February is Black History Month and after a year of protests against racial injustice and police brutality, the occasion feels more poignant this year than ever before.
As a result, networks, streaming services and local TV stations are assembling curated playlists, programs and specials to celebrate the month. Below is a sampling.
ABC Owned Television Stations
The ABC Owned Television Stations are premiering a bevy of Black History Month content to its viewers across its eight stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco,Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno. The content will be available to viewers across its 32 connected TV apps on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku, with a special rebroadcast of the groundbreaking five-part docuseries, Our America: Living While Black, on Hulu.
At the same time, ABC Owned Stations’ Localish will premiere hyperlocal stories celebrating Black culture that will air in linear broadcasts across the eight stations. The digital-native lifestyle brand will also repost and promote long-form and short-form content, including its most popular show, “More in Common,” across its platforms all month long.
Apple is celebrating Black History Month across many of its product lines, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple Books, Apple Podcasts and more.
This month’s theme for “Essential Stories” on the Apple TV app spotlights the multidimensionality of the Black family and its representation on-screen. Viewers can dive into the “Essential: Stories That Honor Black Families” collection with curated sets of films and TV shows that explore motherhood, fatherhood, iconic TV families, queer chosen families, and more. This latest installment features original art by Jon Key, whose intimate illustrations depict various interpretations of family units.
In addition, the Black History Month Hub at the App Store will spotlight Black-owned businesses, developers, entertainment and gaming apps and social-justice apps. The App Store also will feature stories with Black developers discussing the importance of representation in apps and games, with creators from ustwo games and Zynga.
Apple Music will launch a month-long experience across Apple Music, Apple Music radio, and Apple Music TV that highlights some of the most remarkable musicians spanning jazz, blues, soul, gospel, R&B, pop, and hip hop. Throughout February, Apple Music will also feature curated playlists, essays, original videos, and more from Black influencers, musicians, authors, and directors, including Erykah Badu, Naomi Campbell, Common, Ava DuVernay, John Legend, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Jaden Smith.
Apple Music also commissioned original artwork from collage artist Rob Lewis to visually weave together the music programming with the culture it represents.
HBO Max is offering subscribers a Black History is Our History spotlight page, highlighting Black stories and talent with such series as Lovecraft Country, Watchmen, Insecure, Euphoria and A Black Lady Sketch Show.
As part of the service’s new direct-to-consumer theatrical strategy, HBO Max will debut film Judas and the Black Messiah starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield on the service and in theaters on Feb. 12, with the movie available for free on HBO Max for the following 31 days after its theatrical release.
Other documentaries and biopics available as part of the collection includes Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between the World and Me; John Lewis: Good Trouble, which first aired on CNN; and Black Art: In the Absence of Light.
PBS is commemorating Black history and culture all year long with a special emphasis on the topic in February.
“PBS will continue to honor the impact and legacy that Black culture has had on our country by offering content that provides historical context to the Black experience, celebrates the achievements of African Americans, and sparks meaningful conversations about race and equality,” said Sylvia Bugg, PBS chief programming executive and general manager, general audience programming, in a statement. “At PBS, we believe that every part of the story matters, and we are committed to airing content from diverse filmmakers that serves the American public and honors the diversity of our country throughout the year on all of our platforms.”
On Tuesday, February 16 and 17, PBS will premiere The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song from executive producer, host and writer Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The two-part series features interviews from Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson and Bishop Michael Curry, examining the role of the Church as the site of African-American organizing, resilience, autonomy, freedom and solidarity, and uses song to highlight the beliefs and actions that drew African Americans from the violent margins of society to the front lines of change.
On Monday, February 22, audiences will travel back in time to 1968 with Mr. Soul!, a vibrant documentary from Independent Lens that chronicles the public television variety show Soul! The film looks at developer and host Ellis Haizlip and the show that celebrated all facets of Black culture and earned critical praise and public support as one of the first platforms to expand the image of African Americans on television.
In addition, PBS will offer new programming examining the fundamental questions of race, segregation and the American spirit. On Monday, February 15, it will explore the life of Marian Anderson, the celebrated singer who triumphed at the Lincoln Memorial after being barred from performing at Constitution Hall because she was Black, in American Experience’s “Voice of Freedom.” In Finding Your Roots’ “Write My Name in the Book of Life,” on Tuesday, Feb. 16, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps musician Pharrell Williams and filmmaker Kasi Lemons uncover rare first-person accounts of their enslaved ancestors.
Finally, PBS Digital Studios’ Say It Loud, hosted by Evelyn Ngugi, will return for a second season. Also premiering from PBS Digital Studios are new episodes of music education series Sound Field, which delves into the life of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti.