Alicia Keys And Yoruba Richen Bringing ‘How It Feels To Be Free’ Documentary To PBS Tonight

How It Feels To Be Free, a documentary spotlighting the lives and careers of six groundbreaking Black women entertainers will air on PBS tonight. Alicia Keys served as executive producer of the project which was directed by the award-winning filmmaker behind The Killing of Breonna Taylor, Yoruba Richen. 

The documentary is based on the book How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement by Ruth Feldstein. Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier are the women whose lives are explored not only from the perspective of performers but as activists whose choices to support controversial causes paved the way for today’s celebrities to openly support the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Paris, Singer Lena Horne, 1956
FRANCE – CIRCA 1956: Paris, Singer Lena Horne, 1956 (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

How It Feels To Be Free includes exclusive interviews with artists inspired by the work and wills of these fierce Black women, like Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and Samuel L. Jackson. It also features interviews with various family members such as Horne’s daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, who was asked to speak to her mother’s motivation for becoming an activist.

Richen expressed her excitement about the project in a statement to ESSENCE, saying, “Never has there been a more appropriate time to bring the stories of these six trailblazing women who used their art as activism to light. Black women have been the backbone of our freedom struggle.”

Richen acknowledged that Black women sit “at the vanguard of cultural innovation,” and highlighted how the political contributions of the documentary’s subjects paved the way for future entertainers.

Abbey Lincoln Portrait
NEW YORK – CIRCA 1967: Jazz singer and actress Abbey Lincoln poses for a portrait circa 1967 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

How it Feels To Be Free tells the story of that intersection and I’m thrilled that we are premiering on MLK Day and a couple of days before this historic Presidential inauguration.  I hope audiences will discover or rediscover these entertainers through their amazing performances and their important political work.” 

How It Feels To Be Free will air on PBS at 9 p.m. See the trailer below.

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