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How It Feels To Be Free | American Masters

Cicely Tyson smiling and raising arms in air
Courtesy of Dennis Oulds/Hulton Archive via Getty Images
Portrait of Academy Award winning American actress Cicely Tyson smiling and raising her arms in the air during a visit to London, February 19th, 1973.

Mon. Jan. 18 at 9pm on WKAR-HD 23.1 & STREAMING | Explore the lives and trailblazing careers of six iconic African American entertainers—Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier—who changed American culture through their films, fashion, music and politics.American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free tells the inspiring story of how these women challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process. The film 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 (of The Green Book: Guide to Freedom, POV: Promised Land and Independent 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 harnessed her celebrity to advance the civil rights movement.

Watch each episode at video.wkar.org during or after the premiere date.

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