As D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” contributed to the Ku Klux Klan’s resurgence nearly 100 years ago, pioneering Black newspaper editor and activist William Monroe Trotter fought to ban the film in his native Boston. An upcoming PBS doc will explore his battle against the infamous 1915 film.
“Birth of a Movement“ focuses on Trotter’s mobilization of community protests, which included an attempt to see the movie with supporters that ended in a scuffle and his arrest. These protests were part of a career spent critiquing segregationist policy that included founding and editing The Boston Guardian, criticizing Booker T. Washington, helping to create the NAACP and leading the National Equal Rights League. Trotter’s activism grew into a broader movement to combat the film’s violent aftermath.
The documentary premieres February 6 at 10 p.m. as part of PBS’ “Independent Lens” series.
Coming to PBS primetime next month, as part of its AMERICAN MASTERS series, is the documentary, “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand,” airing on February 20 at 9pm ET.
Directed by Emmy and Peabody-winner Sam Pollard (long-time Spike Lee editor, as well as a director and producer in his own right), the documentary explores the life and legacy of Tony- and Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson – the man some call America’s Shakespeare — from his roots as a Pittsburgh activist and poet, to his indelible mark on Broadway.
Unprecedented access to Wilson’s theatrical archives, rarely seen interviews, and new dramatic readings, bring to life his seminal 10-play cycle chronicling each decade of the 20th century African American experience. The film features new interviews with Viola Davis, Charles Dutton, Laurence Fishburne, James Earl Jones, Suzan-Lori Parks, Phylicia Rashad, his widow/costume designer Constanza Romero, and others, sharing stories of the late great African American playwright’s rich theatrical canon.
PBS is premiering the film in honor of the 70th anniversary of Wilson’s birth, as well as the 10th anniversary of his death, and for Black History Month.
The DVD will be available on February 24 from PBS Distribution.
“Having the opportunity to explore Wilson’s creative process and his tenacity in looking at the African American experience in the 20th century was one of the most exciting endeavors I have ever had in my film career,” said filmmaker Sam Pollard.