American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller

American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller

Sat, 10/23/2021 - 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Helen Keller portrait, 1905.

Credit: Courtesy of Library of Congress

Alt text: Black and white portrait of Helen Keller from the chest up

American Masters examines one of the 20th century’s human rights pioneers in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The new documentary rediscovers the complex life and legacy of author and activist Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was deaf and blind since childhood, exploring how she used her celebrity and wit to advocate for social justice, particularly for women, workers, people with disabilities and people living in poverty. Closing the series’ 35th season, American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller will re-air on Saturday, October 23 at 4 p.m. on WXXI-TV and the WXXI TV stream and the PBS Video App. It premiered Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 9 p.m. 

American Masters tells Keller’s story through rarely seen photographs, archival film clips, and interviews with historians, scholars, and disability rights advocates. Narrated by author, psychotherapist, and disability rights advocate Rebecca Alexander, the film features on-camera performances from Tony- and Emmy Award-winning actor Cherry Jones reading Keller’s writings. Actor and dancer Alexandria Wailes provides American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation of Keller’s words with all other ASL interpretation by writer and rapper Warren “WAWA” Snipe. The program also features audio description by National Captioning Institute and closed captioning by VITAC.

American Masters is committed to access for the documentary. The series website will have an accessible landing page for the film, including tools for changing color contrast and text size. An additional version of the film with extended audio description will also be available to stream. Marketing efforts for Becoming Helen Keller also integrate ASL, audio description, and captions.

Watch a preview of the show (audio described):

Watch a clip on Helen's Keller's use of oral communication (audio  described)

Support for American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller is provided in part by National Endowment for the Humanities, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NEC Foundation of America, The Gibney Family Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, The Better Angels Society including The Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Harris Mathews Charitable Foundation, Inc., Irving and Sara Selis Foundation, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Newcastle Foundation Trust, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Dorothy S. Koretzky Memorial Fund, and Alice & Jim Hardigg.

Original series production funding for American Masters is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Mrs. Rosalind P. Walter, Seton J. Melvin, Vital Projects Fund, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Cheryl & Philip Milstein Family Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Judith & Burton Resnick, Ellen & James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, and The Ambrose Monell Foundation.