Cable companies and cable networks are proud to observe Black History Month, held annually in February, with special programming to commemorate important events and people in the history of African Americans.
First observed in 1920, the week-long celebration grew into Black History Month in 1976. February was selected for its commemoration, from its start, to honor the birthdates of President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and former slave. The two men’s actions profoundly impacted the lives and history of black Americans.
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Some special Black History Month programming includes:
(programs subject to change; check local listings)
The Scroll: Evidence of Life Unseen – 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. Feb. 3-24, 7 p.m.
Soul Mates: Dr. Maya Angelou and Common – The iconic master of literature, who received the country’s highest civilian honor from President Obama, meets the celebrated hip-hop artist, Common. Feb. 12, 10 a.m.
BET Honors – This year’s show recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding African Americans by honoring Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Spike Lee, Beverly Kearney and the Tuskegee Airmen. Feb. 13, 9 p.m.
Frederick Douglass – The life of the great abolitionist who escaped slavery in 1838 and used his talents as a writer and orator to fight for emancipation. Frederick Douglass edited an abolitionist newspaper, recruited black regiments during the Civil War, and advised President Lincoln. Feb. 5, 6 a.m.
Barack Obama – Biography follows Obama through his teenage struggles for self-identity, his student days at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and through his political career in Chicago, where he rose to fame through a focus on ethics and political reform. The program also goes behind the scenes of his presidential campaign.. Feb. 12, 6 a.m.
Crucibles of Courage – This documentary, hosted by President Obama (then a senator from Illinois), profiles people across a broad spectrum of history representing achievements in politics, business, medicine, the arts and sports. Feb. 19, 6 a.m.
Thurgood Marshall – Using archival footage, period accounts, and candid interviews with colleagues and family, this episode of Biography presents the comprehensive story of the legendary jurist and civil rights activist. As a civil rights lawyer in the 1940s and ’50s, he traveled the South trying to end discrimination, and as a member of the Supreme Court, he presided over some of the most influential decisions in American history. Feb. 26, 6 a.m.
North and South – The six-part miniseries tells the story of the turbulent events and emotions that ignited the Civil War, while focusing on the lives of two families who are geographically and ideologically placed on opposite sides of the war. Feb. 2-8, 7 p.m.
Sally Hemings: An American Scandal – NAACP Image Award winning miniseries is a biographical account of the extraordinary, controversial, 38 year-long love affair between Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings. Feb. 3, 9 a.m.
Black Magic (encore) – This ESPN original documentary offers a look at the role and impact of historically black colleges on professional basketball. Part 2 follows. Feb. 8, 9 p.m.; Feb. 9, 7 p.m.; Feb. 10, 7 p.m.
Secret Game (encore) – 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. Feb. 9, 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.; Feb. 25, 6 a.m.
30 For 30: “The 16th Man” (encore) – 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 they had 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. Feb. 9, 9 a.m.
The Jackie Robinson Story (encore) – Jackie Robinson plays himself in this 1950 biopic about how he became the first black major league baseball player. Feb. 9, Noon.
30 For 30: “Ghosts of Ole Miss” (encore) – 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. Feb. 9, 6 p.m.; Feb. 10, 6 p.m.; Feb. 25, 7 a.m.
Third and a Mile: The History of the Black Quarterback (encore) – 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. Feb. 10, 9 a.m.
A Race Story (encore) – 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. Feb. 10, 3 p.m., and Feb. 24, 1:30 p.m.
Joe Louis bouts – Five hours of classic bouts featuring, and specials about, the legendary African-American boxer. Feb. 22, 11 p.m.
SportsCentury marathon (encore) – 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. Feb. 26, starting at Noon.
First to Fight: Black Tankers of WWII – During World War II, the 761st Tank Battalion made history as the first all-black tank unit ever to see combat. Over the course of 183 straight days on the front during World War II, the 761st helped liberate more than 30 towns under Nazi control. Feb. 4, 5 a.m.
Stories from the Road to Freedom – Theiconic images and sounds associated with America’s Civil Rights movement are well known. But what happened before the heroes and protests, court orders and riots? Stories from the Road to Freedom, a new two-hour special, gives a fresh perspective of the black movement in America, from Emancipation to the Civil Rights era. The special uses first-hand accounts, rare audio recordings, never-before-seen archival footage and home movies – including the earliest known photographs of a Juneteenth celebration in Austin in 1900 – to chronicle African American life as lived by regular people, in their own words, through more than 100 years of social upheaval. Premieres Feb. 16, 7 p.m.
Double Victory (Parts 1 and 2) – This documentary tells the story of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, the first African American aerial unit. These brave pilots fought against fascism overseas while paving the way for the Civil Rights Movement on the home front. Part 1: Feb. 11, 5 a.m.; Part 2: Feb. 18, 5 a.m.
Miracle Rising: South Africa – 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. Feb. 17, 9 p.m. on H2; Feb. 23, 11 a.m. on HISTORY.
Modern Marvels: George Washington Carver Tech – An in depth look into some of the developments brought about by George Washington Carver’s pioneering work. Feb. 25, 5 a.m.
Betty & Coretta – 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. Feb. 2, 7 p.m.
Twist of Faith – 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. Feb. 9, 7 p.m.
Pastor Brown – In this original movie, 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). Feb. 16, 7 p.m.
The Wereth Eleven – 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. Feb. 7, 9 p.m.
Music Choice celebrates Black History Month On Demand with a month long campaign entitled “The New Classic,” a collection of videos, video playlists and brand new original content showcasing Black Music. The month long On Demand celebration runs through Sunday, March 3. Highlights of the month include:
Our Past is Our Future Original Program - MC sat down with R&B icon Charlie Wilson and five time Grammy nominee Miguel for a candid discussion about their music successes and major influences in their life. The documentary bridges the gap between one present icon and one future icon to witness the passing of the torch and how they have influenced each other and what the next few years looks like in their respected genres of music. On Demand Premiere Date: Jan. 28
Whitney Houston: Featured Artist - MC has the largest collection of Whitney Houston videos On Demand. MC will showcase her talent as one of the world’s best selling artists the entire month, which coincides with the 1st anniversary of her death. Videos highlighted in the Black History Month Folder include fan favorites such as, I Will Always Love You, I Have Nothing, I Look To You and The Star Spangled Banner as well as love songs including: Run To You, I Believe In You And Me, So Emotional and many more. On Demand Premiere Date: Feb. 4.
44th NAACP Image Awards –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. Actress Kerry Washington will be presented with the NAACP President’s Award. Feb. 1, 7 p.m.
Independent Lens: “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” (encore) – 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. Feb. 2, 11 a.m. (Check local listings).
Independent Lens: “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (encore) – 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. Feb. 2, Noon. (Check local listings).
Independent Lens: “More Than a Month” (encore) – 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. Feb. 2, 1:30 p.m. (Check local listings).
Pioneers of Television: “Miniseries” – 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. Feb. 5, 7 p.m. (Check local listings).
Underground Railroad: The William Still Story (encore) – 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.” Feb. 15, 9:30 p.m. (Check local listings).
Independent Lens: “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” – Whitney M. Young, Jr. 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. Feb. 18, 9 p.m. (Check local listings).
American Masters: “Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll” – 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 introduced the spiritual passion of her gospel music into the secular world of rock ’n’ roll, inspiring the male icons of the genre. Feb. 22, 8 p.m. (Check local listings).
Slavery By Another Name (encore) – This documentary, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, 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. Actor Laurence Fishburne narrates. Feb. 22, 9 p.m.
MLK: The Assassination Tapes – Created almost entirely through archival television and news coverage from the weeks leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visits to Memphis through the aftermath of his murder, this one-hour special presents the footage, most of which has not been seen by the public since 1968. Feb. 12, 8 p.m.
Seizing Justice: The Greensboro 4 – This documentary tells the story of four college freshmen who led a nonviolent sit-in at a coffee shop that kicked off a series of events that would eventually put an end to Jim Crow laws. Feb. 9, 7 p.m.
Black Wings – This program celebrates the stories of the black aviators who broke the color barrier and proved that the dream to fly transcends all boundaries. Feb. 11, 8 p.m.
The Road to Brown (encore) – 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. Feb. 3, 6 p.m.
February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four – 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. Feb. 3, 7 p.m.
At the River I Stand (encore) – This 1993 documentary chronicles the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike and the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Feb. 10, 6 p.m., and Feb. 13, 8:45 p.m.
Revolution ’67 (encore) – 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. Feb. 10, 7 p.m.
Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (encore) – This docudrama highlights Nat Turner’s slave rebellion and its impact on America’s long and troubled history of slavery and racial conflict. Feb. 17, 6 p.m., and Feb. 20, 9 p.m.
Banished – Banished explores African-American families who were expelled from their communities by the white majority residents. Feb. 17, 7 p.m., and Feb. 20, 10 p.m.
Scandalize My Name: Stories From the Blacklist (encore) – 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. Feb. 24, 6 p.m.
Dare Not Walk Alone (encore) – Set to a soundtrack that flows from gospel to hip hop, this documentary 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. Feb. 24, 7 p.m.
The Black List – A portrait of Black America that is both intimate and larger than life, this series is packed with some of the most influential personalities from across the spectrum, including Chris Rock, Colin Powell, Tyler Perry and Serena Williams. Feb. 24, 25 and 26, 7 p.m.
Find Our Missing – Although more than one third of all missing persons in the United States are people of color, mainstream media remains relatively silent on cases involving African Americans who go missing in the U.S. This docu-series, hosted by S. Epatha Merkerson, returns for another season to raise awareness of untold stories of missing persons of color. Mondays, 8 p.m.
Unsung – TV One’s hit signature series returns to showcase some of the most brilliant and influential musical artists of the past three decades. This season features Lou Rawls and the popular ‘90s rap group EPMD and a special two-hour disco special. Wednesdays, 9 p.m.
The Jacksons, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, The Medgar Evers Story, Tuskegee Airmen and more – Visit TVONE.TV for more information.
Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin – 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., 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. Feb. 3, 7 p.m.