Archive for September 4th, 2019

MPT announces production of national documentaries about iconic Marylanders Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, filmmaker Stanley Nelson to direct / produce films for premiere in early 2022 [press release, July 23, 2019]

Image result for maryland public televisionOwings Mills, MD, July 23, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —

Maryland Public Television (MPT) today announced that it will produce, in association with New York-based Firelight Films, two original documentary films about the lives of two of the state’s most important historical figures – Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Both one-hour films will be produced over the next 30 months and be distributed to public TV stations nationwide in February 2022.

Douglass, born in 1818 in Talbot County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, escaped from slavery in 1838 and went on to become a leader of the 19th century abolitionist movement. He also gained national prominence as a social reformer, orator, writer, publisher, and statesman. He died in 1895. Tubman was born enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1820 and escaped in 1849. As the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, she guided more than 300 slaves to freedom. During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, cook, laundress, spy, and scout. She lived the balance of her life in Auburn, New York, opening schools for African Americans and giving speeches on women’s rights. She died in 1913.

Pre-production on the two films is underway, with production beginning on one of the films later this year. Portions of the two films will be shot in locations including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The project is being led by MPT’s Managing Director, Content Division, Mike English. “Firelight Films is an ideal partner for MPT to collaborate with on these films. Stanley Nelson and his team are experts at telling stories of the black experience in America, as evidenced by award-winning films such as Freedom Riders and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” says English.

Executive producers for the two films are Nelson and Lynne Robinson. The producer is Keith Brown, and lead writer is Paul Taylor.

“There are no two people more important to our country’s history than Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman,” Stanley Nelson said. “Their remarkable lives and contributions were a critical part of the 19th-century and their legacies help us understand who we are as a nation.  We are honored to share their stories with a country that continues to grapple with the impact of slavery and debate notions of citizenship, democracy and freedom. We’re hopeful that the accompanying conversation will serve teachers and students and the larger country about what these two remarkable individuals overcame and accomplished.”

The two MPT projects are being guided by an advisory board comprised of distinguished experts in areas including African-American history, archaeology, broadcasting, and related fields. The group serves as consultants to the production team to assure the films meet contextual and historical accuracy.

The advisory board is led by Donald H. Thoms, broadcaster, journalist, and president, ThomsMedia Group. Members are Dr. David Blight, professor of American History, Yale University, director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, and author of the biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of FreedomDr. Kate Clifford Larson, Massachusetts-based historian, consultant, and author of the biography, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American HeroAngela Crenshaw, Maryland Department of Natural Resources ranger and assistant manager of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Church Creek, Maryland; Chanel Compton, executive director of both the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Maryland and Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture; Wanda Draper, former executive director, Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore; Mark Letzer, lecturer and president and CEO, Maryland Historical Society; and Dr. Julie M. Schablitsky, author and chief archeologist, Maryland Department of Transportation.

“Now, more than ever, the stories of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass need to be explored and told,” explains Letzer. “MPT has the proven ability and track record to bring this history to life for viewers in Maryland and across the nation.”

As part of this multi-faceted project, MPT’s Education Division will develop a companion website for use nationally in K-12 education.  Educators will be provided video assets, interactive learning experiences, and standards-based lessons to bring the lives and legacies of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass into classrooms nationwide.

Other project elements include a year-long traveling exhibit in association with the Maryland Historical Society, supplemental short-form, web-exclusive content from MPT Digital Studios, and a comprehensive social media outreach campaign.

About MPT
Launched in 1969 and headquartered in Owings Mills, MD, Maryland Public Television is a nonprofit, state-licensed public television network and member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  MPT’s six transmitters cover Maryland plus portions of contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Frequent winner of regional Emmy® awards, MPT creates local, regional, and national television shows. Beyond broadcast, MPT’s commitment to professional educators, parents, caregivers, and learners of all ages is delivered through year-round instructional events and the super-website Thinkport, which garners in excess of five million page views annually. MPT’s community engagement connects viewers with local resources on significant health, education, and public interest topics through year-round outreach events, viewer forums, program screenings, and phone bank call-in opportunities. For more information visit

About Firelight Films
Firelight Media was born in 2000 to address the deficit of films made by and about diverse communities, particularly people of color. Founded and led by MacArthur “genius” Fellow Stanley Nelson and award-winning writer and philanthropy executive Marcia Smith in Harlem, NY, the organization has produced more than 25 hours of primetime programming for public television, received every major broadcast award, and had its first theatrical release (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution).  Over 15 years, Firelight has established a track record of producing contemporary and historical social issue documentaries as well as developing diverse storytellers and audiences. Firelight Films is the premier independent production company dedicated to harnessing the power of story-driven media as a platform for education and action.

Best known for producing high-quality powerful productions for PBS and creating dynamic community engagement campaigns, Firelight is committed to making films about pivotal events, movements, and people in American history and in doing so has produced award-winning films, including Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till, A Place of Our Own, and Freedom Summer. For more information, visit


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Video: “Rhetoric Just Like Frederick” from Baba Got BARS, vol IV

credits from Baba Got BARS vol IV, released December 31, 2018

Written, produced, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Bomani Armah.

Video shot and directed by Dia Hancock

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Thank you Ranger Steve Phan of the National Park Service Civil War Defenses of Washington & Frederick Douglass National Historic Site for a memorable evening program at Cedar Hill (August 30, 2019)

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Ranger Steve Phan speaks to two hundred people from the porch of Cedar Hill for evening program at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, August 30, 2019.                                 Photo credit Bill McLeod.

We thank Ranger Steve of the Civil War Defenses of Washington for his work in the forts and the trenches of the community bringing public history to the people.

A special Thank You to National Park Service, staff and Rangers of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and to all community members of Old Anacostia who brought their friends, children and families to Cedar Hill to enjoy a special and memorable program for the ages.

Follow Civil War Defenses of Washington on Facebook for news on upcoming events, nature walks, family and youth activities, anniversaries and volunteer opportunities.

On forested hills surrounding the nation’s capital are the remnants of a complex system of Civil War fortifications. These strategic buttresses transformed the young capital into one of the world’s most fortified cities. By 1865, 68 forts and 93 batteries armed with over 800 cannons encircled Washington, DC.

Today, you can visit 17 of the original sites now managed by the National Park Service.

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