic account of the inner workings of the Underground Railroad and the plights of those who used it. The film is a production of 90th Parallel Productions Ltd., in association with Rogers Broadcasting Limited and WNED–TV Buffalo/Toronto.

“William Still is a true American hero who — until now — has not had the tribute he deserves,” said Donald K. Boswell, president and CEO of program co-producer WNED Buffalo/Toronto. “CPB’s investment in this project has helped bring to light Still’s valiant efforts for his fellow man’s freedom and share his legacy with the nation.”

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal Senior National Correspondent and Editor-at-Large Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name, premiering Feb. 13, tells a harrowing story of how in the South, even as chattel slavery came to an end, a new system of involuntary servitude took its place — ultimately circumscribing the lives of hundreds of thousands of African Americans well into the 20th century.

Sam Pollard (Eyes on the Prize, The Blues, When the Levees Broke), the film’s producer, said “the film demonstrates CPB's longstanding commitment to diversity in programming and would not have been possible without the crucial support from the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund.”

Slavery by Another Name is a production of tpt National Productions, in association with Two Dollars & A Dream.

Shukree Hassan Tilghman, an African American filmmaker, takes a modern-day look at Black History Month in his film, More Than a Month. Tilghman embarks on a cross-country campaign to end Black History Month; as part of his journey, he investigates what the treatment of history tells us about race and equality in a “post-racial” America.

More Than a Month, which premieres Feb. 16, is part of ITVS’s Independent Lens Black History Month programming that also includes Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock and The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975.

Tilghman acknowledged the importance of public media funding, saying “CPB recognizes that public media’s audiences are changing and, through their investments in projects like More Than a Month — a film that brings issues of celebrating racial heritage to the forefront – they are helping to introduce new and diverse audiences to important educational, cultural and informational programming that isn’t available anywhere else.”

CPB also provided funding for The Interrupters and In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues, both of which will premiere this month.

A FRONTLINE and ITVS co-production, The Interrupters chronicles the efforts of Chicago's innovative CeaseFire initiative to “interrupt” gang shootings and quell urban violence. Critics have described the film, from acclaimed director Steve James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, as “riveting,” “powerful” and “necessary.” The documentary airs on Feb. 14.

In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues will celebrate Blues music with performances by some of today’s top artists. President and Mrs. Obama will host the concert, taped in the East Room of the White House, airing on Feb. 27. The special will also explore the roots of the Blues and pay homage to famous Blues musicians — from John Lee Hooker to Muddy Waters.

“This concert at the White House celebrates the musical contributions that the Blues have made to our culture. Through public media, all Americans are able to explore and experience this unique part of our American heritage,” said Harrison.

In addition to these premieres, an encore presentation of Freedom Riders: American Experience will air Feb. 7. Freedom Riders, from acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson, tells the story of a group of civil rights activists who risked their lives to challenge segregation in the South in 1961.

Public radio stations around the country will air State of the Re:Union’s “Who Is this Man?” which chronicles the life and influence of Bayard Rustin – a black, gay Quaker, who advocated for peace and non-violence during America’s Civil Rights movement.

The importance of Black History Month also extends online. The second game in the Mission US series, “Flight to Freedom,” was released last month to support educational activities connected to Black History Month.

Produced by THIRTEEN/WNET and funded by CPB, “Flight to Freedom,” a state-of-the-art, interactive game, introduces middle school students to the experiences of Lucy King, a 14-year-old runaway slave trying to secure her freedom. As students play “Flight to Freedom,” they build knowledge of the history of slavery and the abolitionist movement.

“Flight to Freedom” was developed in consultation with a team of historians and educators at the American Social History Project (ASHP)/Center for Media & Learning as well as Ira Berlin, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland; Nikki Taylor, a historian at the University of Cincinnati and the National Underground Railroad Center; and Christopher Moore, a public historian and researcher at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. The Mission US series was developed to engage middle school students in American history by seeing it through the eyes of their peers from the past.

CPB also invests in television programming, such as American Masters, Independent Lens, PBS NEWSHOUR, FRONTLINE, POV, Tavis Smiley, and Finding Your Roots with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (premiering March 25), as well as well as radio content that airs throughout the year and is aimed at reaching diverse audiences across the country.

About CPB

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,400 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

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