Tag Archives: W.E.B Du Bois

For the record: Celebrate Black History Month with these historically important films and records

Black Wings  (PBS Distribution)
For early aviators, conquering the forces of gravity was a daunting challenge. But black aviators had an additional challenge: to conquer the forces of racism.

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Meet the men and women of color who took to the skies throughout the 20th century and helped prove to a segregated nation that skin color didn’t determine skill level. From biplanes to commercial jets, and from barnstormers to war fighters, meet the path-breaking pilots who opened the skies for all.


In the firmament of rock ‘n’ roll’s first-generation creators, no artist looms larger than Chuck Berry. In a consistently innovative recording career that spanned more than 60 years, the iconic singer-songwriter-guitarist, who passed away on March 18, 2017, laid much of the groundwork for modern rock ‘n’ roll, while creating some of rock’s most distinctive and enduring anthems, including “Johnny B. Goode”, “Roll Over Beethoven,”, “Rock and Roll Music” and “Reelin and Rockin”.

Geffen/UMe are paying tribute to the immortal spirit of Chuck Berry with the ultimate vinyl version of his landmark greatest hits compilation, The Great Twenty-Eight, with The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition.

The five-disc vinyl box set housed in a textured box, complements the original two-LP, 28-song compilation with an additional LP, More Great Chuck Berry, containing 14 more hits, rarities and B-sides missing from the original, as well as a rare live album, Oh Yeah! Live in Detroit, available on vinyl for the first time. The collection also include a newly created bonus ten-inch EP Berry Christmas, featuring four holiday-themed classics on “Rudolph-Red” vinyl, with one song on vinyl for the first time as well. A limited edition version on “Chess Blue” vinyl, limited to 500 copies.

Bob Dylan once called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.” John Lennon stated, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.'” As Keith Richards writes in the booklet intro, “Chuck Berry is the gentleman who started it all.”

And if those testimonials aren’t convincing enough, one listen to The Great Twenty-Eight: Super Deluxe Edition will make the case for Chuck Berry’s singular, timeless rock ‘n’ roll brilliance.


 

Cruel and Unusual, a profound documentary telling the story of three men—Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, known as the Angola 3. Wrongfully convicted for murdering a prison guard in 1972 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, these men have spent longer in solitary than any other prisoners in the US.  On his release, Albert Woodfox had spent 43 years in a six foot by nine foot cell for a crime he did not commit.

Cover for the documentary, "Cruel And Unusual"

The film is available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.

Told in detail by interviews and prison phone calls from King, Wallace and Woodfox, Cruel and Unusual allows viewers to experience these men’s pain and anguish. From the worst of the worst in their cells, these men managed to find the best of the best that the human spirit has to offer. They have fought for justice and never accepted defeat so that no one else will ever suffer the way they did. A call to action, the film aims to support the growing campaign to end the overuse of long term solitary confinement in America’s prisons.


The rich history of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) began before the end of slavery, flourished in the 20th century, and profoundly influenced the course of the nation for over 150 years—yet remains largely unknown. This latest documentary from Stanley Nelson, America’s foremost film chronicler of the African American experience, is the powerful story of the rise, influence, and evolution of HBCUs come to life.

The story is told in Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (PBS Distribution).

A haven for Black intellectuals, artists, and revolutionaries—and a path of promise toward the American dream—HBCUs have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field while remaining unapologetically Black for more than 150 years. These institutions have nurtured some of the most influential Americans of our time, from Booker T. Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois to Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison to Oprah Winfrey, Alice Walker to Spike Lee to Common.

Independent Lens focuses, finally, on D.W. Griffith’s racist “Birth of a Nation”

More than 100 years after the release of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which depicted the KKK as heroes and African Americans in the most racist caricatures imaginable,  there’s (finally!) a documentary that recounts the little-known story of the battle waged against the film by an early and largely forgotten civil rights activist named William Monroe Trotter. Angered by the film’s unrepentant racism, Trotter led African Americans in a pitched battle against the film’s exhibition that culminated with protests in the streets of Boston, laying the foundation for the civil rights movement to come.

Welcome to  PBS Distribution’s Independent Lens: Birth of a Movement on DVD.  The program will also be available for digital download.

As the first African American Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University, Trotter decried the film as a flagrantly racist glorification of the Klan, and as a dangerous and powerful new form of propaganda that would lead to the lynching of African Americans. Together with W.E.B Du Bois, Trotter founded the Niagara Movement, a national network of black activists that would grow into the NAACP.

Griffith’s film, originally titled The Clansman, opened in 1915, as America was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil War. Although virulently racist, the film—a powerful retelling of Reconstruction that portrays the Ku Klux Klan as righteous vigilantes restoring America to greatness—was lauded in the press, and became the first film ever to screen in the White House. It was seen by a quarter of America’s population and transformed Hollywood and the history of cinema.

Ironically, it was Trotter who called for censorship of The Birth of a Nation to control “hate speech,” while Griffith advocated for freedom of artistic expression. Ultimately, Trotter would lose the battle as the film went on to become the first financial blockbuster and established racial stereotyping as a bankable trope. His fears that the film would unleash racial violence proved true; the film is credited with inspiring the rebirth of the Klan which, by the ’20s, was bigger than ever before.

Through interviews such sources as with Spike Lee (whose NYU student film The Answer was a response to Griffith’s film), Reginald Hudlin and DJ Spooky, Birth of a Movement explores how Griffith’s epic—long taught in film classes as a groundbreaking work of genius—motivated generations of African American filmmakers and artists as they worked to fight and reclaim their history and their onscreen image.

In the wake of the “#OscarsSoWhite” controversy, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and increasing social and political turmoil, the program traces the line between Griffith’s controversial epic and Hollywood’s continued legacy of misrepresentation and negative racial stereotypes. Based on the book The Birth of a Movement: How Birth of a Nation Ignited the Battle for Civil Rights, by Dick Lehr, the film features interviews with historians, writers and filmmakers and is narrated by Danny Glover.