Celebrate Black History Month with WTTW in 2021

Daniel Hautzinger
Host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Photo: McGee Media
Host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in 'The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song.' Photo: McGee Media

This February, celebrate Black History Month with a variety of WTTW programming that explores African American history, stories in the larger African diaspora, and Black culture in America. Special new highlights include Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, an American Experience about contralto and civil rights icon Marian Anderson, and a documentary about the groundbreaking public television series SOUL!

Find all of our Black History Month programming below, and find more stories and content at WTTW's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hub, as well as more programming addressing race and racism. Plus, explore Black Chicago with WTTW's DuSable to Obama: Chicago's Black Metropolis.

Chicago Tonight: Black Voices

Sundays at 6:00 pm on WTTW and available to stream

Brandis Friedman on Chicago Tonight: Black Voices

This weekend addition to Chicago Tonight presents trusted analysis and in-depth conversation about issues that matter to the Black community with Chicago Tonight's Brandis Friedman as host.

Antiques Roadshow: Celebrating Black Americana

Monday, February 1 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and will be available to stream

Discover tales of Black Americana with Antiques Roadshow through unique objects and heirlooms.

The Jazz Ambassadors

Tuesday, February 2 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and available to stream by WTTW Passport members

Discover how the Cold War and Civil Rights movement collided when America asked Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman to travel as cultural ambassadors and combat racially charged Soviet propaganda through their music.

Africa with Ade Adepitan

Thursday, February 4 at 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm on WTTW

Journalist and athlete Ade Adepitan travels across Africa to discover how the continent is changing. From the booming technology of Lagos to Mozambique's stunning beaches, and from the endangered gorillas of the DRC to Somalia's war torn streets, Ade sees the best and worst of Africa.

Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas

Sundays, February 7 and 14 at 1:30 pm on WTTW

Celebrate the dynamic richness and diversity of people of African descent throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The 2020 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Sunday, February 7 at 5:00 pm on WTTW

Hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this documentary chronicles the only juried American book prize focusing on works that address racism and diversity.

The Long Song

Sundays, February 7 and 14 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and will be available to stream

Plantation slave July fights to survive cruelty during the final days of slavery in nineteenth century Jamaica in this Masterpiece miniseries based on the novel by Andrea Levy.

American Experience: Going Back to T-Town

Monday, February 8 at 9:00 pm on WTTW

Hear the extraordinary history of Greenwood, a successful Black community in segregated Tulsa. In a nostalgic celebration of old-fashioned neighborhood life, Black residents of 'T-Town' relive their community's remarkable rise and ultimate decline.

Learn more about Greenwood Avenue with Geoffrey Baer in 10 Streets That Changed America.

Josephine Baker: The Story of an Awakening

Thursday, February 11 at 9:00 pm on WTTW

Watch the story of an early Black superstar, the dancer hailed as the "Queen of Paris" and later a civil rights activist. 

’63 Boycott

Thursday, February 11 at 10:00 pm on WTTW

In 1963, 250,000 students boycotted the Chicago Public Schools to protest racial segregation, in one of the largest Northern civil rights demonstrations.

Learn more about the Chicago civil rights demonstration here.

Indie Soul Journeys

Thursdays, February 11, 18, and 25 at 10:30 pm on WTTW

Follow the inspirational and personal stories of independent R&B and soul artists.

Dave Chappelle: The Mark Twain Prize

Friday, February 12 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and available to stream by WTTW Passport members

While there was no Mark Twain Prize for American Humor awarded last year, in 2019 Dave Chappelle was awarded it in a ceremony featuring celebrities including Bradley Cooper, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, and more.

Discover all the winners of The Mark Twain Prize.

Phunny Business: A Black Comedy

Friday, February 12 at 10:30 pm on WTTW

Trace the decade-long rise and fall of Chicago's All Jokes Aside, one of the preeminent comedy clubs in the country that provided valuable exposure to comedians including Steve Harvey, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, MoNique, Dave Chappelle, Cedric The Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, Bernie Mac, and others.

The Central Park Five

Saturday, February 13 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime and available to stream by WTTW Passport members

Ken Burns explores the story of five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989.

Evening with Debra Lee

Saturday, February 13 at 11:00 pm on WTTW Prime

Celebrate the interesting life and career of one the nation's top women in media and entertainment, with tribute performances from Eric Benet and Chaka Khan.

Fat Boy: The Billy Stewart Story

Sunday, February 14 at 2:00 pm on WTTW and Saturday, February 20 at 1:00 pm on WTTW Prime

The life and career of one of the most popular rhythm and blues singers of the 1960s are chronicled.

Legacy: The Untold History of Chicago Black Music

Sunday, February 14 at 3:00 pm on WTTW

From soulful horns to house music: a musical journey revealing the untold stories of Chicago's Black music scene and its founding fathers.

Mandela in Chicago

Sunday, February 14 at 4:00 pm on WTTW

Revisit the legendary South African leader's trip to Chicago in 1993, just two years after he was released from prison.

Chicago at the Crossroad

Sunday, February 14 at 5:00 pm on WTTW

Chicago at the Crossroad

Chicago at the Crossroad reveals how the elimination of public housing led to instability on the city's South and West sides, and explores potential solutions for residents.

Hear from the producer of Chicago at the Crossroad about the links between the failure of public housing and gun violence in Chicago.

Boss: The Black Experience in Business

Sunday, February 14 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime and available to stream by WTTW Passport members

Acclaimed documentarian Stanley Nelson tells the untold story of African American entrepreneurship, where skill, industriousness, ingenuity and sheer courage in the face of overwhelming odds provide the backbone of this nation's economic and social growth.

Meet three Black entrepreneurs in Chicagoland, as well as the groundbreaking leaders of Baldwin Ice Cream and a pioneering Black Chicago adman.

Independent Lens: Black Memorabilia

Sunday, February 14 at 11:00 pm on WTTW Prime 

From the South to Brooklyn to China, meet the people who reproduce, consume and reclaim Black memorabilia, racially-charged objects often wrapped in the protective embrace of antiquity and historical preservation.

American Experience: Voice of Freedom

Monday, February 15 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and will be available to stream

This film recalls the landmark moment when  contralto Marian Anderson stepped up to a microphone in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Easter Sunday 1939. She had been barred from performing at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Finding Your Roots: Write My Name in the Book of Life

Tuesday, February 16 at 8:00 pm on WTTW and will be available to stream

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps musician Pharrell Williams and filmmaker Kasi Lemmons uncover extraordinarily rare first-person accounts of their enslaved ancestors.

The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song

Tuesday, February 16 and Wednesday, February 17 at 9:00 pm on WTTW and will be available to stream

Retrace the 400-year-old-story of the Black church in America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., exploring its role as the site of African American organizing, resilience, autonomy, freedom, and solidarity. 

400 Years of Taking the Knee

Thursday, February 18 at 9:00 pm on WTTW

Writer and BBC radio presenter Dotun Adebayo narrates the many stories of Black resistance to oppression. From the Jamaican national hero Nanny of the Maroons to the NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, this film celebrates individuals who fought and struggled against colonialism, slavery, and their legacies.

HistoryMakers on...

Friday, February 19 beginning at 9:00 pm on WTTW

Discover the stories of prominent individual African Americans in three hour-long episodes in a row, each focusing on a different theme: success, faith, and courage.

Marching Forward

Saturday, February 20 at 10:00 am on WTTW Prime

In 1964, two high school band directors in segregated Orlando worked to get both bands - one Black, one white - to perform at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Independent Lens: Rat Film

Saturday, February 20 at 11: 00 am on WTTW Prime

Trace the history of Baltimore through this provocative film that uses the rat - as well as the humans who love them, live with them, and kill them - to chronicle the systemized oppression in impoverished communities far beyond the city's borders.

Leah Chase: The Queen of Creole Cuisine

Saturday, February 20 at 12:00 pm on WTTW Prime

For more than 70 years, Edgar 'Dooky' Chase, Jr. and Leah Chase worked tirelessly together to uplift their family and their community through their faith and their active involvement in social justice. The couple turned a family sandwich shop in Treme to a famous, fine dining restaurant called Dooky Chase, and Leah became a renowned chef known around the country.

Queen of Swing

Saturday, February 20 at 2:00 pm on WTTW Prime

The life and career of Jazz Age trailblazer, actress, and dancer Norma Miller are highlighted.

Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street

Saturday, February 20 at 3:00 pm on WTTW Prime

The history of West 9th Street and the Black community in Little Rock, Arkansas are explored.

American Experience: Freedom Summer

Saturday, February 20 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime

Revisit the hot and deadly summer of 1964, when student volunteers and local Black citizens faced racial violence in Mississippi while registering voters in an attempt to break the hold of segregation, in this film by Stanley Nelson.

Musical Evening with Harry Lennix

Saturday, February 20 at 11:00 pm on WTTW Prime

Comprised of story-telling through musical performances and theatrical readings, Chicago-born actor Harry Lennix showcases his gift through the voices of powerful vocalists and highlights some of Chicago's up-and-coming talented teenagers from Kenwood Academy and High School.

Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story

Sunday, February 21 at 1:30 pm on WTTW

Paul R. Williams built homes for Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and his name is associated with architectural icons like the Beverly Hills Hotel, the original MCA Headquarters Building, and LAX Airport, but he wasn't always welcome in the restaurants and hotels he designed or the neighborhoods where he built homes, because of his race.


Sunday, February 21 at 3:30 pm on WTTW

This documentary captures the inspiring stories of four people who grew up in 'the projects,' surviving and thriving in spite of - and often because of - the challenges they've had to overcome.

Independent Lens: MR. SOUL!

Monday, February 22 at 10:00 pm on WTTW

For five years beginning in 1968, the public television series SOUL! highlighted Black literature, music, and politics, and often paired guests in unexpected juxtapositions that gave them an opportunity to shine in unique ways. Meet producer and host Ellis Haizlip, the man behind the groundbreaking show.

Chaka Khan: Homecoming

Thursday, February 25 at 9:00 pm on WTTW

Chaka Khan in concert at the Harris Theatre in Chicago, with performances including her greatest R&B, pop, funk, and jazz hits, including "I Feel For You" and "Tell Me Something Good."                                                                            

Soul Legends

Friday, February 26 at 9:30 pm on WTTW

Join host Pam Grier in a tribute to the greatest soul hits and performers from the 1970s and 80s.

Reconstruction: America After the Civil War

Saturday, February 27 at 12:30 pm on WTTW and available to stream by WTTW Passport members

In this recent four-part series, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. examines a period of American history that is all too often misunderstood and misrepresented.

Driving While Black: Space, Race, and Mobility in America

Sunday, February 28 at 3:00 pm on WTTW and available to stream

Cars offered an expansion of freedom and mobility across America, but that freedom came with additional dangers and threats for African Americans, as seen for instance in Green Book.

Those early dangers still inform the experience of driving while Black today.

Nat King Cole’s Greatest Songs

Sunday, February 28 at 6:30 pm on WTTW

Celebrate the centennial of the timeless artist, raised in Chicago, with performances of "Unforgettable" and more hits.

Tina Turner: One Last Time

Sunday, February 28 at 8:00 pm on WTTW

Enjoy a celebration of the inimitable artist.