Tag: Underground Railroad

Barry Jenkins’ Production Company PASTEL Signs 1st Look TV Deal with Amazon Studios

Barry Jenkins
Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins (CREDIT: ERIK PENDZICH/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to Variety.com, Academy Award-winning producer/writer/director Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight“) and his PASTEL production banner have landeda first-look television deal at Amazon.

Jenkins is planning to direct the entire limited series “Underground Railroad” at Amazon, based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning novel from 2016. Under the deal, Jenkins will exclusively develop television series for Amazon Studios.

“Barry is clearly a master of groundbreaking, authentically emotional storytelling and we are so proud to have him share that gift with us,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “We are incredibly fortunate to have also secured his directorial vision for the entire limited series The Underground Railroad.”

“We at PASTEL are excited to continue our Amazon relationship begun on ‘Underground Railroad’ and look forward to growing that partnership on projects near and beyond,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins’ feature film debut, “Medicine for Melancholy,” was lauded as one of the best films of 2009 by The New York Times. He recently debuted his latest film, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” based on James Baldwin’s novel and starring Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry, at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The U.S. release in theaters is scheduled for November 30 of this year.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Becomes Reality

This photo provided by the U.S. Department of Interior shows Harriet Tubman’s home, now officially recognized as a national park. U.S. Department of Interior (photo via nbcnews.com)

article by Associated Press via nbcnews.com

Federal parks officials have formally established the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in upstate New York. Members of the state’s congressional delegation joined U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Washington, D.C., for the official signing ceremony last month that makes the park part of the National Park Service system. It encompasses the site of Tubman’s old home on the outskirts of Auburn, about 25 miles west of Syracuse, and a nearby church where she worshipped.

Harriet Tubman (photo via nbcnews.com)

The New York park will focus on Tubman’s work later on in her life when she was an active proponent of women’s suffrage and other causes. It will be a sister park to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland.

“These two parks preserve and showcase a more complete history of one of America’s pivotal humanitarians who, at great personal risk, did so much to secure the freedom of hundreds of formerly enslaved people,” Secretary Jewell said. “Her selfless commitment to a more perfect union is testament that one determined person, no matter her station in life or the odds against her, can make a tremendous difference.”

To read full article: Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Becomes Reality – NBC News

Urban Movie Channel Announces 6 New Streaming Premieres in Honor of Black History Month

The North Star
The North Star (image via Shadow And Act)

article by Tambay A. Obenson via Shadow and Act

RLJ Entertainment’s Urban Movie Channel (UMC) kicked off Black History Month with the premiere of the Underground Railroad drama, “The North Star,” on February 5, 2016. Based on true events, the film chronicles the perilous journey of two slaves, Benjamin “Big Ben” Jones (played by former Philadelphia Eagles’ Jeremiah Trotter) and Moses Hopkins (Thomas C. Bartley, Jr.), who escaped from a Virginia plantation and made their way to freedom in Buckingham, Pennsylvania in 1849.

A directorial debut by Thomas K. Philips, the feature film also stars Lynn Whitfield, Clifton Powell, and Keith David.

On February 19, UMC will premiere “Becoming Barack: Evolution of a Leader,” a revealing portrait of President Barack Obama‘s formative years in Chicago, and “Bound: Africans VS. African Americans,” a hard hitting documentary that addresses the little known tension between Africans and African Americans, produced by Isaiah Washington and directed by filmmaker Peres Owino.

Later in the month on February 26, UMC will feature untold stories of history with the premieres of “An American Ascent,” a documentary about the first black mountaineer group to climb Denali, the highest peak in North America, and the first two installments from producer/director Tim Reid‘s Legacy Documentary Series, “Legacy of Blacks in Auto Racing” and “Builders of the Alaska Highway.”

Available at urbanmoviechannel.com, UMC is the first urban-focused streaming service in North America showcasing quality and exclusive urban content designed for African American and urban audiences.

To read more, go to: http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/urban-movie-channel-announces-6-new-streaming-premieres-in-honor-of-black-history-month-20160205

Samuel Burris, Conductor Of Underground Railroad, to Receive Much-Belated Pardon from Delaware Governor

Underground Railroad conductor Samuel Burris (image via delawareonline.com)
Underground Railroad conductor Samuel Burris (image via delawareonline.com)

One of history’s most poignant heroes is finally getting justice after he was tried as a criminal for freeing slaves as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

According to ABC News, Delaware officials have announced their plan to pardon Samuel Burris, who was convicted for leading many enslaved people to freedom in the 19th century.

Gov. Jack Markell will posthumously pardon Burris, a free Black man who was convicted in 1847 for helping enslaved peoples escape. Burris was caught and punished by being sold back into slavery for seven years, but was eventually paid for and set free again by a Pennsylvania anti-slavery society.

He left Delaware after laws were enacted that would place people like Burris under a death sentence for freeing slaves.

He continued to help free an unknown number of slaves until his death in the 1860s.

Robert Seeley, of Havertown, Pennsylvania, and Ocea Thomas of Atlanta, Georgia, confirmed the news after getting personal calls from Gov. Markell. Thomas is a relative of Burris’, while Seeley reached out to Markell for the pardon in light of a recent clemency to three abolitionists in Illinois.

ABC News reports:

Seeley says he’s been working with Markell’s office but that the governor can’t issue a pardon in Hunn and Garrett’s cases because they were tried in federal court, not state court. He says President Barack Obama would need to pardon them and that he plans to continue to work on a pardon in their case.

“Even if it comes out to be a proclamation or a declaration or not an official presidential pardon, so be it. We’ll see what we can do,” Seeley said, adding there is “a lot of red tape.”

“[Burris] Is a victory. It brings honor to the Burris family and it brings justice for Samuel Burris and his descendants. It’s making a wrong a right finally,” Seeley said.

The pardon will officially take place on Nov. 2, the anniversary of Burris’ conviction. A historical marker will also be unveiled in Kent County the same day.

article via newsone.com

Jussie Smollett Joins Sister Jurnee in WGN’s Drama “Underground”

Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Jussie Smollett
Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Jussie Smollett (photo via eurweb.com)

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett will moonlight in a guest starring role on WGN’s “Underground,” joining his famous sister Jurnee Smollett-Bell, the network announced Wednesday.

As previously reported, “Underground” follows a group of enslaved people in Georgia planning a 600-mile escape to freedom. Along the way, they are aided by a secret abolitionist couple running a station on the Underground Railroad as they attempt to evade the people charged with bringing them back, dead or alive.

Smollett will play Josey, a runaway who doesn’t trust anyone, not even those stationed along the way who would try to help him.

This marks the first on-screen reunion for Smollett and his sister in since both starred alongside their other siblings in the 1994 ABC sitcom “On Our Own.”

Smollett joins a cast that includes Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), Reed Diamond (Agents of SHIELD), Aldis Hodge (Rectify), Jessica De Gouw (Arrow) and Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Creators Misha Green (Sons of Anarchy) and Joe Pokaski (Heroes) will executive produce the Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios entry with Weed Road Pictures’ Akiva Goldsman, Tory Tunnell and Joby Harold of Safehouse Pictures.

Production began in the spring for a 2016 premiere.

article via eurweb.com

“Women on 20s” Organization Pushing U.S. Treasury to Replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20

A group that wants to kick Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill and replace him with a woman has, after months of collecting votes, chosen a successor: Harriet Tubman.

Tubman, an abolitionist who is remembered most for her role as a conductor in the “Underground Railroad,” was one of four finalists for the nod from a group of campaigners calling themselves “Women on 20s.” The campaign started earlier this year and has since inspired bills in the House and the Senate.

The other three finalists were former first lady and human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt; civil rights figure Rosa Parks; and Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Now that voters participating in the campaign have chosen Tubman, Women on 20s will bring a petition with the people’s choice to the White House.

“Our paper bills are like pocket monuments to great figures in our history,” Women on 20s Executive Director Susan Ades Stone said in an e-mailed statement. “Our work won’t be done until we’re holding a Harriet $20 bill in our hands in time for the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020.”

In all, the group said, it has collected more than 600,000 votes for its campaign.  In Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Tubman was a “wonderful choice” for the bill, but stopped short of saying whether the President backs putting Tubman on the $20.

If the government agrees that it’s time to replace Andrew Jackson on the bill, its choice might not end up being Tubman. But the idea of putting a woman on America’s paper currency has attracted some notable support.

“Last week, a young girl wrote to me to ask why aren’t there any women on our currency,” President Obama said in a July speech in Kansas City, before the launch of the Women on 20s voting campaign. “And then she gave me a long list of possible women to put on our dollar bills and quarters and stuff — which I thought was a pretty good idea.” Continue reading ““Women on 20s” Organization Pushing U.S. Treasury to Replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20″

Viola Davis Developing Harriet Tubman Movie at HBO

Viola Davis Developing Harriet Tubman Movie
Viola Davis (BARRY KING/GETTY IMAGES)

Viola Davis is attached to star in an HBO telepic about the life of Harriet Tubman, the activist who helped devise a system that allowed hundreds of slaves to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

Davis is developing the project with Amblin TV and writer Kirk Ellis, who has penned historical projects for HBO including its “John Adams” miniseries, and “Entourage” exec producer Doug Ellin. The untitled movie is based on the book “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero” by Kate Clifford Larson.

Davis is executive producing with her partner and husband, Julius Tennon; Amblin’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank; Ellin; Jim Lefkowitz; and Cliff Dorfman.

The movie is in the early development stage and has not been given the go-ahead for production. But  it’s eyed for filming during Davis’ hiatus next year from her hit ABC drama “How to Get Away With Murder.”

Tubman became an American icon as a woman who escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1849 and helped organize a network of safe houses to help her relatives. She eventually helped hundreds of slaves to secure their freedom and became the most famous “conductor” on the network.  During the Civil War, Tubman served with the Union Army as a cook and a nurse, but she was eventually pressed into service as a spy.

Tubman is not the only African-American historical figure that Davis has sought to portray onscreen. The actress has been developing a feature film based on the life of pioneering congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

article by Cynthia Littleton via Variety.com

New Harriet Tubman Opera to Preview at Harlem’s Schomburg Center on 12/9

Harriet Tubman

AOP (American Opera Projects), and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture will co-present an evening of scenes from Nkeiru Okoye‘s folk opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom that tells of how a young girl born in slavery, becomes Harriet Tubman, the legendary Underground Railroad conductor. The musical excerpts will be followed by an artist Q&A moderated by WQXR’s Terrance McKnight. The concert will be presented on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 6:30 PM at the Langston Hughes Auditorium: 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, NY 10037-1801. General admission will be $10 ($8 for Schomburg Society Members) and available by calling (212) 491-2206 or visiting www.showclix.com/event/HarrietTubman.

Harriet Tubman will include performances by soprano Sumayya Ali (Lincoln Center, Berkshire Opera, Sarasota Opera), soprano Sequina DuBose (Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Memphis, PAB Theater), contralto Nicole Mitchell (Lincoln Center Festival, Sarasota Opera), tenor Clinton Ingram (Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Teatro Real), and baritone Damian Norfleet (Perseverance Theater, AMAS Musical Theater, Prospect Theater Company). The evening will feature a string ensemble with music direction by Mila Henry, stage direction by Beth Greenberg (New York City Opera) and WQXR’s Terrance McKnight moderating a Q&A with the artists.

Using a mixture of opera and vernacular folk music, featuring gospel spirituals, ragtime, early blues, minstrel songs, work songs, call and responses, and field hollers, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom tells this important chapter of American history in the context of Tubman’s tight-knit family of lively characters and two sisters vowing that nothing but death will separate them, despite the slavery threatening to tear them apart. The work is in development at Brooklyn-based AOP who has featured music from Tubman at venues such as Galapagos Art Space, SUNY Albany, and the Brooklyn Public Library Main Branch.

A semi-staged performance of the entire Harriet Tubman opera will be presented by AOP in February 2014 at Brooklyn’s Irondale Center as part of Lines of Freedom, a theatrical celebration of African-American history. Presentations of Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works.

To learn more about the show, go to: broadwayworld.com

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President Obama to Designate Harriet Tubman Park a National Monument

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman pictured with a group of formerly enslaved African-Americans, in an undated photo.

On Monday, President Barack Obama will designate five new National Monuments, including one for abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, will receive a designation as a National Park, along with Delaware’s First State National Monument, Ohio’s Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, and the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State. The designations are made by under the Antiquities Act, and the new monuments will be administered by the Department of the Interior.

The Antiquities Act, which was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, allows presidents to preserve public lands and historic places in the U.S., such as the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon.

A statement from a White House official read:

“The monument commemorates the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad who was responsible for helping enslaved people escape from bondage to freedom.   The new national park, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as a slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad.  The park includes Stewart’s Canal, dug by hand by free and enslaved people between 1810 and the 1830s and where Tubman learned important outdoor skills when she worked in the nearby timbering operations with her father.  Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Refuge lands, although park of the new national park, will continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument also includes the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free black man who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with family and others.  The monument will also partner with the State of Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center when it opens in 2015.”

article via thegrio.com

148 Years Ago Today: First African-American Lawyer Practices Before U.S. Supreme Court

Upon the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which formally ended slavery, abolitionist lawyer John Swett Rock became the first African-American admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court on Feb. 1, 1865.

Rock was born free on October 13, 1825, in Salem, New Jersey. He was also an educator and later studied dentistry, graduating from the American Medical College in Philadelphia in 1852. He set up a practice in Boston, where many of his patients were escaped slaves fleeing to Canada through the Underground Railroad.

An outspoken abolitionist in Boston, Rock switched his focus to law and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1861. He served the U.S. Supreme Court for just one year before health problems derailed his career. On Dec. 3, 1866, at age 41, he died from tuberculosis.

article by Britt Middleton via bet.com