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TV Celebrates Miles Davis, Rosa Parks, Guion Bluford and More This Black History Month

The Leap year adds an extra day of reflection

Mekeisha Madden Toby

There is the Miles Davis you think you know and then there is the raw and wounded version that gets explored in the fascinating and heartbreaking documentaryMiles Davis: Birth of the Cool. Two hours of pure sensory-pleasing edification, the film will air as a part of PBS'American Masters series and features never-before seen photos and footage of the late trumpet virtuoso and interviews with music industry giants Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bass guitarist Marcus Miller and bassist Ron Carter.

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson also catches up with Davis' childhood friends, his now deceased ex-wife and dancer Frances Taylor Davis and his youngest son, Erin Davis to unpack the jazz legend's six-decade long career and the highs and lows in his professional and personal life until his death in 1991 at age 65. This includes growing up middle class as the son of a dentist in East St. Louis, his time at Julliard, ascension to greatness, struggles with drug abuse, three failed marriages and more.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool premieres Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 9/8c on PBS and is one of a number of worthwhile programs, specials, and movies that will air in honor of Black History Month. Here are a dozen or so more:

Feb. 1


B. Monet, Raven-Symoné and Quinn Wilson

Black Girls Direct, The Disney Channel -- Actress and singer Raven-Symoné doesn't scare easily. But when Symoné started directing, she had to learn quickly and embrace all the things she didn't know. The star of Raven's Home talks about the challenges and the rewards alongside Quinn Wilson (director/creative director for Lizzo) on the Disney Channel's Black Girls Direct, a new interstitial commemorating Black History Month that premiered Feb. 1 and will run throughout the month. Filmmaker B. Monet directed the two-minute segment. In it, Symoné and Wilson discuss female empowerment and their experience as young, black female creators and directors in an entertainment industry dominated by white men.

Feb. 5

Unsung, TV One -- Both an award-winning series and a viewer favorite, Unsung will commemorate Black History Month through music with Wednesday, Feb. 5 episodes on 1960s stars James Brown at 8/7c, David Ruffin at 9/8c, and Tammi Terrell at 10/9c on TV One.

Feb. 6

Men of Honor, HBO Signature -- Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.) joins the U.S. Navy in 1948 and despite racist obstacles, becomes the Navy's first black diver in this 2000 movie, which is based on a true story. Robert De Niro co-stars as Billy Sunday, Carl's commanding officer and instructor who initially discriminates against him but later turns out to be his greatest ally. Men of Honor airs on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 11 a.m. ET on HBO Signature.

Feb. 8

White Water, TV One -- Larenz Tate and Sharon Leal star in this 2015 made-for-TV movie about segregation and one little black boy's unwavering determination to drink from the white water fountain and make his world equal. White Water airs on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. ET on TV One.

The Best of Enemies, Showtime 2 -- This 2019 movie follows the unlikely relationship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and local Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) as they begrudgingly work together to desegregate schools in Durham, North Carolina in 1971. Based on a true story, The Best of Enemies airs on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 8/7c on Showtime 2 and again Monday, Feb. 10 at 5:15/4:15c on Showtime 2.

Feb. 10

Bounce Celebrates Black History, Bounce -- Queen Latifah, Common and Harry Belafonte share rarely heard stories depicting strength and courage in Black America. The list includes tales from the Underground Railroad, the Green Book, Madam C.J. Walker, Martin Luther King, Jr., surgeon and scientist Dr. Charles Drew, slavery revolter Joseph Cinque, noted author James Baldwin, and photographer Gordon Parks. Bounce Celebrates Black History airs Monday, Feb. 10 at 8/7c and every Monday to follow in February on Bounce.

Feb. 11

Finding Your Roots, PBS -- On this special installment ofFinding Your Roots, host Henry Louis Gates Jr., examines how the Slave Trade impacted the lives and family trees of actress S. Epatha Merkerson; filmmaker Ava DuVernay; and musician Questlove. It airs on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8/7c on PBS. Check your local listings.

Feb. 12

Unsung, TV One -- This award-winning favorite will continue to celebrate Black History Month through music on Wednesday, Feb. 12 with profiles on beloved 1970s bands The Dramatics at 8/7c, Blue Magic at 9/8c, and Switch at 10/9c on TV One.

Feb. 13

Stuck with You, Urban Movie Channel -- Timon Kyle Durrett and Tammy Townsend star in this six-episode relationship dramatic-comedy about a celebrity couple that seems perfect, but thanks to their "open marriage," is far from it. Stuck with You, which will explore a number of stages within black couples' relationships, premieres Thursday Feb. 13 on UMC aka the Urban Movie Channel.

Feb. 15

The Watsons Go to Birmingham, TV One -- Anika Noni Rose, Skai Jackson and David Alan Grier star in this 2013 movie about a tight-knit African American family living in Flint, Michigan that sends its eldest son to his wise and wonderful grandmother in Alabama after he starts getting in trouble. He also arrives just as things are heating up during the Civil Rights movement of 1963. The Watsons Go To Birmingham airs on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. ET on TV One.

Feb. 18

We Are the Dream, HBO -- In the months leading up to the 40th annual MLK Oratorical Festival, hundreds of Oakland Unified School District students grades K-12 hone their oratorical skills to honor Martin Luther King Jr., and take their rightful places as the best speakers in Northern California. Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali executive produced this inspiring documentary directed by Emmy-winner Amy Schatz. We Are the Dream premieres on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7/6c on HBO and re-airs throughout February.

Feb. 19

Unsung, TV One -- The award-winning series will close out its celebration of Black History Month through music on Wednesday, Feb. 19 with profiles on beloved 1980s singer Mtume at 9/8c, the band DeBarge at 9/8c, and The Boys at 10/9c on TV One.

Feb. 22

Behind the Movement, TV One -- This small-screen 2018 film takes a closer look at Rosa Parks (Meta Golding) and how her refusal to give up her seat on the bus in 1955 launched the historical Montgomery Bus Boycott and ushered in a necessary shift in the Civil Rights movement. It airs on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 10/9c on TV One.

NAACP Image Awards, BET -- Now in its 51st incarnation, the preeminent award show for people of color will honor the best in movies, television, music and literature. The most noteworthy category is this year's list of nominees for Outstanding Motion Picture Dolemite Is My Name; Harriet; Just Mercy; Queen & Slim; and Us. The NAACP Image Awards air on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 8/7c on BET.

Feb. 24

Black In Space: Breaking the Color Barrier, Smithsonian Channel -- Three-time Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker Laurens Grant explores the 20th-century Cold War Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union over getting to space first, and later, having the first black astronaut. Black in Space closely explores the turning point when America's problems with racism became a critical liability. The film also uncovers the personal stories of several African-American Space Race pioneers including Edward Dwight, a U.S. Air Force pilot and early NASA contender, Guion Bluford, the first black American in space, and Ronald McNair, who tragically died in the Challenger disaster. Black In Space: Breaking the Color Barrier premieres Monday Feb. 24 at 8/7c on the Smithsonian Channel with an encore Thursday, Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. ET.


Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier