American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free

American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free

Sat, 01/23/2021 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm

Photo: This studio portrait shows American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968. 

Credit: Courtesy of Hulton Archive via Getty Images

American Masters looks at the lives of trailblazing Black female entertainers Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier.

American Masters tells the inspiring story of how six iconic African American female entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier – challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process. American MastersHow It Feels To Be Free, encoring Saturday, January 23 at 4 p.m. on WXXI-TV, features interviews and archival performances with all six women, as well as original conversations with contemporary artists influenced by them, including Alicia Keys, an executive producer on the project, Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, and other luminaries, as well as family members, including Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley.

Based on the book “How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement” by Ruth Feldstein, the film tells the story of how these six pioneering women broke through in an entertainment industry hell-bent on keeping them out and situates their activism as precursors to contemporary movements like #TimesUp, #OscarsSoWhite, and #BlackLivesMatter. Award-winning director Yoruba Richen (The Green Book: Guide to FreedomPOV: Promised LandIndependent Lens: The New Black) examines the impact these trailblazing entertainers had on reshaping the narrative of Black female identity in Hollywood through their art and political activism while advocating for social change. The film highlights how each woman — singer, dancer, and actress Lena Horne; jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress Abbey Lincoln; Tony-winning actress, singer, and model Diahann Carroll; jazz, blues, and folk singer Nina Simone; actress and model Cicely Tyson; and actress Pam Grier — harnessed their celebrity to advance the civil rights movement.

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