Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass highlighted in new PBS documentaries

The two PBS projects helmed by Stanley Nelson and Nicole London are set to air in October

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Two documentaries from acclaimed filmmakers Stanley Nelson and Nicole London are coming to PBS this October, and theGrio has a first look at these deep dives into the legacy and impact of historical figures like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

Next month, PBS will debut “Becoming Frederick Douglas” and “Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom.” The latter, which premieres next week on the network, is described as a “rich and nuanced portrait” of the towering figure in American history. The project also features more than 20 historians and experts, with narration from Alfre Woodard.

A photographic portrait of famed abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman
Credit: Courtesy of Alamy

Per the official description obtained by theGrio, the project “goes beyond the standard narrative to explore what motivated Tubman, including divine inspiration, to become one of the greatest freedom fighters in our nation’s history.”

Speaking to his goal as the filmmaker of the project, Nelson shared in a statement, “With this film, our aim was to go beyond what is covered in history books to create a real, three-dimensional portrait of who Harriet Tubman actually was.”

“This film also has such a distinct sonic layer thanks to powerful narration by the great Alfre Woodard,” he added.

Check out an exclusive clip of the documentary below.

Debuting the following Tuesday is “Becoming Frederick Douglass,” also helmed by Nelson, which aims to shine a light on one of America’s most prominent Black figures and leaders. The documentary “explores how Douglass controlled his own image and narrative, embracing photography as a tool for social justice, and the role he played in securing the right to freedom and complete equality for African Americans.”

“Given that Frederick Douglass was one of the most prolific and powerful orators of his time, we were interested in exploring how he created and controlled his image, and ultimately how he used it to shift public opinion around abolition,” Nelson shared in a statement.

“It was such a gift to have the inimitable Wendell Pierce provide the voice of Douglass to bring his words to life. Wendell’s dynamic performance, coupled with the many stunning photographs taken throughout Douglass’s lifetime, show how Douglass evolved to become one of the most influential and enduring social justice activists in American history.”

Check out a clip from the documentary below, which chronicles how he used photographs of himself to help counter offensive and racist stereotypes:

“Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom” premieres Tuesday Oct. 4, 2022 at 10 p.m. ET, while “Becoming Frederick Douglas” airs Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022 at 10 p.m. ET. on PBS.

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