Discover Black History Month Programming on WTTW
January 30, 2024
Celebrate Black History Month this year with a wide variety of programming that explores the political, artistic, musical, and other contributions and experiences of Black Americans. February brings new programs, including a new Independent Lens on the story of a historically Black neighborhood in Miami, plus Gospel, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., which digs into the origin story of gospel music. There’s also a new PBS Kids show, Lyla in the Loop, premiering this month.
As always, you can catch Chicago Tonight: Black Voices every Wednesday at 5:30 pm or streaming via the PBS app. We have plenty else to stream, with documentaries on the life of Ida B. Wells, the birth of gospel music in Chicago, the civil rights legacy of the Pullman porters, and the history of Chicago’s Black metropolis.
A quick note: Many of these programs will air more than once or are available to stream. Click the tune-in information to see further airdates.
Ken Burns: Muhammad Ali
Saturday, February 3 at 11:30 am on WTTW Prime
Go behind the scenes to learn about the making of the four-part series on the heavyweight boxing champion, with new and exclusive interviews with Ken Burns and the team that created the eight-hour series.
Great Performances: The Magic of Spirituals
Saturday, February 3 at 5:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Glimpse behind the curtain at opera legends Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman's famed concert at Carnegie Hall on March 18, 1990, featuring performance clips and new interviews with opera star Angel Blue, Met Opera General Manager Peter Gelb, and more.
Independent Lens: Razing Liberty Square
Liberty City, Miami, is home to one of the oldest segregated public housing projects in the U.S. Now with rising sea levels, the neighborhood's higher ground has become something else: real estate gold. Wealthy property owners push inland to higher ground, creating a speculators' market in the historically Black neighborhood previously ignored by developers and policy-makers alike. Liberty City, Miami, is home to one of the oldest segregated public housing projects in the U.S.
Sunday, February 4 at 10:00 am on WTTW
In the midst of segregation, the all-Black Tennessee A&I Tigers were the first collegiate basketball team to win three consecutive national championships. Yet they were never duly recognized for this singular achievement. The team captain, legendary Knicks player Dick Barnett, began a nine-year quest to ensure his historic team's immortality. His tenacity, dedication, and struggle finally paid off in 2019 when the team was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sunday, February 4 at 11:00 am on WTTW
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was raised in the crucible of segregated Birmingham but he was forged by its attempt to kill him. When the KKK planted a bomb underneath his bed and he emerged unharmed, he was sure he was saved by God to lead a movement. His work not only ended legal segregation but led directly to the Civil and Voting Rights Acts – and inspired freedom movements around the world.
Making Black America: Through the Grapevine
Sunday, February 4 at 12:00 pm on WTTW
Making Black America: Through the Grapevine is a four-part series hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., that chronicles the vast social networks and organizations created by and for Black people – beyond the reach of the “White gaze.”
Chicago Stories: Ida B. Wells
Sunday, February 4 at 4:00 pm on WTTW
This documentary and companion website trace Ida B. Wells' career as a journalist, activist, and organizer in Chicago. It delves into her battle to keep Chicago Public Schools integrated, her forays into the rough-and-tumble world of Chicago politics, and her ascendance to the national and international stages as an anti-lynching activist and a powerful Black voice on behalf of women’s suffrage. You can stream the show any time, too.
American Masters: Roberta Flack
Sunday, February 4 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Follow the music icon from a piano lounge through her rise to stardom. From “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly,” Flack's virtuosity was inseparable from her commitment to civil rights. Detailing her story in her own words, the film features exclusive access to Flack's archives and interviews with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Peabo Bryson, and more.
Lines Broken: The Story of Marion Motley
Sunday, February 4 at 8:30 pm on WTTW Prime
In 1946, Marion Motley was one of four African American men to break pro football's color barrier when he joined the Cleveland Browns. Those men's efforts to play a physically brutal game in the face of societal racism and state-sanctioned Jim Crow laws blazed a path for Black athletes in the highest echelons of professional sports, including baseball's Jackie Robinson.
Pioneers of Television
Sunday, February 4 at 10:00 pm on WTTW
Trace the journey of people of color featured in American television, including trailblazers such as Diahann Carroll (Julia), Desi Arnaz (I Love Lucy), Edward James Olmos (Miami Vice), and George Takei (Star Trek). Additional perspectives are captured in interviews with Leslie Uggams and Whoopi Goldberg.
Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World
Sundays starting February 4 at 11:00 pm on WTTW
Chuck D of Public Enemy explores hip hop’s political awakening over the last 50 years. With a host of rap stars and cultural commentators, he tracks hip hop’s socially conscious roots. From “The Message” to “Fight The Power 2020,” he examines how hip hop has become “the Black CNN.”
You can learn more about the history of hip-hop in our conversation with a historian featured in the show.
Lyla in the Loop
Premiering Monday, Feb 5 at 8:00 am on WTTW
Lyla in the Loop is a new animated series starring Lyla, a dynamic 7-year-old Black girl, her close-knit family, fantastical blue sidekick Stu, and a host of relatable and quirky characters living in her community, who together spotlight creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills while working collaboratively with others.
Chicago Stories: Pullman and the Railroad Rebellion
Monday, February 5 at 8:00 pm on WTTW
Railroad titan George Pullman’s name was once synonymous with luxury. His sleeping cars changed how some Americans rode the rails. But when his success didn’t trickle down to the people who built, operated, and staffed his cars, a rebellion ensued. While the first major strike ultimately failed, a group of Black workers later found success through organizing, paving the way for a Black middle class and a civil rights movement that forever changed the course of American history. You can stream the show any time online and explore the companion website.
Chicago Stories: The Birth of Gospel
Monday, February 5 at 9:00 pm on WTTW
For generations, Black music has been one of the foundational sources for liberation, survival, salvation, and entertainment. Gospel music has been one of the most integral and sacred forms of that music. The origins of gospel music lie in the transatlantic slave trade, as African musical traditions blended with new forms born out of the horrors of slavery. The rich lineage of gospel music began in earnest as a young man named Thomas Dorsey came to Chicago during the Great Migration. Stream the show on the companion website or via the PBS App any time.
American Masters: How it Feels to be Free
Tuesday, February 6 at 8:00 pm on WTTW
Explore the lives and trailblazing careers of iconic African American entertainers Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier, who changed American culture through their films, fashion, music, and politics.
Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race
Tuesday, February 6 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Thirty-five years before the election of President Barack Obama, the question of race and the possibility of bridging racial barriers were put to the test in an overlooked story in American politics: Tom Bradley's 1973 election as Mayor of Los Angeles – the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city with an overwhelmingly white majority.
Independent Lens: Mr. Soul!
Wednesday, February 7 at 7:30 pm on WTTW Prime
Celebrate SOUL!, the public television variety show that shared Black culture with the nation. Ellis Haizlip developed SOUL! in 1968 as one of the first platforms to promote the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. Its impact continues to this day.
American Experience: The American Diplomat
Friday, February 9 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Discover how three Black diplomats broke racial barriers at the U.S. State Department during the Cold War. Asked to represent the best of American ideals abroad while facing discrimination at home, they left a lasting impact on the foreign service.
The 88th Annual Ainsfield-Wolf Book Awards
Sunday, February 11 at 10:00 am on WTTW
Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 88th Annual Ainsfield-Wolf Book Awards features the personal stories of the 2023 recipients of the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and explores diversity.
Great Performances at the Met: The Life & Times of Malcom X
Sunday, February 11 at 11:00 am on WTTW
Experience Anthony Davis’ groundbreaking opera directed by Tony nominee Robert O’Hara. The new staging portrays Malcolm as an everyman whose story transcends time and space. Supported by a cast of young Met stars, Will Liverman sings Malcolm X.
Fannie Lou Hammer’s America
Sunday, February 11 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Explore and celebrate the life of a fearless Mississippi sharecropper turned human rights activist and the injustices in America that made her work essential.
Why This Moment
Sunday, February 11 at 8:30 pm on WTTW Prime
In Richmond, Virginia, filmmakers Domico Phillips and Metta Bastet captured the outcry in the city as people expressed their anger over repeated acts of police brutality against people of color. Emotions ran high, violence broke out, and relationships developed through several months of marches and peaceful demonstrations.
Sunday, February 11 at 10:00 pm on WTTW
Gospel Live! presented by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a concert celebration honoring the legacy of gospel music in America. In this companion to Gospel, secular and gospel artists sing their favorite gospel classics.
Sunday, February 11 at 10:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Inspired Lives is an hour-long program that features in-depth conversations with FUBU founder, “Godfather of Urban Fashion” and Shark Tank investor Daymond John, and five-time Grammy Award-winner Dionne Warwick, a legendary recording artist who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
Dig deep into the origin story of Black gospel music, coming out of slavery, blending with the blues tradition, and soaring to new heights during the Great Migration. From Mahalia to Kirk Franklin, in the last century, gospel music has become the dominant form of African American religious expression and provided a soundtrack of healing and uplift to those at the front lines of protest and change.
Beyond the Baton: A Conductor’s Journey
Tuesday, February 13 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Thomas Wilkins grew up to become one of the few African American conductors leading a major orchestra – the celebrated Omaha Symphony.
Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten
Wednesday, February 14 at 7:30 pm on WTTW Prime
Learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and how the community of Tulsa is coming to terms with its past, present, and future.
You can discover more about the massacre and the “Black Wall Street” on which it took place in WTTW’s 10 Streets That Changed America.
Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes
Friday, February 16 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Explore the life and career of jazz luminary Ron Carter, the most recorded bassist in history. Featuring original concert footage and candid insights from jazz icons, Finding the Right Notes is a vibrant portrait of the artist in his own words.
Sunday, February 18 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, February 25 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Jack Roosevelt Robinson rose from humble origins to cross baseball’s color line and become one of the most beloved men in America. A fierce integrationist, Robinson used his immense fame to speak out against the discrimination he saw on and off the field, angering fans, the press, and even teammates who had once celebrated him for turning the other cheek.
Building/Blocks: The Architecture of the South Side
Sunday, February 18 at 10:00 pm on WTTW
The architecture of Chicago is world class. But often overlooked are the remarkable buildings and luscious green spaces of the city’s South Side. Take a trip with architecture photographer and writer Lee Bey as he explores these masterpieces of design and engineering hidden in plain sight.
We spoke to Bey about the documentary.
Symphony Celebration: The Blind Boys of Alabama With Dr. Henry Panion, III
Sunday, February 18 at 10:00 pm on WTTW Prime
This concert features the five-time Grammy-winning Blind Boys of Alabama with conductor Dr. Henry Panion, III, and a full symphony orchestra. Hailed as “Gospel Titans” by Rolling Stone magazine, this beloved group – which has collaborated with everyone from Mavis Staples to Stevie Wonder to Prince on the world's most prestigious stages – rose to fame in the segregated South with their thrilling vocal harmonies and roof-raising live shows.
Tuesday, February 20 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Raised/Razed is an hour-long documentary that dives deep into the history of Vinegar Hill, Charlottesville, Virginia's oldest African American neighborhood. For 100 years, Vinegar Hill thrived as a center of business, education, and religious and cultural life until it – like hundreds of Black communities across America – was destroyed.
American Masters – Buddy Guy: Chase the Blues Away
Wednesday, February 21 at 7:30 pm on WTTW Prime
Dive into the career of the legendary blues guitarist, a pioneer of Chicago’s West Side sound and major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. This program features new performances and interviews with Carlos Santana and more.
We spoke to one of the documentary’s directors.
American Experience: Jesse Owens
Friday, February 23 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
On April 2, 1936, when the 22-year-old son of a sharecropper entered the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, he was, he later remembered, barely able to control his anger. “I was angry because of the insults that Hitler and the other German leaders had hurled at me and my Negro teammates on the Olympic squad.” The young athlete would channel his raw emotions into some of the most remarkable achievements in the history of athletics, winning four gold medals.
Alongside Owens at those Olympics was Ralph Metcalfe, who would become a powerful Chicago politician – we profiled him.
Through the Banks of the Red Cedar
Friday, February 23 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime
In 1963, Michigan State Head Coach Duffy Daugherty gave 23 African American young men the opportunity of a lifetime. The daughter of Minnesota Vikings football legend Gene Washington deepens her connection to her father as she uncovers how the first fully integrated college football team in America changed the game forever.
Becoming Frederick Douglass
Sunday, February 25 at 1:30 pm on WTTW
Discover how a man born into slavery became one of the most influential voices for democracy in American history. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stanley Nelson explores the role Douglass played in securing the right to freedom for African Americans.
Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom
Sunday, February 25 at 3:00 pm on WTTW
Go beyond the legend and meet the woman who repeatedly risked her own life and freedom to liberate others from slavery. One of the greatest freedom fighters in U.S. history, Tubman was an Underground Railroad conductor, a Civil War scout, and a spy.
The Black Church
Monday, February 26 at 7:00 pm and Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00 pm on WTTW
An intimate four-hour series from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song explores the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, the changing nature of worship spaces, and the men and women who shepherded them from the pulpit, the choir loft, and church pews.
Further explore the Black church in Chicago.
Independent Lens – Owned: A Tale of Two Americas
Wednesday, February 28 at 7:30 pm on WTTW Prime
Is the “American Dream” of home ownership a false promise? While the government’s postwar housing policy created the world’s largest middle class, it also set America on two divergent paths – one of perceived wealth and the other of systematically defunded, segregated communities.