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KIOS Celebrates Black History

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The week of February 18th through the 22nd, KIOS celebrates Black History with special programs commemorating the triumphs and tragedies of the African American experience.

These shows will air from noon to 1 p.m. in place of our regular programming with a special presentation of Night Lights Wednesday at 8 p.m.

  • Monday: Humankind, "The Freed People"

Written and produced by David Freudberg, this one-hour documentary examines a time when the United States faced an unprecedented refugee crisis: 4 million slaves had been emancipated, primarily from plantations where they’d been held captive, following the bloody Civil War. Most possessed no more than the clothes on their backs and were now suddenly homeless and jobless. 
Where would they go? How would they reunite with loved ones, who may have been sold to a distant owner and never heard from again? How would people who’d been abused – sometimes savagely – and cheated out of compensation for their labors, and even legally prohibited from learning to read and write, now make the transition to a free life? 

In this production, we find out about the Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress to help this population as the war drew to a close. It established 3,000 schools for ex-slaves. We learn about the journey of these millions of newly freed people toward citizenship. And we hear about the spiritual faith that enabled them to hang on against past horrors and the new hostility they would now face -- the terrorist backlash against emancipation including the Ku Klux Klan, which arose in this period.

Featured are leading historians of Reconstruction: Edna Greene Medford of Howard University, David Blight of Yale University and Abigail Cooper of Brandeis University. Also included are actual voices of emancipated slaves late in life (recorded in the 1940s), as well as brief readings from letters by ex-slaves, educators who traveled south to teach the freed people and others.

  • Tuesday: American RadioWorks "State of Siege: Mississippi Whites & the Civil Rights Movement" 

Mississippi occupies a distinct and dramatic place in the history of America’s civil rights movement. No state in the South was more resistant to the struggle for black equality. No place was more violent. While the history of civil rights activists has been well documented in radio and television, the stories and strategies of their white opponents are less well known.
Using newly discovered archival audio, along with oral histories and contemporary interviews, State of Siege brings to light the extraordinary tactics whites in Mississippi used to battle integration. Their strategies ranged from organizing a massive network of citizens councils to promote white supremacy, to establishing a state-run spy agency to disrupt civil rights activism.

The program also traces the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and illuminates the way whites came to both accommodate and defy the mandates of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. Ultimately, what happened during the civil rights era in Mississippi had a profound and lasting impact on American politics to the present day.

  • Wednesday: State of the Re:Union "Re:Defining Black History" 

During a month selected to celebrate “history,” we certainly are treated to a lot of the same familiar stories: the battles won for Civil Rights, the glory of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, the hardships endured by slaves. And as important as those narratives are for us to collectively remember, many others get lost in trumpeting the same heroic tales. In this hour, State of the Re:Union zeroes in some of those alternate narratives, ones edited out of the mainstream imagining of Black History, deconstructing the popular perception of certain celebrated moments. From a more complicated understanding of the impact of the Civil Rights Act of ’64 on Jackson, Mississippi… to a city in Oklahoma still trying to figure out how to tell the history of one particular race riot… to one woman’s wrangling with her own personal racial history.

Night Lights "We Shall Overcome: Civil Rights Jazz"

There was a strong relationship between jazz and civil rights in 20th-century America; musicians and many critics as well were advocates for equal rights for African-Americans, and jazz provided a cultural bridge between blacks and whites that helped to work as a force for integration. In the post-World War II era black musicians began to speak up, directly and indirectly, against racial injustice, and they also began to record works with titles or lyrics that referred explicitly to the struggle for equality.

This program includes music from Nina Simone (her take on the legendary anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit”), Sonny Rollins (his instrumental version of “The House I Live In,” first sung by Frank Sinatra in 1945, and co-written by Abel Meeropol, who also wrote “Strange Fruit”), John Coltrane (a live and complete performance of “Alabama” taken from Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual TV show), and Max Roach’s powerful “Prayer/Protest/Peace” from the 1960 album We Insist! Freedom Now Suite.

  • Thursday: Humankind "Justice Denied"

This one-hour Humankind special examines the fascinating historical role played by U.S. federal courts in enforcing slavery. Produced in association with WGBH/Boston.
We revisit how a Boston judge's decision to order a runaway slave returned to his Virginia owner provoked the largest abolitionist protest the nation had ever seen. Then an in-depth look at the Supreme Court's famous Dred Scott ruling -- adamantly opposed by Abraham Lincoln -- that blacks "have no rights a white man is bound to respect". To what extent did these and other cases inflame tensions leading to the Civil War and damage the reputation of the federal judiciary? Featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln historian Eric Foner, Museum of African-American History director Beverly Morgan-Welch, Duke Univ. law professor Paul Finkelman as well as dramatic readings from Frederick Douglass and others.

  • Friday: Sound Opinions "Music of the Civil Rights Movement"

Professional music critics Jim and Greg discuss influential and game-changing music from the 1960s that provided a soundtrack to the civil rights movement. They analyze tracks by artists like Sam Cooke, The Staple Singers, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and more. They also chat with former Chicago WVON DJ Herb Kent.