‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am’ to make PBS debut on ‘American Masters’ June 23

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“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” premieres Tuesday, June 23 on PBS’ “American Masters.” [PBS photo]

“American Masters – Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” a compelling documentary about the legendary Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will make its U.S. broadcast premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 23 on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/tonimorrison and the PBS Video app as part of PBS’ summer-long celebration of women trailblazers.

The documentary examines Morrison’s life, her works and the powerful themes she has confronted throughout her literary career. From her childhood in the steel town of Lorain, Ohio, to her 1970s-era book tours with Muhammad Ali, from the front lines with Angela Davis to her own riverfront writing room, Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, America, history and the human condition as seen through the prism of her own literature.

Inspired to write because no one took a “little black girl” seriously, Morrison reflects on her lifelong deconstruction of the master narrative. Woven together with a rich collection of art, history, literature and personality, the film includes discussions about her many critically acclaimed works, including novels “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula” and “Song of Solomon,” her role as an editor of iconic African American literature and her time teaching at Princeton University.

In addition to Morrison, the film features new interviews with Hilton Als, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowitz, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez and Oprah Winfrey, who turned “Beloved” into a feature film.

Using director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ elegant portrait-style interviews, American Masters — Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am includes original music by Kathryn Bostic, a specially created opening sequence by artist Mickalene Thomas and evocative works by other contemporary African American artists including Kara Walker, Rashid Johnson and Kerry James Marshall.

“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” is one of the “American Masters” documentaries premiering this summer as part of PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers in honor of the women’s vote centennial.

In the summer of 2020, PBS is celebrating the women’s suffrage centennial with a slate of multiplatform content honoring and commemorating U.S. women’s suffrage, the feminist movement and modern-day changemakers.

Along with “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” “American Masters” will salute one of film’s beloved female changemakers with “Mae West: Dirty Blonde.”

On “American Experience,” “The Vote” tells the story of the campaign to grant women the right to vote, a transformative cultural and political movement that resulted in the largest expansion of voting rights in U.S. history.

“And She Could Be Next” (w.t.), a POV miniseries, follows women of color as political candidates and organizers who seek to expand the electorate, asking whether democracy itself can be preserved — and made stronger — by those most marginalized. And a two-part “Firing Line with Margaret Hoover” special documents what motivated several conservative women to run for office.

Plus, “Great Performances” will feature “Gloria: A Life,” about Gloria Steinem, and “Ann,” about Texas governor Ann Richards. “Antiques Roadshow” spotlights outstanding contributions from female athletes, artists, activists and more in the all-new special “Women’s Work.”

The lineup also features two new miniseries: “Prehistoric Road Trip,” hosted by the Field Museum’s Emily Graslie, who embarks on an epic adventure through America’s fossil country; and BBC co-production “Royal History’s Myths and Secrets with Lucy Worsley,” who investigates notable women and their roles in historical events.

In addition, PBS will encore the critically acclaimed and award-winning “Frontline” documentary “For Sama,” an intimate yet epic journey of one woman’s experience of the Syrian war.

As previously reported, PBS’ “American Masters — Unladylike2020,” a multimedia series consisting of a one-hour special for broadcast and 26 digital short films featuring courageous, little-known and diverse female trailblazers from the turn of the 20th century, also is part of public television’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

Narrated by Julianna Margulies (“ER,” “The Good Wife”) and Lorraine Toussaint (“Selma,” “Orange Is the New Black”), the series of eight- to 10-minute animated shorts are being released digitally weekly on Wednesdays from March 4, the start of Women’s History Month, to Aug, 26, which is Women’s Equality Day.

The purpose of the series is to illuminate the stories of extraordinary American heroines from the early years of feminism. The showcased women achieved many firsts, including earning an international pilot’s license, becoming a bank president, founding a hospital, fighting for the desegregation of public spaces, exploring the Arctic and singing opera at Carnegie Hall.

“American Masters — Unladylike2020” is produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin and brings these women’s incredible stories to life through original artwork and animation, rare historical archival footage and interviews with descendants, historians and accomplished modern women who reflect upon the influence of these pioneers.

For more on PBS’ summer-long celebration of women trailblazers, check local listings, www.pbs.org and the PBS Video app.


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