02-19-2017  8:33 am      •     

"Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.

These are the poignant words of Carter G. Woodson, who founded Negro History Week in 1926. Woodson created an additional bit of Black history in his own right -- he entered high school at the age of 20, graduated in two years and went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Noting the dearth of information about African Americans in the history books during his academic pursuits, Woodson set out to correct the record by establishing the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, and subsequently, the Journal of Negro History in 1916. His efforts culminated with the establishment of Negro History Week in 1926 as he raised national awareness of the contributions made by African Americans throughout the country's history.

As we observe Black History during the month of February and celebrate the many contributions of African Americans to this great nation, we, in truth, celebrate the richness of American history long incomplete by its omission of Black achievement, perseverance and triumph over obstacles virtually unimaginable by today's standards.

In telling the stories of African American inventors, politicians, scientists, industrialists, musicians and others, we also tell the stories of the high and low points of American history and of people of good will who aided African Americans in their struggles to overcome. Remembering our past helps to inform our future as a nation.

There is much to celebrate in this month of remembrance and reflection. Enormous progress has characterized the African American experience over the centuries, with much remaining to be done as Black History continues to be written by daily events and accomplishments. Hurricane Katrina is a stark reminder of this fact, as are the modern day accomplishments of Patricia Bath, whose pioneering work in ophthalmology has revolutionized laser eye surgery with her invention of the Laserphaco Probe.

Also consider Mark Dean, IBM engineer, who has been one of the masterminds behind IBM's computer technology for more than two decades. He holds 20 patents, including three of IBM's original nine PC patents. He and a colleague created the ISA systems bus, an interface that allows multiple devices, such as a modem and printer, to be connected to a personal computer. The ISA is used in every computer built today.

These are but two examples of contemporary African American achievement. You can learn more about Black History throughout the month of February as major television and cable networks feature special programming.

Television Programming for Black History Month

Feb. 20: "Little Richard." NBC original movie stars Leon, Garrett Morris and Carl Lumbly in a biographical account of the rock 'n' roll icon. Robert Townsend directs.

Feb. 16: "Great Performances" presents "Aida's Brothers and Sisters: Black Voices in Opera." Documentary salutes African American opera stars, including Sissieretta Jones, an ex-slave who performed for four U.S. Presidents.

Feb. 16: "Nadro." Documentary about the African artist.

Feb. 17: "Ellis Marsalis: Jazz is Spoken Here." This special profiles jazz great Wynton's father, who also happens to be a pianist, teacher and role model.

Feb. 18: "I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African- American Arts." Parts 3 and 4 take a look at racial barriers being broken.

Feb. 21: "A Walk through Harlem with David Hartman and Historian Barry Lewis." An exploration of New York's most famous neighborhood.

Feb. 21: Ralph Ellison's "King of the Bingo Game." A dramatic adaptation of Ellison's short story.

Feb. 23: "Black Women On: The Light, Dark Thang." This documentary explores racial prejudice in the Black community from the female perspective.

Feb. 24: "Great Performances" presents "Dance in America: A Hymn for Alvin Ailey." Dancer/choreographer Judith Jamison and performance Artist Anna Deavere Smith pay tribute to Ailey.

Feb. 25: "I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts." The last two parts profile African-American artists from the 1960s to the present.

Feb. 27: "All God's Children." A documentary on the alienation of the gay community.

Feb. 27: The Kennedy Center Presents: "A Tribute to Muddy Waters, King of the Blues." Billy Dee Williams hosts; Bo Diddley, Phoebe Snow, Peter Wolf and others perform.

Feb. 28: "The America Experience" presents "John Brown's Holy War." Joe Morton narrates this documentary about Brown's crusade against slavery.

The Black Entertainment Television Channel celebrates Black History Month with "A Century Rich in Color," a special collection of films, premieres and original documentaries. Coretta Scott King and her daughter, director Yolanda King, will serve as guest hosts. Check local listings for full schedule and times.

E! ENTERTAINMENT Feb. 21: E! Offers profiles and biographies on some of the most talented faces in show business. "Uncut," a series of personal interviews, will feature the stories of personalities like Morgan Freeman, Wesley Snipes, Debbie Allen and Quincy Jones. "Celebrity Profile" will feature Della Reese, Danny Glover and others. "Mysteries & Scandals: Paul Robeson" reveals how the American government destroyed this actor's reputation after he began fighting for the rights of African American people.


Feb. 20: "Return to Harlem." Ossie Davis narrates this special, which examines the new number of African Americans who are creating a Harlem renaissance.


Feb. 16: "The Black Cowboys." Danny Glover hosts this look at African American cowboys.

Feb. 18: "The Underground Railroad -- Part II"

Feb. 19: "The Talented Tenth." A look at five prominent African American families.

Feb. 19: "Shaka Zulu." Acclaimed miniseries.

Feb. 20: "The African Burial Ground: People and Politics." Part 3.

Feb. 22: World premiere. "20th Century with Mike Wallace: South Africa: Free at Last." A look at the history of South Africa.

Feb. 23: World premiere. "History's Mysteries: Discharged Without Honor -- Brownsville." A look at the 1906 discharge of an entire Black infantry unit after a midnight raid on Brownsville, Tex.

Feb. 26: "Black Georgetown Remembered," and the world premiere of "Murder in Memphis: Unanswered Questions," a look at the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.

Feb. 27: "The African Burial Ground: An Open Window." Part 4.

Feb. 29: "Frederick Douglass," and "Royal Federal Blues," the story of the United States Colored Troops.

Showtime presents a number of original films as well as four short films by up-and-coming African American film makers, plus a theatrical film by poet Maya Angelou.

Feb. 20: "The Wishing Tree." Alfre Woodard stars as a lawyer who returns to her hometown and reconnects with her roots. Blair Underwood co-stars.

Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.: "Down in the Delta." Maya Angelou directs Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman, Esther Rolle and Wesley Snipes.

TBS offers a month full of movies and an awards show pegged to Black History Month. Highlights include:

Feb. 22: "Ghosts of Mississippi." Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg star in the story of the trials dealing with the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Feb. 23: "To Kill a Mockingbird." Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall star in this classic about racial prejudice in 1930s Alabama.

Feb. 25: "In the Heat of the Night." Sidney Poitier stars as a Philadelphia homicide expert wrongly accused of murder in Mississippi.

Feb. 26: "Glory." Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington star in this story of America's first unit of Black soldiers.

Feb. 26: "The Trumpet Awards." Debbie Allen and Kweisi Mfume host this honors show, which salutes African American achievements in diverse fields. Bryant Gumbel and Smokey Robinson are among the honorees.


Turner Classic Movies celebrates Black History Month every Sunday in February. Some highlights:

Feb. 20: "The Long Ships," starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier; and "The Defiant Ones," starring Tony Curtis and Poitier.

Feb. 21: "King Solomon's Mines," starring Paul Robeson.

Feb. 27: "Princess Tam Tam," starring Josephine Baker.

Feb. 28: "The Jackie Robinson Story," starring Jackie Robinson and Ruby Dee.

Feb. 16: "Whatever Happened to Michael Ray?" The true account of the rise and fall of basketball great Michael Ray Richardson.

Feb. 27: "Freedom Song." A TNT original movie stars Danny Glover and Sean Daniel.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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