Culture, History & Allyship for Black History Month and Beyond!

Mountain Lake PBS is proud to celebrate Black History this February and all year round!

February is Black History Month, a time to honor the important role African Americans play in the story of our country. Originating as a week-long celebration in 1926, organized by historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans of the time, Black History Month was nationally recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976.

Today we continue this tradition with celebrations, lectures, performances, documentaries, and more to expand our understanding of the pivotal role in shaping U.S. history and culture played by Americans of African descent.

Continue below for resources to celebrate and learn about Black culture and history, while helping your family engage in important conversations about race in America. Then, tune in for a full lineup of programs in February honoring Black History Month during our weekday Watch & Wonder block!

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Learn About Black History & Culture

Teaching Your Child About Black History

Grades PreK-3
By kindergarten, most children have heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and learned that he was an advocate for peace and equality. Here are ways to take Black History a step further this month and year-round.

Celebrating Black Leaders Collection

Grades PreK-3
Teach your child about Black leaders who have left their mark on U.S. history! Explore Black scientists, politicians, activists, and artists with this PBS KIDS for Parents “Celebrating Black Leaders” collection.

Children’s Books to Celebrate Black History Month

Grades PreK-6
February is Black History Month, a time for remembrance and celebration of the accomplishments of Black pioneers and trailblazers. Story time is one of many ways to teach young children about Black history. Check out these 12 books to celebrate Black history this month and those to follow.

National Museum of African American History and Culture | Craft in America: Democracy

Grades 6-12
In this video from Craft in America, we meet curator Joanne Hyppolite, Ph.D., of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who talks about a patchwork-lettered quilt, one of many museum objects that help to educate citizens about the history of African Americans and the past and present racism in the United States. Support materials include a breakdown of essential questions, key concepts, an overview of content, suggested activities, related vocabulary, discussion questions and worksheets for viewing the film, studio investigations, and reflection about and displaying completed artworks.

Making Black America: Pathways for Learning

Grades 6-12
Amplifying the rich history of Black America throughout the entire school year is important says author Rasheera Dopson, because “African American history IS American history.” Learn how to highlight the history and accomplishments of Black leaders year round with Making Black America: Through the Grapevine, a series that celebrates the joy and achievements of the Black community, exploring history from the early 1770s to the present day.

Black Leaders & Visionaries

George Washington Carver | Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum

Grades K-2
Learn about George Washington Carver, a world renowned scientist, humanitarian, and environmentalist who worked diligently to improve the lives of Black farmers in the South with this video clip, printable biosketch reader, and support materials.

Harriet Tubman | Abolition Activist Video

Grades 3-8
Harriet Tubman
escaped slavery to become a so-called “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, leading or assisting more than 300 enslaved people to freedom, despite great personal risk. Learn about Tubman’s courage in the face of enormous risks with this biographical video. Then, in the associated lesson plan, examine a photograph of Tubman and read a letter written to her by Frederick Douglass. The lesson culminates with students comparing Harriet Tubman to modern-day women and girls who have similarly confronted huge risks to help others.

Charlotta Spears Bass | Unladylike2020

Grades 6-12
Learn about Charlotta Spears Bass, a crusading newspaper editor and politician who was one of the first African American women to own and operate a newspaper in the United States, in this video from Unladylike2020. Support materials include discussion questions, primary source analysis, research project ideas, and the New York Times Magazine “1619 Project” created by Nikole Hannah-Jones.

The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers | Mae Jemison

Grades 6-12
Meet astronaut Mae Jemison in this video profile from NOVA’s “The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers.” As a child growing up in Chicago, Mae dreamed of traveling to outer space. Years later, while in medical school, she decided to follow that dream and applied to become a NASA astronaut. Mae eventually became the first African American woman to go into space.

Muhammad Ali | Ken Burns in the Classroom Collection

Grades 6-12
Muhammad Ali was one of the most indelible figures of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated millions of fans across the world with his mesmerizing combination of speed, grace, and power in the ring, and charm and playful boasting outside of it. Ali insisted on being himself unconditionally and became a global icon and inspiration to people everywhere. Explore educational themes including sports in society, personal identity, and physical and mental health with The Muhammad Ali | Ken Burns in the Classroom Collection.

Allyship & Social Justice Resources

Social Justice Books: Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books

Grades PreK-5
Children’s books continue to be an invaluable source of information and values. They reflect the attitudes in our society about diversity, power relationships among different groups of people, and various social identities. Carefully choosing quality children’s books is an indispensable educational and child-rearing task. Use this guide from Social Justice Books to help you identify and select anti-bias children’s books for your family or classroom.

Talking to Young Children About Race and Racism

Grades PreK-5
This collection from PBS KIDS for Parents includes a variety of videos, articles, reading lists, and activities to help you have meaningful conversations with young children about race, racism, and being anti-racist. Additional external resources for parents and older children are also included.

Common Sense Media: How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids

Grades 1-12
Media makes a big impression on kids. The messages you send — from the media you choose, to the conversations you initiate — are what kids will hold in their hearts and minds. Here are 10 ideas for how to use media to start and continue conversations about race and racism with your kids.

Confronting Anti-Black Racism Collection

Grades 6-12
Use these materials with middle and high school students to help them understand the long history of anti-Black racism in the United States, and think about ways to address it in their own families and communities. Resources include news coverage of recent protests, videos on the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality within the past decade, iconic PBS documentaries on the histories of race and racism in America, and activities addressing civic engagement and elevating students’ voices.

Connecting Past and Present: The Tulsa Race Massacre and Recent Police Killings | Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten

Grades 9-12
Discover how past and present are linked in this video from Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten. Nicole Austin-Hillery (Human Rights Watch), Drew Diamond (former Chief of the Tulsa Police) and others explain how unresolved racial violence links past to present by connecting the massacre to present-day police violence, the killing of George Floyd, and the demand for justice. Support materials include an activity for high school students which focuses on developing an argument and provides students with the opportunity to develop this skill.

Watch & Wonder Programming

All February, check out the Mountain Lake PBS Watch & Wonder block for special Black History Month programming! Join us as we celebrate and learn about Black history, culture, and the important contributions made by African Americans.

Wednesday, February 1

1 PM: Prince Among Slaves

This special tells the forgotten true story of an African prince who was enslaved in Mississippi for 40 years before finally achieving freedom and becoming one of the most famous men in America.

2 PM: John Lewis: Get in the Way

Follow the journey of civil rights hero, congressman and human rights champion John Lewis. A film by Kathleen Dowdey, “John Lewis – Get in the Way” is the first biographical documentary about Lewis, an inspiring portrait of one man cast into extraordinary times and his unhesitating dedication to seeking justice for the marginalized and ignored. The film spans more than half a century, tracing Lewis’ journey of courage, confrontations and hard-won triumphs.

Thursday, February 2

1 PM: Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom

Go beyond the legend and meet the inspiring woman who repeatedly risked her own life and freedom to liberate others from slavery. Born 200 years ago in Maryland, Harriet Tubman was a conductor of the Underground Railroad, a Civil War scout, nurse and spy, and one of the greatest freedom fighters in our nation’s history.

2 PM: Becoming Frederick Douglass

Discover how a man born into slavery became one of the most influential voices for democracy in American history. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stanley Nelson explores the role Douglass played in securing the right to freedom for African Americans.

Tuesday, February 7

1 PM: American Masters | How it Feels to Be Free

The inspiring story of how six iconic African American female entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier – challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process.

Thursday, February 9

1 PM: Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story

Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story explores the extraordinary life of a man who, in his heart, was a poet and “mystic.” Yet through his religious expression, Thurman helped ignite sweeping social change. Though he was born the grandson of slaves, Howard Thurman went on to become one of the great spiritual and religious pioneers of the 20th century whose words and influence continues to echo today.

2 PM: Finding Fellowship

Finding Fellowship follows three racially-segregated churches in Quince Orchard, Maryland that had each fallen on hard financial times. In 1968, as members of the three churches debated the consequences of merging, it was announced that Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been murdered. Despite King’s assassination, the three churches voted to merge their congregations into one.

Monday, February 13

1 PM: NOVA: Star Chasers Of Senegal

A NASA spacecraft named Lucy blasts off from Cape Canaveral on a mission to the Trojans, a group of asteroids over 400 million miles from Earth thought to hold important clues about the origins of our solar system. Just hours before, in Senegal, West Africa, a team of scientists sets out to capture extraordinarily precise observations vital to the success of the Lucy mission. From prehistoric ruins to Islamic skywatchers, explore the heritage and future of African astronomy.

Tuesday, February 14

1 PM: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War | Part 1 – Hours 1 & 2

The aftermath of the Civil War was bewildering, exhilarating and terrifying. African Americans had played a crucial role in saving the Union and now, as the country grappled with the terms and implications of Reconstruction, they struggled to breathe life into their hard-won freedom. The result was a second American Revolution. Post-Civil War America was a new world. For African Americans living in the former Confederacy, Reconstruction was what historian W. E. B. Du Bois once described as their “brief moment in the sun.” But support for the social, economic, and political gains they achieved didn’t last long. A controversial presidential election in 1876 deals Reconstruction a grievous blow.

Wednesday, February 15

1 PM: Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin

In The Woman in the Iron Coffin, follow a team of forensic experts as they investigate the preserved remains of a young African American woman from 19th century New York and reveal the little-known story of early America’s free Black communities.

Friday, February 17

1 PM: We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told

We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told chronicles the unrecognized history of jazz in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The hour-long documentary features the talents of international jazz legends George Benson, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Eckstine, Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Billy Strayhorn and Mary Lou Williams-all Pittsburghers. Using archival footage and photos, it also sheds light on the social conditions and historical events that conspired to make Pittsburgh one of the world’s leading contributors to the legacy of jazz music.

2 PM: Bird: Not Out of Nowhere

Kansas City PBS is proud to present a documentary that looks back at the years Charlie “Bird” Parker spent in Kansas City and his lasting legacy on the Kansas City jazz scene. Bird: Not Out of Nowhere features rarely seen archival footage of Parker, interviews with musicians and historians, and live performances from Kansas City’s most talented jazz musicians.

Tuesday, February 21

1 PM: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War | Part 2 – Hours 3 & 4

Hour three of the series examines the years 1877-1896, a transitional period that saw visions of a “New South” set the stage for the rise of Jim Crow and the undermining of Reconstruction’s legal and political legacy. While some African Americans attempted to migrate, the vast majority remained in the South, where sharecropping, convict leasing, disfranchisement, and lynchings drew a “color line”. In hour four, learn how the turn of the century is known as the ‘nadir’ of race relations, when white supremacy was ascendant and African Americans faced both physical and psychological oppression. Racist imagery saturated popular culture and Southern propaganda manipulated the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction. But African Americans found ways to fight back, using artistic expression to put forward a “New Negro”

Wednesday, February 22

1 PM: 1964: The Fight for the Right

By 1964, black Mississippians had suffered 75 years of Jim Crow. Civil rights activists came up with a daring plan for change. Bringing white students to Mississippi for a summer-long voter registration drive. Mississippi Public Broadcasting commemorated the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer with a documentary which explored the content, events, and aftermath of those 10 weeks.

Thursday, February 23

1 PM: Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America

Discover how the advent of the automobile brought new mobility and freedom for African Americans but also exposed them to discrimination and deadly violence, and how that history resonates today.

Friday, February 24

1 PM: From the Streets to the Stage: The Journey of Frederick Davis

“From the Streets to the Stage: The Journey of Fredrick Davis” is the story of a ballet dancer who overcame tremendous odds to achieve his dream of dancing on stages around the world. Through intimate conversations with Fredrick Davis, as well as with the teachers, family, and friends who helped shape his career, the film chronicles Fred’s journey from his difficult childhood to today.

2 PM: Black Ballerina

Black Ballerina is a story of passion, opportunity, heartbreak and triumph of the human spirit. Set in the overwhelmingly white world of classical dance, it tells the stories of several black women from different generations who fell in love with ballet. Sixty years ago, while pursuing their dreams of careers in classical dance, Joan Myers Brown, Delores Browne and Raven Wilkinson confronted racism, exclusion and unequal opportunity in segregated mid-century America. In 2015, three young black women also pursue careers as ballerinas, and find that many of the same obstacles their predecessors faced are still evident in the ballet world today.

Tuesday, February 28

1 PM: Alpha Kappa Alpha: A Legacy of Service

Narrated by Phylicia Rashad, Alpha Kappa Alpha: A Legacy of Service, documents the 115-year history of one of the nation’s oldest African American women’s organizations. Since its founding at Howard University in 1908, the members of Alpha Kappa Alpha have empowered communities across the globe.

2 PM: Black/White and Brown: Brown Versus the Board of Education of Topeka

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. This momentous Supreme Court decision focused national attention on the practice of maintaining racially segregated public schools. The documentary presents the stories of the individuals, events and circumstances that converged as the wheels of the legal system were set in motion.