February 15, 2018
Do you ever wish you could binge-watch your favorite PBS programs? If you’re a member you already can; if not, it’s easy to join. With WTTW Passport, members can watch a huge library of PBS and WTTW programming on-demand on any streaming device. To learn more about WTTW Passport, check out our dedicated site. You can activate or sign up for Passport here.
Each month we’ll bring you a few Passport picks. This February, celebrate Black History Month with monumental surveys of black and African history as well as powerful profiles of indomitable black women.
You’ve probably read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings or remember her spellbinding recitation of her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the Inauguration of Bill Clinton, but did you know that Maya Angelou was also a calypso singer? That she danced with Alvin Ailey? Performed with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson at the beginning of their careers? Toured Europe in Porgy and Bess? Worked in Ghana as a journalist? This documentary introduces you to some of the lesser-known aspects of Angelou’s incredibly prolific, wide-ranging life.
Revisit our interview with the Chicago-based producers here.
A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by a black woman to appear on Broadway, launching the brief but groundbreaking career of Lorraine Hansberry. The drama was drawn from Hansberry’s own experience moving into a white neighborhood in Chicago as a child (learn more about that story in this segment from Chicago Tonight); this documentary examines that and other formative aspects of her life, such as her hidden identity as a lesbian and her career as a civil rights activist.
Finding Your Roots isn’t Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s only PBS program. Last year, he also produced and hosted a magisterial series on the history of Africa (or at least as much of the continent’s millennia-long, geography-spanning history he could fit in six hours). From the origins of humanity to the gold-rich Mali Empire, the Islamic kingdoms of the North to the Christian centers of learning in the East, trade with the Middle East and China to the devastation of European colonialism and the slave trade, there’s a lot to learn and see here.
We visited the Art Institute of Chicago’s African Gallery with one of the series contributors, Cécile Fromont of the University of Chicago.
Need more history from Henry Louis Gates, Jr.? In this two-part program he looks back on the last 50 years of African American history, taking the victories of the Civil Rights Movement as his starting point and Black Lives Matter as his end. Oprah, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Nas, and others join Gates to discuss black power, Anita Hill, Barack Obama, and more.
Ken Burns documentaries are perfect for streaming: you can absorb their expansive scope and in-depth detail at your own pace. The ten-part Jazz, co-produced by Wynton Marsalis, is no exception. Discover the origins of this most American of music in New Orleans, meet such icons as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis, and, above all, delight in the fantastic soundtrack.
If you found yourself wishing Black America Since MLK had gone further in-depth on signal moments in African American history in Chicago, this WTTW-produced documentary has got you covered, and more: it begins with the city’s first settler, a black man named Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, and continues through the Black Renaissance, the Great Migration, and Harold Washington, all the way up to Barack Obama.
Dive deeper into the history with extra video and photos on our accompanying website.