BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: New PBS documentaries focus on Tubman, Douglass

By Bill Vaughan

Entertainment Writer

Two original documentaries that shed new light on the lives of a pair of towering figures in the struggle to end slavery — Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass — premiere on PBS in October.

The films are directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stanley Nelson (“Attica,” “Freedom Riders,” “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”) and Nicole London.

“Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom” (premiering Oct. 4) is a rich and nuanced portrait of the woman known as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, who repeatedly risked her own life and freedom to liberate others from slavery.

Featuring more than 20 historians and experts and grounded in the most recent scholarship, the film goes beyond the standard narrative to explore what motivated Tubman, including divine inspiration, to become one of the greatest freedom fighters in our nation’s history.

“With this film, our aim was to go beyond what is covered in history books to create a real, three-dimensional portrait of who Harriet Tubman actually was,” Nelson said. “We wanted to examine what motivated her to pursue a revolutionary and often dangerous journey, particularly through her fierce religiosity and metaphysical connection to the divine. This film also has such a distinct sonic layer thanks to powerful narration by the great Alfre Woodard.”

PBS will air a documentary on Harriet Tubman in October. . ‘Becoming Frederick Douglass’ premieres Oct. 11. (Courtesy photo)

“Becoming Frederick Douglass” (premiering Oct. 11) is the inspiring story of how a man born into slavery became one of the most prominent statesmen and influential voices for democracy in American history.

The documentary explores how Douglass controlled his own image and narrative, embracing photography as a tool for social justice, and the role he played in securing the right to freedom and complete equality for African Americans.

“Given that Frederick Douglass was one of the most prolific and powerful orators of his time, we were interested in exploring how he created and controlled his image, and ultimately how he used it to shift public opinion around abolition,” said Nelson. “It was such a gift to have the inimitable Wendell Pierce provide the voice of Douglass to bring his words to life. Wendell’s dynamic performance, coupled with the many stunning photographs taken throughout Douglass’s lifetime, show how Douglass evolved to become one of the most influential and enduring social justice activists in American history.”

Both films will stream on and the PBS Video App.

CLIPPETTES: Comedians Arnez J, Bruce Bruce, Sommore, Lavell Crawford and Tony Rock headline Sept. 30 at the Microsoft Theater; as The Bad Bunny World’s Hottest Summer Tour with special guest Diplo concludes with two nights at SoFi Stadium

Salt-N-Pepa, Bell Biv Devoe and Ginuwine fill the bill of the Microsoft Theater Oct. 1; while Lupe Fiasco celebrates 15 years of “The Cool” at The Novo; and Jack Johnson and Lake Shore Drive begin two nights at the Hollywood Bowl

The Doobie Brothers 50th Anniversary Tour with Michael McDonald arrives Oct. 2 at the YouTube Theater. Also in concert are blues rockers Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite at the Saban Theatre; and London musician and poet Arlo Parks at the Fonda Theatre. In addition, the first Detroit Comedy Jam (in L.A.) is happening at The Comedy Store with Howie Mandel, Paul Rodriquez, Tim Allen and more

Rapper Freddie Gibbs celebrates his new CD “$oul $old $eparately” Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. with a fan signing and photo event at Amoeba Hollywood. Later that evening, Stevie Nicks is at the Hollywood Bowl

The following night at The Bowl it’s Wu-Tang Clan and Nas. Also Oct. 4, Nigerian singer/songwriter Jacob Banks plays The Wiltern and Michael Beach is at The Moroccan Lounge

On Oct. 5, the Roxy Theatre hosts Skip Marley …

The Grammy Museum hosts An Evening with PJ Morton on Oct. 6. Meanwhile, Christina Aguilera sings at the Hollywood Palladium; Matisyahu brings his roots hits to the Fonda Theatre and The Spinners are at The Coach House.

TASTY QUIP: “There’s a certain part of our society, especially Black people in the culture that … they look down on certain things within the culture. For me, I love the movies that I’ve done because they are the people that I grew up with that I represent and they, like my mother, would take me in the projects with her on the weekends, she played cards with these women. So when someone says, you’re harkening back to a point in our life that we don’t want to talk about or we don’t want the world to see — you’re dismissing the stories of millions and millions of Black people and that’s why I think it’s been so successful because it resonates with a lot of us who know these women.” – TYLER PERRY (Netflix’ “A Jazzman’s Blues”) on “Who’s Talking To Chris Wallace?”

TC ON TV: Sept. 30 – “Jungle” (Prime Video): A six-part series presenting a distinctive form of rhythmic storytelling rooted in UK rap and drill music. “Ramy” (Hulu): Ramy Youssef returns to his award-winning role as a first-generation, Egyptian-American navigating spirituality with his family in a politically divided New Jersey neighborhood. “Entergalactic” (Netflix): Based on Kid Cudi’s upcoming concept album, this adult animated anthology, co-produced by Kenya Barris (“black-ish) follows a young man on his journey to discover love. With voices supplied by Jaden Smith, Jessica Williams, Keith David, Laura Harrier, Teyana Taylor, Timothée Chalamet, Ty Dolla $ign and Vanessa Hudgens. “Human Playground” (Netflix): Narrated by Idris Elba, this docuseries explores the origins and evolution of play across the globe, from age-old rituals to billion-dollar businesses. “Aníkúlápó” (Netflix): Yoruba culture is on display in this film about a man dealing with death and resurrection. “The 35th Hispanic Heritage Awards” (PBS): Hosted by Stephanie Beatriz (“Encanto” “In the Heights”), this year’s honorees include Ariana DeBose, Los Lobos, Daddy Yankee, and Marvel Studios Executive Victoria Alonso. “The Amber Ruffin Show” (Peacock): Back for a third season of her smart-and-silly news analysis.

Oct. 1 – “Girlfriendship” (Hallmark): Tamera Mowry-Housley stars as a woman whose birthday getaway with her besties turns into a week-long retreat on Edisto Island, in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Romance ensues. “Montross: Blood Rules” (TV1): Victoria Rowell directs and stars in this mystery with Richard Brooks and Dawn Halfkenny. “Yvonne Orji: A Whole Me” (HBO): Picking up where her debut special left off, the comic actress (“Insecure) returns to the stage to offer up her point-of-view on the pandemic, estate planning, being the child of Nigerian immigrants and the brutal realities of dating. “Saturday Night Live” (NBC): The 48th season opener features Kendrick Lamar as musical guest with host Miles Teller (“Top Gun: Maverick”).

Oct. 2 – “Anne Rice’s Interview with The Vampire” (AMC+): Another telling, this time in series form of the author’s revolutionary gothic novel. “The Walking Dead” (AMC+/AMC): The flagship zombie series ends after 11 seasons with these final chapters. “Delicious Miss Brown” (Food): “Breakfast For Dinner” “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (ABC): The competition hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro returns for a 33rd season. “The Equalizer” (CBS): Queen Latifah’s hit action drama is back for a third go round with this episode directed by Eric Laneuville. “Unsung” (TV1): “Women Take The Mic” “East New York” (CBS): Amanda Warren (“NCIS: New Orleans”) portrays the newly promoted boss of the Brooklyn police precinct in this drama also starring Jimmy Smits and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. “Nothing Compares” (SHO): A documentary on the tumultuous career of Irish singer Sinead O’Connor. “Uncensored” (TV1): Keisha Knight Pulliam

Oct. 4 – “Hasan Minhaj: The King’s Jester” (Netflix): A brand new one-man show on the heels of his award-winning comedy special “Homecoming King.” “Rap City ‘22” (BET/BET Her): Big Tigger hosts this new edition of guest interviews and the legendary booth. “2022 Hip Hop Awards” (BET/BET Her): Fat Joe leads a tribute to Trina and Loud Records with performances by David Banner featuring Lil’ Flip, Dead Prez, Mobb Deep with Lil’ Kim, M.O.P., Remy Ma, Three 6 Mafia and more. “Cherish The Day” (OWN): A second season of the Ava DuVernay produced romantic anthology series now with Joy Bryant, Henry Simmons and Richard Roundtree. “Making Black America: Through The Grapevine (PBS): The latest documentary series by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. highlights the vibrant cultural and social spaces at the heart of the African American experience. “DJ Cassidy’s Pass The Mic: BET Hip Hop Awards Edition” (BET): Another nonstop guestlist of surprise legendary superstars singing along to their most iconic records.

Oct. 6 – “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC): The venerable Shonda Rhimes medical drama opens its 19th season with this episode directed by Debbie Allen. “Atlanta” (FX): Series star Donald Glover directs “Work Ethic!”

END QUOTE: “I’m not a jazz artist. Don’t get me wrong now, it’s all music to me. I just played music and if it’s likeable, someone liked the sound, then fine, but I’m not interested in being a jazz musician. I don’t consider myself a jazz musician. I don’t have anything to do with that word.” – Saxophonist/Composer PHAROAH SANDERS [R.I.P.]

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.