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PBS and Maryland Public Television Announce Two New Documentaries
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Credits: (Douglass) © New York Historical Society / Bridgeman Images; (Tubman) Alamy

Executive Produced by Acclaimed Filmmaker Stanley Nelson For Fall 2022

Offer Fresh Perspectives and Insights Into Iconic Historical Figures 

Oscar®-Nominated and Emmy® Award-Winning Actor Alfre Woodard Is The Narrator of HARRIET TUBMAN: VISIONS OF FREEDOM and Acclaimed Actor Wendell Pierce Is The Voice of Frederick Douglass In Both Films


ARLINGTON, VA; January 18, 2022 — Today at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, PBS and Maryland Public Television (MPT) announced 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. Produced by MPT in association with Firelight Films, BECOMING FREDERICK DOUGLASS and HARRIET TUBMAN: VISIONS OF FREEDOM are executive produced by Firelight founder Stanley Nelson (Attica, Freedom Riders, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution) and Lynne Robinson. Both films will premiere on PBS and in Fall 2022.

“There are no two people more important to our country’s history than Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman,” said Stanley Nelson. “Their remarkable lives and contributions were a critical part of the 19th century, and their legacies help us understand who we are as a nation. We are honored to share their stories with a country that continues to grapple with the impact of slavery and debate notions of citizenship, democracy and freedom.”

“As prominent pillars in the abolitionist movement in this country, the life stories of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman are incredibly significant to our nation's history,” said Sylvia Bugg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager of General Audience Programming at PBS. “We're proud to partner with Firelight Films and Stanley Nelson, a brilliant storyteller of the Black American experience, to bring PBS audiences new films about these key historical figures.”

“Working to bring these two documentaries to a national audience has been a labor of love for Maryland Public Television,” said Travis Mitchell, Senior Vice President and Chief Content Officer at MPT. “Through our collaboration with Stanley Nelson and Firelight Films, we’ve created fresh and compelling portraits of two iconic Marylanders whose courage, strength, and tenacity led to changes in our nation that resonate to this day.”

BECOMING FREDERICK DOUGLASS is the story of how a man born into slavery became one of the most prominent statesmen and influential voices for democracy in American history. Born in 1818 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he escaped from slavery in 1838 and went on to become the most well-known leader of the abolitionist movement. A gifted writer and powerful, charismatic orator, it is estimated that more Americans heard Douglass speak than any other 19th-century figure — Black or white. 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 democracy for African Americans.

HARRIET TUBMAN: VISIONS OF FREEDOM is a nuanced portrait of the woman known as the Conductor of the Underground Railroad, who risked her own freedom and life to liberate others from slavery. Born in Dorchester County, Maryland, 200 years ago — 2022 marks her bicentennial —Tubman escaped north to Philadelphia in 1849, covering more than 100 miles alone. Once there, Tubman became involved in the abolitionist movement, and through the Underground Railroad, guided an estimated 70 enslaved people to freedom. The film goes beyond the legend of Tubman to explore what motivated her — including divine inspiration — to become one of the greatest freedom fighters of all time.

Executive producers for BECOMING FREDERICK DOUGLASS and HARRIET TUBMAN: VISIONS OF FREEDOM are Stanley Nelson and Lynne Robinson. The films are produced and directed by Stanley Nelson and Nicole London. Keith M. Brown and Michael English are the executives in charge of production. BECOMING FREDERICK DOUGLASS was written by Anne Seidlitz. HARRIET TUBMAN: VISIONS OF FREEDOM was written by Paul Taylor, Nicole London and Marcia Smith.

Oscar®-nominated and Emmy® award-winning actor Alfre Woodard is the narrator of HARRIET TUBMAN: VISIONS OF FREEDOM and acclaimed actor Wendell Pierce is the voice of Frederick Douglass in both films.

Funding for BECOMING FREDERICK DOUGLASS and HARRIET TUBMAN: VISIONS OF FREEDOM provided by the State of Maryland and Bowie State University, the oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Maryland.

About Maryland Public Television 

Launched in 1969, Maryland Public Television (MPT) is a state-licensed public television network and member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  MPT is among the leading producers and distributors of national public television programming in the United States.  As a major content supplier to PBS stations, MPT boasts a five-decade legacy of groundbreaking and innovative contributions to public TV schedules nationwide.  MPT is also one of the most prolific producers of regional programming in the public television system, serving a six-state area in the Mid-Atlantic region. MPT’s Emmy® award-winning content catalog includes news, public affairs, documentary, performance, and lifestyle programming. For more information visit

About Firelight Films

Founded by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Firelight Films produces documentaries by and about communities of color. Firelight Films productions have garnered multiple Primetime Emmy, Peabody, IDA, and Sundance awards. Among them, the feature films Attica, currently shortlisted for the 94th Academy Awards and streaming on Showtime; Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race MassacreCrack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy; Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool; The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution; Freedom Summer; Freedom Riders; The Murder of Emmett Till; and The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords. Firelight Films has also produced notable short films including “The Story of Access” which was commissioned by Starbucks in 2017 for a mandatory anti-bias employee training program, and “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom” commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for its opening night in 2015. Upcoming Firelight Films productions include Creating the New World: The Transatlantic Slave Trade, a four-part documentary series for PBS.

About PBS

PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following  PBS Communications on Twitter


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