Updated Feb. 7, 2013, 2:15pm CT
Here are some of the notable new and returning TV specials, documentaries and movies airing in celebration of Black History Month 2013. All times are Eastern. Programming is subject to change; check back regularly for additions and updates.
UNCF An Evening of Stars – Jan. 27 at 10pm on BET. Anthony Anderson hosts the 34th annual UNCF An Evening of Stars Educating Our Future. The variety show focuses public attention on America’s need for more African-American college graduates and UNCF’s work getting students to and through college. Features performances and appearances by Usher, Steve Harvey, Chaka Khan, Kevin Hart, Yolanda Adams, Charlie Wilson, Keyshia Cole, Trey Songz, Tyrese Gibson, Melanie Fiona, Eric Benet, Tracee Ellis Ross, Keenan Ivory Wayans and more.
American Masters: “Cab Calloway: Sketches” (encore) – Jan. 28 at 12pm on PBS (check local listings). This episode profiles Cab Calloway, the legendary jazz artist who was one of the first black musicians to tour the segregationist South and who was a regular performer at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club.
Freedom Riders: American Experience (encore) – Jan. 30 at 12pm on PBS (check local listings). This is a re-airing of the outstanding, Emmy-winning documentary. In 1961, segregation seemed to have an overwhelming grip on American society. Many states violently enforced the policy, while the federal government, under the Kennedy administration, remained indifferent, preoccupied with matters abroad. That is, until an integrated band of college students — many of whom were the first in their families to attend a university — decided, en masse, to risk everything and buy a ticket on a Greyhound bus bound for the Deep South. They called themselves the Freedom Riders, and they managed to bring the president and the entire American public face-to-face with the challenge of correcting civil-rights inequities that plagued the nation.
“Memories of My Father” – Segments air throughout February on Bounce TV. This short-form series is part of Bounce TV‘s “Our History” month-long programming salute to Black History Month, and features Martin Luther King III — who is among the Founding Group and Board of Directors of the network — sharing his personal memories and impressions of his trailblazing father, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The “Memories of My Father” segments were filmed in Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King began his ministry. Mr. King III says, “Bounce TV celebrates the African American community every day of the year. At the same time it is important as the country focuses on the contributions of African Americans to the advancement of civilization that we participate in a significant and meaningful manner. I strongly encourage people of all races and ethnicities to watch Bounce TV all year, but particularly in February.”
“We Are Doc McStuffins” Black History Month Interstitials – Feb. 1 at 10:25am and 4:25pm on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. In celebration of Black History Month, Disney Junior will debut “We Are Doc McStuffins” interstitials featuring Doc McStuffins, a young African-American girl who aspires to be a doctor like her mom, alongside three real life female African-American physicians sharing what their jobs entail, and saluting their heroes. The interstitials will begin airing on Disney Channel and Disney Junior on Feb. 1 at 10:25am and 4:25pm, respectively, following a new Doc McStuffins episode. Additional interstitials featuring the three doctors will begin rolling out in the spring and will air regularly on both platforms. Since its March 2012 premiere, the series has garnered attention for its portrayal of a young girl who runs a clinic for her stuffed animals and toys out of her backyard playhouse. Additionally, the series inspired a group of female African-American physicians to begin a “movement” they coined, “We Are Doc McStuffins.” Seeing a reflection of themselves in the Doc character and the opportunity to inspire young girls, the group grew to form the Artemis Medical Society, an organization of over 2,500 female African-American physicians and medical students from around the world. The interstitials feature three of the founding members of the “We Are Doc McStuffins” movement – Dr. Myiesha Taylor, an emergency doctor based in Dallas; Dr. Aletha Maybank, a pediatrician in New York City; and Dr. Naeemah Ghafur, a family doctor in Los Angeles who provides specialized care for the underserved, including the elderly and patients with high-risk illnesses. Dr. Taylor said, “Doc McStuffins is a wonderful inspiration and we’re pleased to be part of extending Disney Channel’s role model message so girls and most especially African-American girls can be inspired to pursue a career in medicine.”
44th NAACP Image Awards – Feb. 1 Live at 8pm (tape-delayed PT) on NBC. The NAACP Image Awards celebrate the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film, and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. ABC and CBS lead the nominees in the TV categories this year with 20 and 12 nominations, respectively, followed by HBO and Lifetime with 10 and NBC with 9. In the recording category, RCA leads with 11 nominations, followed by Atlantic with 10 nominations. In the motion picture category, The Weinstein Company, Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures each have 4 nominations. Actress Kerry Washington will be presented with the NAACP President’s Award.
Independent Lens: “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” (encore) – Feb. 2 at 12pm on PBS (check local listings). As a black woman who was a feminist before the term was commonplace, Daisy Bates refused to accept her assigned place in society. This film tells the story of her life and public support of nine black students who registered to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, which culminated in a constitutional crisis — pitting a president against a governor and a community against itself. Unconventional, revolutionary and egotistical, Bates reaped the rewards of instant fame, but paid dearly for it.
Independent Lens: “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975″ (encore) – Feb. 2 at 1pm on PBS (check local listings). Combining startlingly fresh and candid 16 mm footage that had lain undiscovered in the cellar of Swedish Television for the past 30 years, with contemporary audio interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, ”Mixtape” looks at the people, society, culture and style that fueled an era of convulsive change, 1967-1975. Utilizing an innovative format that riffs on the popular 1970s mixtape format, this is a cinematic and musical journey into the black communities of America.
Independent Lens: “More Than a Month” (encore) – Feb. 2 at 2:30pm on PBS (check local listings). Shukree Hassan Tilghman, a 29-year-old African-American filmmaker, is on a cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. Through his tongue-in-cheek journey, More Than a Month investigates what the treatment of history tells us about race and equality in a “post-racial” America.
Betty & Coretta – Feb. 2 at 8pm on Lifetime. The dual real-life stories of Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett) and Dr. Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) are the subjects of this original movie. The respective wives of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Malik Yoba) and Malcolm X (Lindsay Owen Pierre), the two women create an unbreakable lifelong bond after their husbands’ tragic assassinations. The film kicks off Lifetime’s Black History Month 2013 celebration.
The Road to Brown (encore) – Feb. 3 at 7pm on Starz In Black. This 1990 documentary profiles Charles Hamilton Houston, who played a significant role in dismantling the Jim Crow laws, helping Black America finally have legal equal rights under the Constitution.
The Scroll: Evidence of Life Unseen – Sundays Feb. 3-24 at 8pm on ASPiRE. This four-part documentary miniseries chronicles the real-life stories of some of the 21st century’s highest-profile African-American faith leaders. The series is directed and executive produced by Parrish Smith, who spent three years conducting interviews with more than 50 of the country’s most respected pastors and ministers about their lives and the struggles they overcame to get to there they are today. Faith leaders featured in the series include Bishop T.D. Jakes, Rev. Al Sharpton Jr., Rev. Bernice A. King, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant, Bishop Noel Jones, Pastor Floyd H. Flake, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Minister Wess Morgan, Bishop Charles E. Blake, Rev. Dr. David Jefferson Sr., Rev. Dr. Della Reese Lett, Bishop Keith Reed Sr., Rev. Dr. Marvin L. Sapp., Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Bishop Donald Hilliard Jr., Pastor A.R. Bernard, Pastor Lawrence Powell, Apostle Frederick K.C. Price, Bishop Joseph L. Garlington, Pastor John K. Jenkins Sr. , Rev. Dr. Mark Tyler, Bishop Dale C. Bronner, Rev. Dr. Perry Simmons Jr., and Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Walker.
February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four – Feb. 3 at 8pm on Starz In Black. A document of one volatile winter in Greensboro that not only changed public laws in North Carolina but served as a blueprint for the wave of non-violent Civil Rights protests that swept across the nation throughout the 1960s.
Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin – Feb. 3 at 8pm on WORLD (formerly PBS World; check local listings). Five years in the making and the winner of more than 25 awards and honors in the United States and abroad, this film illuminates the life and work of Bayard Rustin, a visionary activist and strategist who has been called “the unknown hero” of the civil rights movement. A tireless crusader for social and economic justice, a disciple of Gandhi, and a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (playing a role in organizing the 1963 march on Washington, D.C.), Rustin dared to live as an openly gay man during the fiercely homophobic 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. This documentary reveals the price that he paid for his openness, chronicling both the triumphs and setbacks of his 60-year career. This special expanded, 10th anniversary edition of the film airs as part of the America ReFramed series. In newly shot footage, producer-director Bennett Singer, journalist Faral Chideya and series host Natasha Del Toro discuss Rustin’s ongoing relevance, the similarities and differences between the 1960s civil rights movement and the current fight for LGBT rights, as well as the progress of social justice in the United States 50 years after the historic march that Rustin organized.
The Real Great Debaters of Wiley College – Feb. 4 at 10pm on Bounce TV. This is the inspiring true story of the 1935 Wiley College debate team. Under the tutelage of their dynamic coach, Melvin B. Tolson , three young debaters from a small black college in the Jim Crow South managed, against all odds, to defeat the all-white reigning national championship team. Their stunning achievement shattered racial stereotypes and earned them the lasting respect of their peers and the nation.
Images in Black and White (encore) – Feb. 5 at 7am; Feb. 9 at 7am on ESPN Classic. This special looks at some of the most influential African-American sports personalities, through pictures.
Pioneers of Television: “Miniseries” – Feb. 5 at 8pm on PBS (check local listings). During this episode about memorable television miniseries, stars of the groundbreaking production Roots – LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett Jr., Leslie Uggams, Ben Vereen, John Amos, Georg Stanford Brown and Ed Asner — talk about the epic broadcast.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown (encore) – Feb. 6 at 9pm on Bounce TV. Part documentary and part concert performance, this film is an introduction to the intriguing personas of the Funk Brothers, the Hitsville studio band originally assembled by Berry Gordy in 1959. Over 40 years later, the remaining members reunited in their home base of Detroit, MI, to tell their stories, remember their departed band mates, and put on a concert.
Wattstax – Feb. 6 at 11:30pm & Feb. 17 at 8pm on Bounce TV. A documentary about music and the black experience, centering on the Los Angeles community of Watts, and featuring monologues by Richard Pryor, Wattstax covers a Stax Records-sponsored concert at the 1972 Watts Summer Festival with artists such as Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas and The Staples Singers.
The Wereth Eleven – Feb. 7 at 10pm on Military Channel. This docudrama tells the true story of 11 African-American soldiers who were ruthlessly murdered by the Nazi SS during the Battle of the Bulge. The program weaves new archival footage with interviews to detail one of the least-known atrocities of World War II. During the war, 1.2 million African-Americans served in America’s armed forces. 708 of them were killed. Among the casualties were The Wereth Eleven, whose story was lost until now.
Rize – Feb. 8 at 11am & Feb. 24 at 10pm on Bounce TV. In 1992, after long-simmering racial tensions in Los Angeles erupted in riots following the verdicts in the Rodney King trial, a man named Tommy Johnson sought to spread a new message in a new way to the city’s African-Americans. Creating a character called Tommy the Clown, Johnson developed an act that combined hip-hop-flavored comedy and dancing with an anti-gang and anti-violence message.
Black Magic (encore) – Feb. 8 at 10pm; Feb. 9 at 8pm; Feb. 10 at 8pm on ESPN Classic. This ESPN original documentary offers a look at the role and impact of Historically Black Colleges on professional basketball. Part 2 follows.
Secret Game (encore) – Feb. 9 at 9am & 12pm; Feb. 25 at 7am on ESPN Classic. This documentary is about how, in 1944, a secret game was arranged between the all-white Duke University team and the team from N.C. College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University). For the time, the game was revolutionary, as the doors to the gym were locked, and no spectators were allowed. With the Klan being so active in Durham at the time, the game remained secret until now.
30 For 30: “The 16th Man” (encore) – Feb. 9 at 10am on ESPN Classic. In 1994, Nelson Mandela began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Though theyhad only one non-white player, the South African Springboks gained supporters of all colors as they made an improbable run into the final match where they beat the heavily favored New Zealand team. When Mandela himself marched to the center of the pitch cloaked in a Springbok jersey and shook hands with the captain of the South African team, two nations became one. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman and director Cliff Bestall will tell the emotional story of that cornerstone moment and what it meant to South Africa’s healing process.
The Jackie Robinson Story (encore) – Feb. 9 at 1pm on ESPN Classic. Jackie Robinson plays himself in this 1950 biopic about how he became the first black major league baseball player. Ruby Dee costars.
30 For 30: “Ghosts of Ole Miss” (encore) – Feb. 9 at 7pm; Feb. 10 at 7pm; Feb. 25 at 8am on ESPN Classic. In 1962, the University of Mississippi campus erupted in violence over integration and swelled with pride over an unbeaten football team. Mississippi native Wright Thompson explores the tumultuous events that continue to shape the state 50 years later.
Twist of Faith – Feb. 9 at 8pm on Lifetime. This original movie in Lifetime’s Black History Month celebration stars Toni Braxton as a single Christian mother and David Julian Hirsh as an Orthodox Jewish widower, whose mutual passion for music and singing draws them together in an interfaith love story.
Third and a Mile: The History of the Black Quarterback (encore) – Feb. 10 at 10am on ESPN Classic. A look at the history of the black quarterback, with interviews and clips of how black QBs have progressed through the NFL despite racism and stereotypes.
A Race Story (encore) – Feb. 10 at 4pm; Feb. 24 at 2:30pm on ESPN Classic. ESPN’s original documentary looks at Wendell Scott’s historic ride to break the color barrier and become the only African-American driver to date to win a race in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Scott endured track officials who wouldn’t let him run, drivers who wrecked him and spectators who shouted slurs at him, but through dogged determination he persevered.
At the River I Stand (encore) – Feb. 10 at 7pm; Feb. 13 at 9:45pm on Starz In Black. This 1993 documentary chronicles the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike and the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
Revolution ’67 (encore) – Feb. 10 at 8pm on Starz In Black. A focus on the six-day riots in Newark in July 1967, which began as spontaneous revolts against poverty and police brutality, but ended as fateful milestones in America’s struggles over race and economic justice.
BET Honors 2013 – Feb. 11 at 9pm on BET. Celebrating its sixth year, BET Honors celebrates and recognizes the gifts and contributions of six exceptional African American leaders. The BET Honors 2013 honorees are: music executive and entrepreneur Clarence Avant; actress Halle Berry; musician Chaka Khan; spiritual educator T.D. Jakes; and athlete Lisa Leslie. Performing at the event will be Erykah Badu, Wayne Brady, Brandy, Mint Condition, Jimmy Jam, Alicia Keys, Ledisi, the SOS Band and Terry Lewis. Gabrielle Union hosts.
Rising From the Rails – Feb. 11 at 10pm on Bounce TV. This program chronicles the relatively unheralded Pullman Porters, generations of African-American men who served as caretakers to wealthy white passengers on luxury trains that traversed the nation in the golden age of rail travel. Based on the best-selling book by Larry Tye.
A Defining Moment – Feb. 11 at 11pm on Bounce TV. Examines the personal stories of four of the famed Tuskegee Airmen whose contribution to the civil rights movement helped pave the way for an historic event: the inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States. Through courage, discipline and faith, these men come full-circle to witness this defining moment in history.
Glory (encore) – Feb. 12 at 10pm on Sony Movie Channel. Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick star in this story about the first black regiment to fight for the North during the Civil War.
The Hip Hop Project – Feb. 14 at 3pm on Bounce TV. The story of a group of New York City teenagers who transform their life stories into powerful works of art, using hip hop as a vehicle for self-development and personal discovery.
Underground Railroad: The William Still Story (encore) – Feb. 15 at 10:30pm on PBS (check local listings). Extraordinary people risked their lives to help fugitive slaves escape via the clandestine Underground Railroad. Among them was William Still of Philadelphia, a free black man who accepted delivery of transported crates containing human “cargo.” This documentary reveals some of the dramatic, lesser-known stories behind this humanitarian enterprise, and explores key Canadian connections, including the surprising fate of former slaves who crossed the border to “Freedom’s Land.”
Stories From the Road to Freedom – Feb. 16 at 8pm on History. This new special uses first-hand accounts, rare audio recordings, never-before-seen archival footage and home movies to chronicle African-American life as lived by regular people from Emancipation to the Civil Rights era. Included is recently discovered, never-before-broadcast footage of Ernest Beane, a Pullman porter who documented his life on the rails, and an audio recording of an interview with World War I veteran Edward Nichols, who witnessed the 1919 Red Summer Riots in Duluth. Other rarities include color footage of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple whose Supreme Court case ended race-based legal restrictions on marriage; and outtakes from interviews with the first African-American family to move into all-white Levittown, Pa., and the white neighbors who opposed it. Glimpses of everyday life can be seen in some of the earliest known African-American home movies that were shot in wealthy black communities in Oklahoma in the aftermath of the Tulsa Riots; in the earliest known photographs of a Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Tx., in 1900; and in very rare and never-before-broadcast footage from the 1954 All Black Memphis State Fair.
Pastor Brown – Feb. 16 at 8pm on Lifetime. In this original movie airing as part of Lifetime’s Black History Month celebration, a young woman (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) returns home to take over as pastor of the family church after her father’s (Keith David) death and is forced to face her sordid past and mend fences with her son (Michael B. Jordan) and sister (Nicole Ari Parker).
Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (encore) – Feb. 17 at 7pm; Feb. 20 at 10pm on Starz In Black. This docudrama highlights Nat Turner’s slave rebellion and its impact on America’s long and troubled history of slavery and racial conflict. Interviews include William Styron, Ossie Davis, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and others.
Banished – Feb. 17 at 8pm; Feb. 20 at 11pm on Starz In Black. Banished explores African-American families who were expelled from their communities by the white majority residents.
Miracle Rising: South Africa – Feb. 17 at 10pm on H2; Feb. 23 at 12pm on History. Narrated through personal and intimate accounts from world leaders, politicians and journalists, this documentary reflects on South Africa’s political transformation that culminated in the first free and fair elections in April 1994. From Nelson Mandela’s decision to learn Afrikaans while in prison, to the amnesty hearings of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, the special explores the difficult decisions that were taken enabling enemies to achieve peace, focusing on the visionary leadership and negotiations that brought about transition of the nationalist regime to a system of one-person, one-vote.
President Barack Obama: The Man and His Journey – Feb. 18 at 10pm on Bounce TV. This program documents President Obama’s life and career, from his early days through his run for the White House in 2008.
Independent Lens: “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” – Feb. 18 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings). Whitney M. Young, Jr. (pictured below, with President Lyndon Johnson) was one of the most celebrated — and controversial — leaders of the civil rights era. This film follows his journey from segregated Kentucky to head of the National Urban League. Unique among black leaders, he took the fight directly to the powerful white elite, gaining allies in business and government, including three presidents. Young had the difficult tasks of calming the fears of white allies, relieving the doubts of fellow civil rights leaders and responding to attacks from the militant Black Power movement.
Joe Louis bouts – Feb. 22 at 12am on ESPN Classic. Five hours of classic bouts featuring, and specials about, the legendary African-American boxer.
American Masters: “Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll” – Feb. 22 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). This episode chronicles the life, music and influence of African-American gospel singer and guitar virtuoso Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973). During the 1940s-60s, the Southern-born, Chicago-raised and New York-made Sister Rosetta (pictured at top of this page, performing at New York’s Cafe Society in 1940) introduced the spiritual passion of her gospel music into the secular world of rock ’n’ roll, inspiring the male icons of the genre. The flamboyant superstar, with her spectacular playing on the newly electrified guitar, had a major influence on black musicians, including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Isaac Hayes and Etta James, and also on white stars such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
Slavery By Another Name (encore) – Feb. 22 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings). A Sundance Film Festival selection for 2012 (where its director, Sam Pollard, received a nearly two-minute standing ovation after the film’s screening), this documentary based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal senior writer Douglas A. Blackmon explores the little-known story of the post-Emancipation era and the labor practices and laws that effectively created a new form of slavery in the South that persisted well into the 20th century. Blackmon examines the concept of “neoslavery,” which sentenced African-Americans to forced labor for violating an array of laws that criminalized their everyday behavior. Actor Laurence Fishburne narrates.
Scandalize My Name: Stories From the Blacklist (encore) – Feb. 24 at 7pm on Starz In Black. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary examines several prominent African-American performers who were seeking more and enhanced roles on radio, television and stage. But in the 1940s and ’50s, anti-Communist sentiment was one more tool used to maintain Jim Crow and to oppress them.
Dare Not Walk Alone (encore) – Feb. 24 at 8pm on Starz In Black. Nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Most Outstanding Documentary, this 2006 film is set to a soundtrack that flows from gospel to hip hop, and examines the heroic struggle of the civil rights supporters who put their lives on the line in the midst of the now historical racial clashes in St. Augustine, Fla., in order to force the president to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
500 Years Later – Feb. 25 at 11am on Bounce TV. This multiple award-winning documentary, filmed on five continents and over 20 countries, tells the story of the struggle of a people who have fought and continue to fight for the most essential human right – freedom.
March to Justice – Feb. 25 at 7pm on Investigation Discovery. Reflecting on our nation’s ongoing pursuit of equal rights, this one-hour documentary offers unprecedented access to a civil rights pilgrimage attended by champions of the movement and three generations of the Kennedy family. The film features first-person recollections from Civil Rights movement luminaries, including Georgia Congressman John Lewis, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing survivor Carolyn McKinstry and equal rights advocate Ruby Bridges.
In the Shadow of Hollywood – Feb. 25 at 10pm on Bounce TV. The story, sounds and images of a nearly-forgotten era in film history when African-American filmmakers and studios created “race movies” exclusively for black audiences.
A Colored Life: The Herb Jeffries Story – Feb. 25 at 11:30pm on Bounce TV. A look at the charismatic personality who used his light complexion to survive — and thrive — in both the black and white worlds.
SportsCentury marathon (encore) – Feb. 26 starting at 1pm on ESPN Classic. A marathon of episodes looking at notable and influential African-American athletes, including Florence Griffith Joyner, Zina Garrison, Ernie Davis, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Wilma Rudolph, Hank Aaron, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.
American Masters: Sister Rosetta Tharpe photo Courtesy of Don Peterson/Charles Peterson
Betty & Coretta photo: Credit Lifetime/Jan Thijs
Independent Lens: The Powerbroker photo courtesy of Lyndon Baines Johnson Library