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The Museum presents Black History Month Screenings

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Los Angeles, CA and New York, NY—The Museum is celebrating Black History Month with screenings of two innovative programs produced by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Debuting in 1992, Def Comedy Jam introduced some of today's most notable television comedians, including Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Bernie Mac. The Peabody Award-winning Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry crosses the politics of such spoken-word poets as Gil Scott Heron and Amiri Baraka with the rhythm of contemporary rap artists, exploring such themes as race, identity, religion, and sexuality. Throughout February the Museum in New York and Los Angeles will screen an episode from Def Comedy Jam featuring Martin Lawrence as host and comedians Chris Tucker, Bernie Mac, and Alonzo Jones and a Def Poetry episode with performances by Black Ice and Suheir (who both performed in the Broadway version of Def Poetry), among others. In addition to scheduled screenings, visitors may view additional Def Comedy episodes and choose from a selection of documentaries, children's programs, dramas, and news coverage that chronicle both the history and artistry of African-Americans to watch at a private console.

Television has been a vital medium for documenting key moments in black history and culture¾from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington and Alex Haley's 1977 miniseries Roots to performances by Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Leontyne Price, and many others. Through films, documentaries, and news coverage, television has depicted the injustices of slavery and Jim Crow laws and celebrated the accomplishments of black Americans during such periods as the Harlem Renaissance and the birth of black power consciousness in the late 1960s. 

Black History Month Screenings 

Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry

Screening in New York Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 3:00  p.m.
Screening in Los Angeles Thursdays and Saturdays at 3:00  p.m.

In this episode, the first of the show's third season, Stan Lathan's direction hits its stride as the camera beautifully reflects the intentions of the poet's words. Strong performances are given by Black Ice and Suheir (who both performed in the Broadway version of Def Poetry), as well as Daniel Beatty, musician Jill Scott, and published poet Mutabaruka. (2003; 30 minutes) 

Def Comedy Jam

Screening in New York Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 3:00  p.m.
Screening in Los Angeles Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 3:00  p.m.

Partnering with HBO in the early 1990s, Russell Simmons's Def Comedy Jam took such then-unknown black comedians as Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock and turned them into household names for both white and black audiences. This episode features Martin Lawrence as host and comedians Chris Tucker, Bernie Mac, and Alonzo Jones. (1992; 30 minutes)  

Selections Available for Console Viewing 

We All Have Tales: Koi and the Kola Nuts

Whoopi Goldberg tells this African folktale in which Koi, the son of a chief, inherits only a single kola tree when his father dies. Offended at his small inheritance, he sets off into the jungle, looking for a village where people know how to treat the son of a chief. Music composed and produced by Herbie Hancock. (1991; 25 minutes) 

The Wonderful World of Disney: Selma, Lord Selma

Based on a true story by Sheyann Webb and Rachel West, two of the youngest recruits in the civil rights movement, this fictional account tells the story of how the two young school girls were inspired by the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Along with a young white seminary student from the North, Webb and West join their community in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. (1999; 90 minutes) 

Art Blakey:  The Jazz Messenger

Art Blakey took pride in the fact that jazz was the only art created in America and that it originated in black culture. This British documentary highlights Blakey's continuing efforts to spread his love of jazz, particularly to young black artists and listeners around the globe, through his band, the Jazz Messengers. Musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Watson, Benny Golson, and Wynton Marsalis, among many others, talk about Blakey's influence. Blakey himself is seen playing and talking about jazz. (1987; 80 minutes) 

The American Experience: Malcolm X: Make It Plain

This documentary, by filmmaker Orlando Bagwell, explores the life of black leader Malcolm X. The film explores Malcolm's childhood, prison years, conversion to Islam, marriage, activism, and his ultimate split with the Nation of Islam.  Interviews with other black leaders and friends such as Maya Angelou, Alex Haley, Sonia Sanchez, and Gordon Parks and his wife, Betty Shabazz, complete the portrait. (1994; 150 minutes) 

Ailey Dances

One of America's most important choreographers, Alvin Ailey revolutionized dance by infusing the formal discipline of classical ballet with the vibrant rhythms and cadences of African-American music and dance traditions. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs the dances Night Creature, Cry, The Lark Ascending, and Revelations, with introductions by former Ailey dancer Judith Jamison. (1983; 90 minutes)

A Different World: "Mammy Dearest"

In this episode of the critically acclaimed and popular comedy series, produced and directed by Debbie Allen, the students are planning a performance celebrating African-American history and are forced to find a way to deal with some unsettling aspects of that history. (1991; 30 minutes)

South Central: "Co-op"

In this hard-hitting comedy/drama series, an African-American family struggles with the stark realities of life in South Central Los Angeles. This episode finds Joan Mosley having to put up with her boss's use of questionable tactics to stay in business, while at home, Tasha is having her own difficulties watching the family's foster child. CCH Pounder guest-stars.  (1994; 25 minutes)

Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Piano Lesson

This film adaptation of playwright August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Piano Lesson centers on a family heirloom¾a beautifully carved piano heavy with the weight of the family's slave history. Pitted against Berniece, who is intent on keeping the piano and remembering the history it holds, is her brother Boy Willie, who wants to sell it so he can buy a piece of land. Afre Woodard and Charles Dutton star. (1995; 110 minutes)

CBS News Special Report: The March on Washington

Roger Mudd reports live from Washington D.C. on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.   This segment of the coverage includes Martin Luther King, Jr.'s celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech.  (1963; 65 minutes)

CBS Reports: "Who Speaks for Birmingham?"

Who Speaks for Birmingham?, broadcast during the tumultuous rise of the civil rights movement, reported on the divide between the white and black communities of Birmingham, Alabama.  Both black and white residents talk about their views of racial integration and how it will effect their lives. Although Howard K. Smith is the on-screen reporter for this program, an uncredited Edward R. Murrow developed the topic and got it approved by CBS management. (1961; 55 minutes) 

The Museum of Television & Radio, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, is a nonprofit organization founded by William S. Paley to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and to make them available to the public. Since opening in 1976, the Museum has organized exhibitions, screening and listening series, seminars, and education classes to showcase its collection of more than 100,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. In 2001 the Museum initiated a process to acquire Internet programming for the collection. Programs in the Museum's permanent collection are selected for their artistic, cultural, and historic significance. 

The Museum of Television & Radio in New York, located at 25 West 52 Street in Manhattan, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m., until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays, and Friday evenings until 9:00 p.m. (theaters only). The Museum of Television & Radio in California, located at 465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m. Both Museums are closed on New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles. The public areas in both Museums are accessible to wheelchairs, and assisted listening devices are available. Programs are subject to change. You may call the Museum in New York at (212) 621-6800, or in Los Angeles at (310) 786-1000. Visit the Museum's website at