2004-01-29 / Arts & Entertainment

PBS Presents New Specials For Black History Month

PBS Presents New Specials For Black History Month

The African-American experience from the vantage point of Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; a forgotten chapter in the struggle for school integration; and the rediscovery of a forgotten 18th-century creative genius on par with Mozart are just a few of the things on Thirteen will explore this February during the station’s annual celebration of African-American heritage, UMOJA! Taking its name from a Swahili word meaning "unity," UMOJA! runs from February 2 through March 1 on Thirteen.

Among the highlights of this year’s UMOJA! are the four-part series AMERICA BEYOND THE COLOR LINE WITH HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR. (February 3 and 4 at 9 p.m.), a look at the landscape of the African- American experience around the coun-try from the perspective of Harvard University’s chair of Afro-American Studies; DOROTHY DANDRIDGE: AN AMERICAN BEAUTY (February 9 at 10 p.m.), a profile of the groundbreaking performer and America’s first black female movie star; LE MOZART NOIR: REVIVING A LEGEND (February 15 at 10 P.M.), a fascinating look at Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), "The Black Mozart," arguably the first major black composer of classical music; and a look at HOXIE (Monday, February 16 at 10:30Pm.), the small Arkansas town which voluntarily integrated its schools in 1955, contrary to the more widely know turbulent struggles of the era."

Also part of UMOJA! are three INDEPENDENT LENS episodes, airing consecutive Tuesdays in February, beginning Tuesday, February 10 at 10 p.m. with Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property. This unique profile of Nat Turner, who was a "troublesome property" for his master and has remained a "troublesome property" for historians, novelists, dramatists, and others who have struggled to understand this leader of the famous 1831 slave rebellion, combines documentary techni-que, dramatic filmmaking and historical methodology to explore the many meanings of this American icon.

A Place of Our Own, February 17 at 10 p.m., is Stanley Nelson’s explora-tion of his summers spent in Oak Bluffs, an affluent African American resort community on Martha’s Vinyard, and the world of black doctors, lawyers and journalists who created social clubs and professional organizations for African Americans. And Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew, February 24 at 10 p.m., takes a look at the rediscovered jazz legend whose voice conveys a young boy’s innocence, a soft sensuality and the lessons of 76 hard-lived years of failure and redemption.

UMOJA! also features classic documentaries on African-American figures in American history, such as James Baldwin and Marcus Garvey.

GREAT PERFORMANCES: Aida’s Brothers and Sisters: Black Voices in Opera (February 13 at midnight) tells the history of African-American opera singers, from Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson to Jessye Norman and present-day students at the Harlem School for the Arts.

UMOJA! also provides intimate and in-depth discussions with prominent African Americans, including actors OSSIE DAVIS AND RUBY DEE (February 23 at 12 midnight) and B.B. KING AND ISAAC HAYES (March 1 at 12 midnight).

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