Black History on T.V

Article excerpt

Now in its 24th year, Black History Month is being observed in dramatic style on public, commercial and cable television. Programs highlighting historical events as well as the achievements of a wide range of African American personalities will grace prime-time and other programming slots on several television stations around the country.

Unfortunately, some of the networks have fallen into the habit of lumping virtually all of their Black-oriented programming into the month of February. Some of these programs are scheduled at ungodly hours, bringing into question how much the programmers truly value these shows. Others, though characterized as African American programs, actually address people and issues concerning Africans or the Diaspora.

Still, there is little doubt that the programming about Black history available on television today is more bountiful than it was a decade ago.

This year, the Public Broadcast System, Black Entertainment Television, The History Channel and the commercial networks all have programs scheduled. And though half of the month is over, there is still much to see.

Below is a sampling of the shows airing on the History Channel that should attract scholarly and mainstream audiences. For listings featured by other broadcasters, consult your local TV/Cable guide.

Ships of Slaves: The Middle Passage (Special Presentation, Tues., Feb. 22, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT): Produced by Debbie Allen, this program relives the 400-year era of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Interviews with scholars, oral historians and dramatic recreation of the middle passage filmed on an authentic slave ship, convey the personal horror of tragic era.

The Underground Railroad Part II - (The History Channel Classroom, Feb. 18, 6 a.m. ET/3 a.m. PT): Hosted by Alfre Woodard, this program chronicles the stories of men and women - Black and White, renowned and forgotten - who risked their lives by participating in the Underground Railroad. The program also highlights preservation efforts being undertaken by the National Park Service to keep the spirit of the Railroad alive.

The Talented Tenth - (History Showcase, Feb. 19, 6 a.m. ET/3 a.m. PT): Takes a look at the successes of five African American families from North Carolina that have risen to prominence despite formidable odds.

Shaka Zulu - (Movies in Time, Sat., Feb. 19, 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT): This acclaimed miniseries retraces the history of Shaka Zulu - who, though born out of wedlock to a disowned African princess, grew up to unite the tribes of Zululand into a proud and mighty nation.

The African Burial Ground: People and Politics (History Showcase, Sun., Feb. 20, 6 a.m. ET/3 a.m. PT): The third episode in this four-part series describes how ordinary citizens clashed with U. …