During February, KERA (Channel 13) has dedicated a significant chunk of its schedule to programs that celebrate Black History Month. Many of those shows highlight African American achievement in the arts, including one that’s on tonight.
Fats Domino: Walking Back to New Orleans (10 p.m.) chronicles the legendary piano player’s return to his hometown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, Domino headlined a concert that was filmed for this special. Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Robert Plant and Randy Newman join in to discuss Domino’s influence on their respective careers.
Keep reading for more arts-related Black History Month programming coming up on KERA:
African American Lives (Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.) – Renowned scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., W.E.B. DuBois professor of the Humanities and chair of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University, takes Alex Haley’s Roots saga to a whole new level. Using genealogy and DNA science, Dr. Gates tells the personal stories of eight accomplished African Americans – a neurosurgeon, a TV host, an astronaut, a music entrepreneur, a sociologist, a movie star, a minister and a comedian – tracing their roots through American history and back to Africa.
Evening with Eartha Kitt (Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.) – Gwen Ifill talks with legendary performer Eartha Kitt about her stage, dance and acting career. After baring her legs and her more personal side, Kitt closes the program by singing “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “La Vie En Rose” and “Here’s to Life.”
American Masters: “The World of Nat King Cole” (Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.) – In 2005 – 40 years after his untimely death – musical pioneer Nat King Cole returned to Billboard’s Top 50, proving his everlasting appeal. American Masters now pays tribute to one of the world’s most beloved entertainers with a one-hour documentary that sheds new light on Cole’s universal appeal and towering achievements during a 30-year music and television career. As Isaac Hayes says in the film, “He was cool before it was cool to be cool.”
American Masters: “Marvin Gaye: What’s Goin’ On” (Feb. 21 at 9 p.m.) – A great, enduring figure of American music, Marvin Gaye combined gospel, rhythm and blues, soul and jazz to create his own intimate style – reflecting his “path of the heart” and, essentially, giving us his autobiography in lyrics and sound. He was a glamorous, sometime flamboyant, performer, a Motown star who challenged and changed the face of popular music with records such as What’s Going On in 1971 – full of honesty, vulnerability and integrity. Yet, his life was tainted by the bizarre – full of torment, constant battling of demons and, ultimately, death at the hand of his own father – a preacher and a cross-dresser, who seemed to have “a grudge against his son” from the day he was born. The program includes extensive performance footage and insight from Mary Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight and Mos Def, among many others.