Legacy: Being Black in America

Legacy: Being Black in America premiered February 2008.

In 2007, Lonnie Bunch – Founding Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) – hosted a special tribute dinner in Washington, D.C. to honor the Civil Rights generation. This historic event was a gathering of 18 celebrated African-Americans from business, politics, academia, the media and the arts coming together to discuss the changing status of blacks in America.

Legacy: Being Black in America is a one-hour documentary that presents two parallel stories: the story of the Washington tribute dinner, and a broader look at the lives of African-Americans today set against the story of the Civil Rights generation. Through the insights of those who attended the dinner, as well as interviews with other prominent African-American citizens, Legacy explores how race consciousness has been evolving and what the issues are for achieving full racial integration and equity.

Discussing race relationsMarian Wright Edelman, Lonnie G. Bunch III, Thelma Golden and Earl Graves discuss race relations in the U.S. today.
Dinner guests featured in the documentary include Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; Tanya Barfield, playwright of The Blue Door; Donna Brazile, Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute; Chuck D, founder and frontman of the rap group, Public Enemy; Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder, Children’s Defense Fund; Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake, Senior Pastor, Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York, and President, Wilberforce University; Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator, Studio Museum in Harlem; Earl Graves, Founder and Publisher, Black Enterprise Magazine; Dr. Dorothy Height, Chair, National Council of Negro Women; Bill T. Jones, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company; Rep. John Lewis, Congressman from Georgia and Civil Rights leader; John McWhorter, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, and author of Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis of Black America; Dr. Ben Chavis Muhammad, CEO, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network; Orlando Patterson, Professor of Sociology, Harvard University; Deborah Roberts, ABC News correspondent; Theodore M. Shaw, Director-Counsel and President, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; Beverly Daniel Tatum, President, Spelman College; and Roger Wilkins, Professor of History and American Culture, George Mason University.   


A light momentA light moment in the discussion for panelists Ben Chavis Muhammad, Theodore Shaw, Tanya Barfield and Roger Wilkins.
Legacy also travels the country interviewing such luminaries as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, addressing issues of race consciousness, integration and equity in the U.S. today. The program follows ABC news correspondent Deborah Roberts around New York, where she discusses her humble beginnings in rural Georgia before navigating a mostly non-minority world of broadcast journalism. In Washington, D.C., viewers meet 23-year-old rap artist Madam Madon as she struggles to balance her ambitious music career with single parenthood and caring for her aging grandmother. In Hollywood, director John Singleton, actor/producer Ice Cube and Boondocks comic creator Aaron McGruder all discuss the impact of race in show business today.

Legacy: Being Black in America was produced by Richard Karz of Karz Productions.

Major funding provided by:


Additional funding provided by:


Presented by:


    Providing Support for pbs.org Learn More
    Sign Up for Program Reminders & More

    Get the latest information about upcoming PBS programs, sneak peeks, tune-in reminders and web extras delivered to your inbox every week.