News About WFPL

We’re honoring Black History Month in 2021 on WFPL with programs from NPR and the BBC, including specials about author James Baldwin, NASA’s pioneering Black women, jazz great Billie Holiday and journalist Ida B. Wells.

You’ll notice that most of these special programs are airing this first week of February, and that’s by design. Because later this month, we plan to bring you special coverage of the second Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump, and if we scheduled these programs throughout the month, they would likely be preempted by it. In an effort to ensure you hear them, we’ll air these specials this first week, before the trial is set to begin.

Below you’ll find details about the programs airing this week, and some special editions of the new show, “Throughline” airing this month. I hope you’ll tune in.

Monday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m.

Selected Shorts: Celebrating James Baldwin

Host LeVar Burton presents a program celebrating the author he calls “potent and polemical.” Anthony Rapp performs an excerpt from “Giovanni’s Room,” in which an expat comes to terms with his sexuality and loneliness in Paris. 

Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 8 p.m.

Witness: Black History Month

A special hour-long edition of “Witness History” from the BBC World Service brings together some incredible interviews looking at the African-American experience. We hear stories that are fascinating, harrowing, and inspiring, told by people who were there.

Segments include NASA’s pioneering black women, when Nelson Mandela went to Detroit, and African Americans and the “Three Strikes Law.”

Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m.

Humankind Special: Ida B. Wells’ Battle to Uncover the Truth

Born to enslaved parents on a Mississippi plantation during the Civil War, Ida B. Wells emerged as a powerful investigative journalist. She overcame death threats and published widely in her quest to document the domestic terrorism against African Americans. A close associate of Frederick Douglass, she helped to found the NAACP and advocated the right to vote for women and black Americans. 

Thursday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m.

The Reckoning: Facing the Past

There are clear lines that connect the legacy of slavery to many of our present day issues, including the racial inequities of COVID-19 infection and deaths, wealth inequality, and ongoing police brutality. This program is part of the series, “The Reckoning: Facing the Legacy of Slavery in Kentucky.” More information about “The Reckoning” can be found here.

Also this month, check out these special episodes of  “Throughline,” from NPR:

Billie Holiday and Shirley Chisholm (Saturday, Feb. 20 at noon): When Billie Holiday was harassed by U.S. government agents and told to stop singing “Strange Fruit,” she refused. When Shirley Chisholm ran for president and was ridiculed and told she shouldn’t aim that high politically, she refused. On this episode of “Throughline,” we learn about these two pioneering Black women, who set their own sights and never backed down from a fight.

Octavia Butler (Saturday, Feb. 27 at noon): Octavia Butler was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self destruction. She described herself as a pessimist, “if I’m not careful.” As an award-winning science fiction writer and “mother of Afrofuturism,” her visionary works of alternate realities reveal striking, often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. Butler was fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. 

This post has been updated.

Jonese Franklin is the WFPL Program Director and host of WFPL's All Things Considered.