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PBS will air special for kids on racism and give Ken Burns a channel

The documentary giant will have an online home for Burns' work, and PBS shows will be used to talk to kids about race and racism.

PBS has announced a new special for kids that will air in October to talk about race and racism, and it’s also giving documentary giant Ken Burns his own online channel.

PBS Kids has announced a new special that will premiere Oct. 9 called PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism. The half-hour program will feature conversations between children and their parents, and will include content from popular series such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Arthur and Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.

The public television service also this week announced an online home for Burns’ work and many of its documentary projects. On Aug. 4, the service launched the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel, available by subscription for $3.99 a month. Past programming will include episodes of NOVA, Frontline, Nature and American Experience on the new service. Burns, who has made highly acclaimed looks at the Civil War, the history of baseball, country music and the national parks system, says he has eight projects in the works. They include deep dives into the lives of Ernest Hemingway, Muhammad Ali, Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci.

Filmmaker Ken Burn, shown here in in the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, before his 2019 documentary series on country music aired, will have a home on a new PBS documentary service. [ MARK HUMPHREY | AP ]

The PBS show on race will feature kids and their parents talking about race and racial justice-related topics “in an age-appropriate way, such as noticing differences in race, understanding what racism can look like, and embracing the role we all have to play in standing up for ourselves and each other,” a PBS news release said. It will offer viewers ideas to build on as they continue these conversations at home.

The special will debut as part of PBS KIDS Family Night on the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel, and will also be available on PBS stations nationwide and streaming on pbskids.org, the PBS KIDS Video app and on PBS KIDS’ Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

“PBS KIDS believes kids are capable of understanding and talking through tough, but important issues with the adults in their lives — something that has been core to our mission for the last 50 years,” said Lesli Rotenberg, chief programming executive and general manager for Children’s Media and Education for PBS. “Our goal is to support parents in talking with their children about race, anti-Black racism in our country, and how to be actively antiracist. Parents have increasingly asked us for these resources, and we hope that this special will provide a helpful starting point in whatever way they choose to have these conversations with their children.”

It will join other existing streaming services from PBS Kids, PBS Masterpiece and PBS Living.

Alicia Keys is the executive producer of a documentary, American Masters: How It Feels to be Free, that will premiere early next year. It will tell the story of six Black female entertainers: Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier.

Also next year, PBS will air a two-part documentary from Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Black churches, spotlighting their history and music. Gates said he felt fortunate to finish filming at churches throughout the country just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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