African American History Month
Documentaries are a powerful form of storytelling on television that illuminate our present and chronicle our past. PBS is strongly committed to this art form. Ken Burns is considered a master and so are the documentaries on American Experience and FRONTLINE, or those by independent producers on Independent Lens and POV. For nearly 50 years, Vegas PBS has also produced more than 100 long-form documentaries to tell the story of Southern Nevada and create a shared sense of place for all those who live here.
This month we premiere, African Americans: The Las Vegas Experience, highlighting the momentous events that defined Las Vegas throughout the civil rights era. In trying to tell this story, we found that there is not “a” history but many histories that represent this period in Southern Nevada. Called by some “the Mississippi of the West” during the civil rights era, Nevada has a surprising history of discrimination and official segregation, civil protest, court cases, and eventual reform. In African Americans: The Las Vegas Experience, viewers will hear this story from the perspective of the leaders of many civil rights initiatives.
This production was made possible through a remarkable partnership with the UNLV Libraries Special Collections and the Community Partners of the African American Collaborative. We are pleased we can provide a narrative introduction to the richness of their document collections and their oral history archives. Funding was provided by grants from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Commission for The Las Vegas Centennial. Additionally, Boyd Gaming granted us use of their hotel facilities to recreate pivotal scenes from our civil rights history.
This documentary is one of several programs scheduled throughout the month on Vegas PBS to honor the lives, struggles and accomplishments of African Americans.
This program is the latest in our renewed emphasis on local storytelling. Recent projects include Makers: Women in Nevada History, The Test, Restoration Neon, Broadway in the Hood, and Our Chest of Dreams. These programs seek to fulfil our mission to “use television and other technologies to amplify and extend” the mission of community partners. Combined, these partnerships create a growing collection of documentaries that help create a more complete understanding of the unique community of Southern Nevada.