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Rocky Carroll, 'Historically Black' Stories On WVXU

CBS Television
Rocky Carroll graduates from the School for Creative & Performing Arts in 1981.

WVXU's Black History Month programming includes Cincinnati native Rocky Carroll starring in a "L.A. Theater Works" production Saturday, and a three-part "Historically Black" series of stories from the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

The 1981 School for Creative & Performing Arts graduate best known as "NCIS" Director Leon Vance plays barber Russell Parker in "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men"  8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 on WVXU-FM (91.7) and WMUB-FM (88.5).

Charlie Robinson ("Night Court"), Glynn Turman ("House of Lies," "A Different World,") and brothers Brandon Dirden ("The Americans") and Jason Dirden ("House of Payne") also voice roles in the 1969 play by Academy Award nominee Lonne Elder III. Set in Harlem, Parker and his unemployed brothers seek a better life by selling homemade corn whiskey – with tragic consequences.

Also this week, WVXU-FM and WMUB-FM premier the three-week "Historically Black" series from American Public Media and the Washington Post inspired by items given to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in September.

Here are the "Historically Black" details:

Thursday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m.: Keegan-Michael Key and Roxane Gay host these stories:

"NASA Human Computers" -- During World War II, a labor shortage obliged the military to hire African American women with mathematical skills to help make complicated computations for warplane designs. This small team faced discrimination, but would help NASA astronauts land on the moon (as depicted in the "Hidden Figures" movie nominated for three Academy Awards).

"Million Man March" -- The Million Man March of 1995 is remembered in a conversation between a young woman and her father, who attended it. He talks about how the event changed his life; she recalls what it meant to see a poster of the march hang on the wall of her father’s den since she was a girl.

"Harlem Renaissance Photographer" -- James Van Der Zee was a celebrated African American photographer who documented black New York for much of the 20th century. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1910s to the 1930s, his images emphasized the dignity and beauty of black people at a time when the dominant culture portrayed them in degrading ways.

Thursday, Feb. 16, 7 p.m.: Issa Rae, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton introduce these stories:

"Slave Bill of Sale" -- Members of an extended Tennessee family talk about their great-great-grandfather, a slave owned by his white, biological father. After Emancipation, their ancestor managed to buy a farm. Family members reflect on the strength it took to survive slavery and to prosper in the years that followed.

"Missouri Fiddler" -- A young musician and actor discovers that his great-great-grandfather was Bill Driver, a celebrated fiddler in Missouri. Family members recall how Driver’s fiddle playing often brought blacks and whites together at country dances and fiddle contests. They also reveal the complicated nature of interracial mixing in the Jim Crow era.

"HBCU Founder" -- William Hooper Councill was a former slave who served as the first president of what would become Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, one of the oldest historically black colleges and universities in the country. Negotiating the race politics of Reconstruction was sometimes dangerous work; Councill used his skills at writing and oratory to call for the uplift of his race.

Thursday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.: Roxane Gay, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton host these stories:

"The Question of Black Identity" -- Racial identity in the U.S. is complicated because race is an invented category rooted in slavery. This episode explores the question of black identity in America through the voices of four people who, at one time or another, have had to answer the question: “What are you?”

"Black Love Stories" -- This story spotlights enduring love among African American couples. It dives into the history of marriage among black Americans — including the time when it was illegal for slaves to wed. It also explores why it matters that these stories are visible in pop culture today.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.