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Upcoming Events

How It Feels to Be Free: A Conversation with Director Yoruba Richen

Thursday, April 1, 2021 – 7:00 p.m. ET

Mark the close of Women’s History Month and the beginning of Jazz Appreciation Month with an insider’s look at the film How It Feels To Be Free.

The “American Masters”/PBS documentary examines how six iconic African American women entertainers—Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier—broke thorough and challenged an entertainment industry hell-bent on keeping them out, transforming both themselves and their audiences in the process.

Featuring clips and interviews with these legendary talents and commentary by Halle Berry, Shonda Rhimes, Samuel L. Jackson, and other luminaries, the film examines the impact these trailblazing entertainers had on reshaping the narrative of Black female identity in Hollywood through their art and political activism while advocating for social change.

Join the film’s director Yoruba Richen, executive directors Lacey Schwartz Delgado and Mehret Mandefro, and Fath Davis Ruffins, curator of African American history and culture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in a live conversation and Q&A session that focuses on how the film was made and the story it tells.

Get your ticket here.

Watch our January Event

The Forum returned in 2021 with the new documentary MLK/FBI, which explores the US government’s history of targeting Black activists and the contested meaning behind some of our most cherished ideals. Based on newly discovered and declassified files, the film tells the tragic story of the FBI’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Emmy Award winning director Sam Pollard and former field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Larry Rubin, in conversation with Christopher Wilson, the History Film Forum’s executive director and curator, examined the making of MLK/FBI and the pertinent issues it spotlights. This program was made possible through the generous support of Dan Manatt and Democracy Films.

Film transports us to another time and place, offering new understandings of history, reinforcing or creating myths, and sparking powerful emotional connections to the past. The History Film Forum is a monthly online series from the Smithsonian that explores history on the screen and the evolution of film as public history. Screenings and discussions explore how and why film is so elemental to the way Americans understand and experience that history.

The History Film Forum returns in 2021 with the new documentary MLK/FBI. Based on newly discovered and declassified files, the film tells the tragic story of the FBI’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Directed by Emmy Award winner Sam Pollard and featuring interviews with key figures, MLK/FBI explores the government’s history of targeting Black activists and the contested meaning behind some of our most cherished ideals.

Join Pollard and Larry Rubin, a former field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in a conversation with Christopher Wilson, the History Film Forum’s executive director and curator, that examines of the making of MLK/FBI and the issues it spotlights. A live Q&A is part of the program.

Note: A screening of the film is not part of the virtual event. The first 350 registrants are provided a link and login on Sat., Jan. 16 to stream MLK/FBI. The film can be viewed on a computer, smart TV, and apps that support Roku, Amazon, and Apple TV.

Monthly online History Film Forum screenings are presented by the National Museum of American History and Smithsonian Associates through the support of Dan Manatt and Democracy Films.

Welcome to the History Film Forum

 

The inevitable moral responsibility of the filmmaker is not to get at the truth and certainly not the whole truth, but to get at a truth.

— Ric Burns, filmmaker, History Film Forum Keynote Address 2015