FRONTLINE’s ‘Un(re)solved’ Leads Juneteenth Public Media Programming
June 17, 2021
Emancipation Day, or Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States as June 19, 1865, the day U.S. Major General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas, to read the Emancipation Declaration aloud. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. And public media honors Juneteenth with programming throughout June.
FRONTLINE’s “Un(re)solved,” a multiplatform experience telling the stories of lives cut short and a federal effort to investigate more than 150 cold cases that date back to the civil rights era, made its debut as an augmented reality installation, interactive web experience and podcast series this month as part of the Juneteenth programming at the Tribeca Festival in New York City.
The “Un(re)solved” immersive web experience and the installation, which will tour museums, schools and libraries, allows users to navigate through a virtual forest and invites them to say the names of people whose cases were re-examined under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Act to learn about their lives and deaths, and how their families are still searching for justice. Tamara Shogaolu is creative director of the installation and interactive.
The “Un(re)solved” podcast, with host James Edwards telling the story of the cases and the families still searching for justice, launched on June 11, distributed by PRX. A StoryCorps conversation between Malina Edwards and her sister, Mildred Betts, whose father was lynched in 1957, aired June 4 on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” And an “Un(re)solved” film, directed by Yoruba Richen and Brad Lichtenstein, will air on the acclaimed FRONTLINE PBS series, with an “Un(re)solved” educational curriculum also in the works. “Un(re)solved” virtual and in-person events this week are part of an ongoing series.
The multiplatform project was executive produced by filmmakers Dawn Porter and Raney Aronson-Rath, with partners including Ado Ato Pictures, StoryCorps, Black Public Media, Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project and Retro Report.
Other local and national public media programming, on air and virtually, include:
- “Slavery by Another Name,” a documentary that shows how many African Americans were pulled back into forced labor after the official end of slavery in 1865, is being rebroadcast on many PBS stations (check local listings) and is available to stream at PBS.org or the PBS video app. The 90-minute film, an official selection of the 2012 Sundance Festival, was produced and directed by Sam Pollard and narrated by Laurence Fishburne.
- Say It Loud, the PBS Digital Studios series celebrating Black culture, context and history, has posted a new episode, “Are Black People Truly Free? Juneteenth and the Continuing Fight For Liberation” on its YouTube channel and PBS.org.
- NPR Live Sessions, which curates music videos from public radio stations, showcases Rhiannon Giddens singing “At the Purchaser’s Option,” a song inspired by an old slave advertisement, on June 19.
- “Juneteenth: The Movement,” a live, two-hour multimedia event celebrating Iowa’s Black artistry, community and culture, airs from 7-9 p.m. CDT on June 19 on Iowa PBS, Iowa Public Radio, YouTube and Facebook. The event, a partnership among Iowa PBS, Iowa Public Radio, and the Des Moines venue xBk, will be co-hosted by Madison Ray of The Finesse and IPR's Studio One host Cece Mitchell.
- South Florida PBS (WPBT and WXEL) offers several national and local Juneteenth programs. “Hustle to Scale,” about Black entrepreneurs who built their ventures in Overtown, the once thriving economic epicenter of Miami’s Black community, and the systemic barriers to economic mobility, airs at 10 pm EDT June 18 on WPBT. “Invisible History: Middle Florida’s Hidden Roots,” on the little-known history of plantations and the enslaved in North Florida, airs 10 pm June 21 on WPBT/3 pm June 26 on WXEL.
- "Let Freedom Ring: A Musical Celebration of Juneteenth with Lara Downes," airs from 2-5 pm PDT June 19 on Classical KUSC in Los Angeles. The special features the music of Black composers from Florence Price to Bob Marley, and performers including Jessye Norman and the Kanneh-Mason family. It will stream live at kusc.org and is being distributed to other public radio stations via PRX. Downes also curated a Juneteenth playlist on the KUSC staff blog.
- NPR’s From the Top Juneteenth Special (check local listings and online), highlights works by Black composers and young Black musicians, including “From the Top” alumni Kevin Olusola, Clifton Williams and Hannah White performing Sam Cooke’s classic 1964 hit “A Change is Gonna Come.”
- WNYC’s “Intelligence Squared” caps a week of Juneteenth special programming showcasing the contributions of Black people to our society and culture at 3 p.m. on June 19.
- WQXR holds a 24-hour Juneteenth marathon of music by composers and performers of African descent, featuring classical compositions from the 16th century to the present, including major works by Florence Price, William Grant Still, Margaret Bonds, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Joseph Boulogne and Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The marathon includes a “New York in Concert” Juneteenth celebration, featuring the Thalea String Quartet, the Catalyst Quartet, Randall Goosby and others.
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