It was a time when African-American artists rejected traditional landscapes and embraced the figurativism, rural scenes, and color palette of Africa—a style that brought ethnic consciousness into art and created a new black identity. And, most profoundly, it was a time when lasting beauty triumphed over formidable odds—a movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. This program explores Harlem's vibrancy in the Roaring Twenties as it depicts the lives of its visual artists through archival footage, newsreels, and a close-up look at the most significant personalities of the day: William E. Harmon, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Alain Locke.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in her book "Women and Economics," advocated economic independence for women. She is well known for her short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," and her Utopian novel, "Herland." She believed in housework as an occupation, which shouldn't necessarily fall to women.
In this retelling of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Kathy, deemed “too sensitive for her own good” and told to control herself, is confined to a child’s bedroom with barred windows and garish décor by her well-meaning husband. As the enforced idleness of a rest cure begins to drive her mad, Kathy imagines there is someone imprisoned within the wallpaper, and she works to set the shadowy figure—and herself—free. Gilman’s short story was a commentary on the passive, infantilized role that women of her era were urged to adopt and is now considered a classic of feminist fiction. Stars Colleen Lovett and Tony Pallone.
Known as “Harlem’s poet laureate,” Langston Hughes was one of the most prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance. This lyrical program celebrates Hughes’ life and work, offering a vision of the esteemed poet in present-day Harlem and making a case for his impact on hip-hop music and the contemporary spoken-word community. Narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, the multilayered presentation includes roundtable discussions of Hughes’ contributions with poet Sonia Sanchez, music producer Damon Dash, and others, and a tour of his New York City haunts.
Jack London, one of the most significant American figures of the 20th century, was born at the time when the conquest of the West was living its final moments and America was entering modern times. The master of adventure novels, whose adventurous life is well documented, participated in all the major political, social, and cultural evolutions of the time.
An American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist, Langston Hughes was first recognized as an important literary figure during the 1920s, a period known as the "Harlem Renaissance," a cultural movement made famous because of the number of emerging black writers, poets and scholars. Hughes, more than any other black poet or writer, recorded faithfully the nuances of black life and its frustrations and was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Embracing the common experience of black Americans, he was the bard of his people because he felt their joys and suffering himself. Hughes lived in several US cities, then traveled abroad extensively, first as a seaman, later as a war correspondent. Renowned for his folksy humor, his work was well received by a black audience who saw themselves in his characters. In 1934 Hughes first short story collection The Ways of White Folks, was published. It looked at the humorous and tragic interactions between races, but was tinged with pessimism. He went on to write countless works of poetry, prose and plays and had a popular column for the Chicago Defender. Hughes was a literary giant, always faithful to his belief that "most people are generally good, in every race and in every country where I have been." In 1960, the NAACP awarded Hughes the Spingarn Medal for distinguished achievement by a black American, calling him the "poet laureate of the Negro race."
Cisneros is the only girl of seven siblings; she was born in 1954 to Elvira Cordero and Alfredo Cisneros. Cisneros draws on her life and mixes fact with fiction in her writing. Distributed by PBS Distribution.
When Maxine Hong Kingston was growing up in California, she listened to her parents’ stories and memories of their native China. In her highly acclaimed memoirs, The Woman Warrior and China Men, she linked those tales of tradition to the story of her own American experience, blending childhood memory, meditation, and magic. They are the most widely taught books by a living American author on college campuses today. In this program with Bill Moyers, Kingston discusses new images of America as a "melting pot" where the dutiful notions of the Puritans blend with the Chinese Monkey Spirit to produce a new American consciousness.