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Sunday, February 19 at 11 p.m. – Independent Lens "More Than A Month"

(Rochester, NY) – Should there be an end to Black History Month? That’s the question explored by African-American filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman as he embarks on a cross-country campaign to do just that. Both amusing and thought provoking, More Than a Month examines what the treatment of history tells us about race and power in contemporary America. Written and directed by Tilghman, More Than a Month premieres Sunday, February 19 at 11 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

The film takes the form of a road trip that begins in Washington, D.C., crisscrosses the country during Black History Month 2010, and ends with an epilogue one year later. Combining cinema verité, man-on-the-street interviews, and inspired dramatizations, the film is a first-person narrative of the filmmaker’s quest to understand the implications of Black History Month.

Tilghman begins his research at home, but finds his parents dismayed when he suggests eliminating Black History Month. He then seeks a deeper understanding of Carter G. Woodson, the creator of Negro History Week, the predecessor to Black History Month. To this end, he reaches out to Woodson’s organization, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. They too respond with horror at his suggestion. At Harvard, Tilghman collaborates on a psychological study exploring how Black History Month makes blacks and whites feel about themselves and their place in American history. And in Chicago, Tilghman visits Burrell Communications, the nation’s largest black owned advertising agency, to investigate whether corporate sponsorship and advertisements during Black History Month are just an excuse to sell products to black consumers.

Exploring history itself — how we treat it, how we value it — also shapes the narrative. Tilghman talks with members of a Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter in Lexington, Virginia, who are seeking to establish Confederate History month. And in Philadelphia, he speaks with school officials who have made African-American history a graduation requirement, ensuring that courses are taught.

At its core, More Than a Month is about what it means to be an American, to fight for one's rightful place in the American landscape, however unconventional the means, even at the risk of ridicule or misunderstanding. In that way, it is about the universal endeavor to discover one's self.

The film asks the questions: How do we justify teaching American history as somehow separate from African-American history? What does it mean that we have a Black History Month? What would it mean if we didn’t?

To learn more about the film, and the issues involved, visit the companion website for at www.pbs.org/independentlens/more-than-a-month. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.

Pictured: Director Shukree Tilghman in Philadelphia
Credit: ITVS

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