Public Media Stations Celebrate the Legacy of “The Black Church” in Local Communities Nationwide

Feb. 10, 2021

Stained glass art of a church interior

Public television and radio stations across the country are engaging local Black churches, faith leaders, historians, gospel artists and community members through events and local programming in anticipation of “The Black Church: This Is Our Song,” the new four-hour documentary series framing the 400-year history of the Black church in America.

CPB provided $175,500 to 29 local public media stations, including stations licensed to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to connect the national broadcast with local history and music and to reach new audiences. The station grants will help fund virtual screenings, panel discussions, gospel music concerts featuring local talent, and other local content for broadcast and podcast programming related to the two-part special that premieres February 16 and 17 on PBS. 

Public media stations are connecting the documentary to the history of the Black church in their own communities in many ways, including:

  • KTSU-FM (Houston, Texas) partnered with Houston Public Media, The University of Houston Diversity and Inclusion Committee on a series of interviews with four influential leaders in the Houston faith community called "Keeping the Faith: The Black Church in Houston." A one-hour radio special by Houston Public Media and KTSU, “Lift Up Your Hearts: Houston's Gospel Heritage,” features music and interviews from some of Houston's top gospel talent about what the church has meant to them.
  • PBS SoCal will host a discussion centered around gospel music’s history in Los Angeles, featuring clips submitted by audience members singing along with a classic recorded gospel song. A second event will explore the untold history of the Black Church in Los Angeles through local archives and a conversation with scholars and librarians from the USC Archives and Fuller Theological Seminary.
  • Mississippi Public Broadcasting partnered with the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History on a virtual panel discussion with local clergy and music ministers moderated by Entertainer/comedienne Rita Brent.
  • Throughout February, KERA (Dallas, Texas) is celebrating the influence of Black churches on life in North Texas and inviting audiences who grew up in a Black church to share how the experience shaped who they are today.
  • Starting February 14, Detroit Public TV will feature a series of reports on the historic importance and continuing influence of the Black church in Detroit on “American Black Journal,” the nation’s longest-running news show devoted to the African American experience. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson will host the series, produced in partnership with the Ecumenical Theological Seminary and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
  • WCLK-FM (Atlanta, Georgia) hosted two virtual panel discussions featuring Black cultural leaders in Greater Atlanta facilitated by Kiplyn Primus, host of “WCLK’s The Local Take.” Topics ranged from the role of the Black church in education and the civil rights movement to the social enrichment of communities. On February 14, WCLK will present a “Songversation and Interfaith Assembly” featuring special musical guests and words of motivation, inspiration, and hope from Greater Atlanta faith-based leaders. 
  • On WNSB (Norfolk, VA)’s “State of the Water,” produced in partnership with the Center for African American Public Policy (CAAmPP) at Norfolk State University, Dr. Eric Claville is hosting a series of interviews with African American pastors to discuss the impact of the Black church in the community. WNSB will also host a virtual panel discussion on February 21 with the faith-based community.
  • WVAS-FM (Montgomery, Alabama) will host a virtual screening event and discussion on February 18 about the documentary and the relevance of the Black Church today amid the pandemic and climate of political divisiveness.
Preview: The Black Church, by PBS

“‘The Black Church’ is a landmark documentary that beautifully illustrates the pre-eminent role church, faith and spirituality have played in shaping the Black American experience,” said Pat Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “Through these grants, we are helping public media stations -- public radio as well as public television -- leverage the documentary series to bring together new partners and explore how the role of the Black church has evolved in their communities and impacted our nation.”

Grants to the 16 public television stations are administered by WETA, the producing station for the series:

  • Public Broadcasting Atlanta
  • DPTV, Detroit, Michigan
  • Georgia Public Broadcasting, Atlanta, Georgia
  • KERA, Dallas
  • KQED, San Francisco
  • Maryland Public Television, Owings Mills, Maryland
  • Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Jackson, Mississippi
  • Nashville Public Television
  • New Hampshire Public Television, Durham, New Hampshire
  • PBS SoCal, Los Angeles, California
  • Twin Cities PBS (TPT), St. Paul, Minnesota
  • WFYI, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • WHUT*, Washington, DC
  • WTTW, Chicago
  • WUCF, Orlando

Grants to the 14 public radio stations are administered by VuHaus, a public media music organization of stations:

  • WBGO, Newark, New Jersey
  • WRTI, Philadelphia
  • WGBH-FM, Boston
  • WVAS*, Montgomery Alabama
  • KJLU*, Jefferson City, Missouri
  • WRVS*, Elizabeth City, North Carolina
  • WMFE, Orlando, Florida
  • WCLK*, Atlanta, Georgia
  • WNSB*, Norfolk, Virginia
  • KUVO & The Drop, Denver
  • WJAB*, Huntsville, Alabama
  • WNCU*, Raleigh Durham, North Carolina
  • WJCT, Jacksonville, Florida
  • KTSU*, Houston, Texas

*Licensed to Historically Black College or University

“The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song” is produced by McGee Media, Inkwell Media and WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Get Lifted. It premieres at 9 pm ET/8 CT on February 16 and 17 on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings), as well as streaming on the PBS app, PBS Passport and