On this Veteran’s Day, Good Black News is choosing to honor former Union Navy boat captain and oft-hidden historical figure Robert Smalls of South Carolina.
Robert Smalls was the first black man elected to U.S. Congress during Reconstruction.He was born into slavery in 1839 in Beaufort, S.C., and started his remarkable, implausible journey to national prominence by daring to escape slavery during the Civil War with his family.
Smalls, like many other enslaved peoples, was made to work for the Confederate forces during the Civil War. Menial labor such as grave digging, cooking, digging trenches, etc. were the most common jobs, but some enslaved peoples were used in skilled labor positions, such as Smalls, who could navigate the waters in and around Charleston, so was used to guide transport ships for the Confederate Navy.
On May 13, 1862, Smalls convinced several other enslaved people to help him commandeer a Confederate transport ship, the CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor. Smalls sailed from Confederate-controlled waters to the U.S. blockade.
By doing so, not only did he gain freedom for himself, several enslaved peoples and members of his family, his example of cunning and bravery helped convince President Abraham Lincoln to accept black soldiers into the U.S. Army and Navy. Check out PBS video about this event below:
Ellis Haizlip broke the talk show and public television color barrier when he introduced “SOUL!,” the weekly program he hosted during the late ’60s and early ’70s, to PBS. Now, a half decade after the show debuted, his niece Melissa Haizlip (“Crossing Jordan”) revisits his legacy with the documentary “Mr. SOUL!” Deadline anticipated the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival by unveiling the trailer (above) on April 4.
“There exists, as far as I know, no TV program that deals with my culture so completely, so freely, so beautifully,” the senior Haizlip remarked in archival footage from the trailer. To drive that point home, the trailer incorporates clips of performances from now-renowned Black artists as varied as Maya Angelou, Donny Hathaway and Alvin Ailey. Haizlip also conducted interviews on the show with Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and other activists and thought leaders.
Interviewees like Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and Harry Belafonte spoke to the importance of this show, which centered Black culture at a time when the U.S. was waging full-scale war on Black activism. “This is serious business, our lives were at stake!” Cleaver emphasized in the trailer.
PBS/Thirteen noted that Ellis Haizlip fought both on and off camera. He intentionally staffed his production team with Black crew members and publicly criticized the government-created Corporation for Public Broadcasting for pulling funding. “Worse than racism, I see this as the beginning of a systematic plan to remove Black programs from public television,” he told Jet magazine after the show’s cancellation in 1973.
“Mr. SOUL!” debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.
Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, announced that it will rename its College of Media, Arts and Humanities after Gwen Ifill, the noted journalist and Simmons College alumna who died in 2016.
Ifill was born in Jamaica, New York, the daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Simmons College and worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald-American, the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Washington Postand the New York Times.
Her first job in television was for NBC News. She then joined the Public Broadcasting System in 1999 and served as co-anchor of NewsHour and moderator of Washington Week. Ifill moderated two vice presidential debates and a primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Ifill was the author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (Doubleday, 2009).
In announcing the honor, Simmons College President Helen Drinan stated, “For over 100 years, our mission at Simmons has been to prepare our students to lead meaningful lives and build successful careers. Gwen’s example stands tall in that mission. The kind of unimpeded curiosity Gwen brought to her work, coupled with her warmth, integrity and commitment to truth-telling, is something all of our students aspire to – no matter what field of study they pursue. We are extraordinarily proud of her and so pleased to formalize her legacy at Simmons this way.”
Beyoncé‘s “Lemonade” has just earned her a Peabody Award. This year, Beyoncé was one of seven honorees in the Entertainment category to be named to the Peabody Awards’ inaugural Peabody 30 for her visual album Lemonade.
“Lemonade” draws from the prolific literary, musical, cinematic, and aesthetic sensibilities of black cultural producers to create a rich tapestry of poetic innovation,” organizers said in a statement. “The audacity of its reach and fierceness of its vision challenges our cultural imagination, while crafting a stunning and sublime masterpiece about the lives of women of color and the bonds of friendship seldom seen or heard in American popular culture.”
The Peabody Awards ceremony will air on June 2 on PBS and Fusion.
Georgia congressman John Lewis is finally getting what many believe to be the TV treatment he deserves. The civil rights icon is the focus of a forthcoming new documentary set to air on PBS.
“Get In The Way: The Journey of John Lewis” aims to tell the story of the civil rights pioneer, who led a 26-hour sit-in for gun control, marched with Dr. King, challenged political houses and continues to fight for human rights, per Jetmag.com.
According to the film’s website, it offers a “highly personalized narrative of an epic chapter in U.S. history.” The biographical documentary will air on PBS as part of the network’s Black History Month programming.
“He is the moving, roaring protector of the rights afforded to every person in this nation. Get in the Way arrives at the perfect time,” actress and activist Alfre Woodard is quoted as saying in the documentary highlights.
According to ShadowAndAct.com, during the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter tour, PBS unveiled that it has teamed up with African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for a 3-part/6-hour documentary series titled “Africa’s Great Civilizations” which premieres on February 27, promising to bring “little-known yet epic stories to life, detailing African kingdoms and cultures.”
The official summary is as follows: “Henry Louis Gates, Jr. provides a new look from an African perspective at African history, traversing the dawn of mankind to the dawn of the 20th century. The series is a breathtaking and personal journey through history that includes evidence of the earliest human culture and art, arguably the world’s greatest ever civilizations and kingdoms, and some of the world’s earliest writing. Gates travels throughout the vast continent of Africa to discover the true majesty of its greatest civilizations and kingdoms.”
The series will air over 3 nights, Monday-Wednesday, February 27-March 1, from 9-11 p.m. ET each airing. To see the trailer, click below:
Birth of a Movement, a documentary about African-American newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter‘s 1915 battle against America’s first blockbuster movie – D.W. Griffith‘s infamous The Birth of a Nation – will have its broadcast premiere Feb 6, 2017 on Independent Lens/PBS.
The documentary film was produced and directed by Bestor Cram and Susan Gray at NLP in Boston, is executive produced by Sam Pollard and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (who is also interviewed in the film), is narrated by Danny Glover, and written by filmmaker Kwyn Bader and Edgar Award Winner and Pulitzer nominee Dick Lehr. Spike Lee and Reginald Hudlin appear in the film, as does Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky, who provided the score. There are also premiere screenings – open to the public – in Boston and NYC on Jan 30 and 31st, respectively.
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.
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” a documentary by Stanley Nelson which aired on PBS Tuesday, shined a necessary light on the contributions, convictions and struggles of members in the party. Nelson’s informative film took a deep dive into discussing the truth behind the Black Panthers and underscored the heavy institutional backlash the liberation movement received from police and the government.
From the group’s radical inception in 1966 to it’s dissolve in 1982, here are a few important things you must know to better understand the Black Panthers.
1. The Black Panthers’ central guiding principle was an “undying love for the people.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, otherwise known as the Black Panther Party (BPP), was established in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The two leading revolutionary men created the national organization as a way to collectively combat white oppression. After constantly seeing black people suffer from the torturous practices of police officers around the nation, Newton and Seale helped to form the pioneering black liberation group to help build community and confront corrupt systems of power.
2. The Black Panthers outlined their goals in a 10-point program.
The Black Panthers established a unified platform and their goals for the party were outlined in a 10 point plan that included demands for freedom, land, housing, employment and education, among other important objectives.
3. Black Panthers monitored the behavior of the police in black communities.
In 1966, police violence ran rampant in Los Angeles and the need to protect black men and women from state-sanctioned violence was crucial. Armed Black panther members would show up during police arrests of black men and women, stand at a legal distance and surveil their interactions. It was “to make sure there was no brutality,” Newton said in archival footage, as shown in the documentary. Both Black Panther members and officers would stand facing one another armed with guns, an act that agreed with the open carry law in California at the time. These confrontations, in many ways, allowed the Panthers to protect their communities and police the police.
4. The party grew tremendously and drew attention in cities everywhere.
The party’s goal in increasing membership wasn’t aimed at recruiting church goers, as explained in the documentary, but to recruit the everyday black person who faced police brutality. When black people across the nation saw the Panther’s efforts in the media, especially after they stormed the state capitol with guns in Sacramento in 1967, more men and women became interested in joining. The group also took on issues like housing, welfare and health, which made it relatable to black people everywhere. The party grew rapidly — and didn’t instill a screening process because a priority, at the time, was to recruit as many people as possible.
5. “Free Huey” became an infectious rallying cry following Huey Newton’s arrest in 1987.
In 1967, Newton was charged in the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old police officer, John Frey, during a traffic stop. After the shooting, Newton was hospitalized with critical injuries while handcuffed to a gurney in a room that was heavily guarded by cops. As a result of his hospitalization and arrest, Eldrige Cleaver took leadership of the Panthers and demanded that “Huey must be set free.” The phrase was eventually shortened to “Free Huey,” two words which galvanized a movement demanding for Huey’s release.
6. The Black Panthers affirmed black beauty, which helped to attract more members.
The sight of black men and women unapologetically sporting their afros, berets and leather jackets had a special appeal to many black Americans at the time. It reflected a new portrayal of self for black people in the 1960s in a way that attracted many young black kids to want to join the party — some even wrote letters to Newton asking to join. “The panthers didn’t invent the idea that black is beautiful,” former member Jamal Joseph said in Stanley’s documentary. “One of the things that Panthers did was [prove] that urban black is beautiful.”
The hit musical “Hamilton” will be the subject of a documentary film scheduled to air on PBS this fall.
The public broadcasting network announced Monday that it would air “Hamilton’s America” as part of its Great Performances series this fall.
The documentary is being produced by RadicalMedia, which previously made a documentary about “In the Heights,” a musical composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also created “Hamilton.” The film company has a long relationship with Mr. Miranda and with Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer of “Hamilton.” RadicalMedia also previously filmed Freestyle Love Supreme, a hip-hop-improv group with which Mr. Miranda performs, as well as the final Broadway performance of “Rent,” a musical that was co-produced by Mr. Seller.
The filmmakers started shooting the documentary in 2013, two years before the show arrived on Broadway, and have footage of visits by the creative team to historic sites associated with Alexander Hamilton, whose life is the basis of the musical. The film will also feature scenes from the show, and a look at the life of Hamilton, according to Dave Sirulnick, one of RadicalMedia’s executives.
The making of “Hamilton” has been heavily chronicled in print and on television, and Mr. Miranda is now wrapping up a book about the show, but Mr. Sirulnick said that in the documentary “the storytelling is going to be very fresh” and will offer a close-up view of the creative team at work.