In 1961, segregation seemed to have an overwhelming grip on American society. Many states violently enforced the policy, while the federal government, under the Kennedy administration, remained indifferent, preoccupied with matters abroad. That is, until an integrated band of college students — many of whom were the first in their families to attend a university — decided, en masse, to risk everything and buy a ticket on a Greyhound bus bound for the Deep South. They called themselves the Freedom Riders, and they managed to bring the president and the entire American public face-to-face with the challenge of correcting civil-rights inequities that plagued the nation.
From documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement to a Tony-awarding winning musical (Great Performances: Memphis on Broadway) to one filmmaker’s examination the month itself (More Than A Month), KCPT’s expansive Black History Month line-up includes a variety of programs profiling the rich history, culture and contributions of African Americans. Check out the complete list of films, accompanying websites and educational resources below.
For families, PBS Parents (pbsparents.org) features Embracing Black History, with suggested readings for several age levels, exploring family history, making connections with black history and teaching children about diversity. Another resource on the site, Respecting Differences, presents everyday ideas for teaching children about diversity and respect.
“DAISY BATES: FIRST LADY OF LITTLE ROCK”
Thursday, February 2 at 10PM
As a black woman who was a feminist before the term was invented, Daisy Bates refused to accept her assigned place in society. Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock tells the story of her life and public support of nine black students who registered to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, which culminated in a constitutional crisis — pitting a president against a governor and a community against itself. Learn More Educational Resources for Daisy Bates
THE WILLIAM STILL STORY
Monday, February 6 at 9PM
William Still was one of the most important, yet largely unheralded heroes of the Underground Railroad. Hear the story of William Still and explore the major role Canada played in the complex humanitarian enterprise that helped deliver tens of thousands of men, women, and children from bondage.
Thursday, February 7 at 7PM
Find inspiration in the story of a courageous band of young civil-rights activists who journeyed through the Deep South in 1961 to bring America face-to-face with the challenge of correcting civil-rights inequities that plagued the nation. Learn More Educational Resources for Freedom Riders
“THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975″
Thursday, February 9 at 10PM
Take a cinematic and musical journey into the black communities of America, 1967-1975. Combining startlingly fresh and candid 16mm footage that had lain undiscovered in the cellar of Swedish Television for the past 30 years, with contemporary audio interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, Mixtape looks at the people, society, culture, and style that fuelled an era of convulsive change. Utilizing an innovative format that riffs on the popular 1970s mixtape format, The Black Power Mixtape is a cinematic and musical journey into the black communities of America. Learn More
Slavery By Another Name
Monday, February 13 at 8PM
SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME challenges one of America’s most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Explore the little-known story of the labor practices and laws that effectively created a new form of slavery in the South that persisted into the 20th century. Slavery By Another Name is a multi-part PBS series based on the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winning book. Learn More
Follow a group of former gang leaders trying to “interrupt” shootings and protect their communities from the violence they once committed. Learn More
More Than a Month
Thursday, February 16 at 10PM
An African-American filmmaker on a cross-country campaign to end Black History Month investigates what the treatment of history tells us about race and equality in a “post-racial” America. On Saturday, February 11 at 11am, KCPT’s Community Cinema will offer a free sneak peek of the film at Tivoli Cinemas in Westport Manor Square. Learn More Educational Resources for More Than A Month
MEMPHIS ON BROADWAY
Friday, February 24 at 9PM
Turn back the dial to the 1950s in this Tony Award-winning musical about an interracial couple whose love for music, and each other, is put to the test.
Cab Calloway: Sketches
Monday, February 27 at 9PM
An ambassador for his race, Cab Calloway was one of the first black musicians to tour the segregationist South, as early as 1932. Enjoy this lively biography of an exceptional figure in the history of jazz.
At the outset of Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock, filmmaker Sharon La Cruise admits that despite having studied the Civil Rights Movement in college, she only stumbled upon the extraordinary story of the woman that organized the Little Rock Nine many years later. The majority of those who attended January’s Community Cinema screening had also never heard of Daisy Bates and her fight to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.
After viewing the documentary, which will air on KCPT on February 2, 2012 at 10pm, attendees discussed current issues of race and education in Kansas City and the largely untold story of women leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.
Community Cinema co-organizer and UMKC professor Caitlin Horsmon shared the story of local woman Corinthian B. Nutter, who lead the desegregation of an elementary school in Merriam, Kansas five years prior to Brown v. Board of Education. Like Bates, Nutter’s story has largely faded from the community’s consciousness. However, Horsmon is currently working a documentary about Nutter’s contributions to the fight for equal education.
Two women, who grew up in and around Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, also happened to attend the screening. Although these women did not know each other, they sat only a few feet apart and revisited some of the most traumatic moments of their childhood.
Lillian Buchanan grew up in a small township about 30 miles northeast of Little Rock, AR and had never heard of Daisy Bates. She says that she remembers it being a very frightening and uncomfortable time for her family and other African Americans in her community.
“I really enjoyed the documentary and it brought up so much emotion. In the radio reports they just mentioned desegregating the high school and how the presence of federal troops was a violation of States’ rights,” Buchanan said. “We never heard about Daisy Bates. It’s good to have that information and I would like to see it incorporated in history education.”
Brendan Smith grew up in Little Rock, AR and characterizes this period as an extremely embarrassing time for herself and community members that didn’t share the vitriolic reactions of those being broadcast on the nightly news.
“We traveled abroad about two years later, and in England if we told someone we were from Little Rock they would say, ‘Oh yes that’s where you had the war. We saw it on the TV.’ And then we would have to explain that not all Americans or Southerners were like the people they saw on television,” Smith said.
Smith adds that she didn’t expect to be one of the only people at the screening who had heard about Daisy Bates.
“I was surprised that no one has heard of Daisy Bates.” Smith said. “Maybe [I knew] because I grew up in Little Rock, but we also knew her name because we admired her.”
Smith’s mother was part of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC), which worked to re-open and integrate Little Rock’s public schools after the Governor of Arkansas closed all state schools to prevent further desegregation.
In 2008, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette ran this full-page commemoration of the WEC’s work. It quotes WEC leader Adolphine Fletcher Terry as declaring, “The men have failed. It’s time to call out the women.”