Tuning into Black History Month specials


WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 12: (L-R) Lisa Leslie, T.D. Jakes, Halle Berry, Clarence Avant and Chaka Khan onstage at BET Honors 2013 at Warner Theatre on January 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Black History Month specials are under way, although the angle on “black history” gets some loose interpretation: Sony Movie Channel, for instance, has devoted its Take Two movies on Tuesdays to stars such as Morgan Freeman (Feb. 5), Denzel Washington (Feb. 12), Sidney Poitier (Feb. 19), and Richard Pryor (Feb. 26). Comcast also bundled offerings in its Xfinity.com/celebrateblacktv site.

“North and South,” based on the John Jakes novels, has been revived for Encore. For those who missed the Civil War trilogy (which originally aired in the 1980s), the six-part miniseries starred Patrick Swayze and a host of TV actors. The real game is spotting the A-list cameos that include Elizabeth Taylor, Hal Holbrook, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Mitchum, and Johnny Cash. The emphasis is on friendships between gentleman farmers and moneyed city folk torn asunder, although there were a few key roles for black actors, among them Robert Guillame (“Benson”) as Frederick Douglass, and a young Forest Whitaker.

For premiere original programming, Lifetime zeroes in on the female demographic with a triple threat: “Twist of Faith,” “Pastor Brown,” and most notably “Betty & Coretta.” The latter pairs the fabulous Angela Bassett and Mary Blige as, respectively, the widows of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X — and just to make sure you remember this is a Lifetime Picture, the trailer has Coretta King confessing to Betty Shabazz in hushed tones about her husband’s infidelity.

Online, BET hosts a range of videos from “Celebs on Their Favorite American Films” to “Is Black History Month Still Relevant?” Among the broadcast channels, PBS has a lock on all the specials, ranging from Gwen Ifill’s profile on Motown legend Berry Gordy to a look at “Freedom Riders.”

Below, a few TV highlights. Dates and times are provided when available; check your local listings for airings.

Black History Month TV highlights

  • Feb. 1 – “NAACP Image Awards” (NBC)
  • Feb. 2 – “Soul Train Weekend” (CentricTV); “Betty & Coretta” (Lifetime) 8 PM
  • Feb. 3 – Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (Encore) 10 AM
  • Feb. 4 – “North and South”, Episodes 1 and 2 (Encore) 8 PM, repeats 10 AM Feb. 10
  • Feb. 5 – “Pioneers of TV: Roots Special” (PBS); “North and South”, Episode 3 (Encore) 8 PM, repeats 11:33 AM Feb. 10
  • Feb. 6 – “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” (Bounce TV) 9 PM; “North and South”, Episode 4 (Encore) 8 PM
  • Feb. 7 – “Lifecasters”: Sherri “Sparkle” Williams (PBS); “North and South”, Episode 5 (Encore) 8 PM
  • Feb. 8 – “North and South”, Episode 6 (Encore) 8 PM
  • Feb. 9 – “Whitney Houston/New Edition Weekend” (CentricTV), repeats Feb. 10; “Twist of Faith” (Lifetime) 8 PM, repeats 12 AM and 9 PM Feb. 10; “North and South”, Episode 5 (Encore) 8 PM
  • Feb. 10 – “North and South” marathon (Encore) 10 AM; “Third and a Mile: The History of the Black Quarterback” (ESPN Classic) 10 AM; “A Race Story”: Wendell Scott (ESPN Classic) 4 PM; “At the River I Stand” (Starz) 7 PM; “Revolution ’67” (Starz) 8 PM
  • Feb. 11 – “BET Honors 2013” (BET) 9 PM; “Rising from the Rails” (Bounce TV) 10 PM
  • Feb. 13 – “Slavery By Another Name” (PBS) 10 PM
  • Feb. 15 – “Underground Railroad: The William Still Story” (PBS) 10:30 PM
  • Feb. 16 – “A Celebration of Jazz” (CentricTV), repeats Feb. 17; “Stories from the Road to Freedom” (History) 8 PM; “Pastor Brown” (Lifetime) 8 PM, repeats 12 AM Feb. 17 and 9 PM Feb. 17
  • Feb. 17 – “North and South II” marathon (Encore) 10 AM; “Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property” (Starz) 7 PM; “Banished” (Starz) 8 PM, repeats 11 PM on Starz in Black; “Miracle Rising: South Africa” (H2) 10 PM, repeats 12 PM Feb. 23 on History Channel
  • Feb. 18 – “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” (PBS) 10 PM
  • Feb. 22 – Joe Louis bouts (ESPN Classic) 12 AM; “Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll” (PBS); “Stevie Wonder Weekend” (CentricTV)
  • Feb. 23 – “Stevie Wonder Weekend” (CentricTV)
  • Feb. 24 – “Scandalize My Name: Stories from the Blacklist” (Starz) 7 PM; “Dare Not Walk Alone: The War of Responsibility” (Starz) 8 PM
  • Feb. 25 – “In the Shadow of Hollywood” (Bounce TV) 10 PM
  • Feb. 26 – “Makers: Women Who Make America” (PBS); SportsCentury marathon (ESPN Classic) 1 PM