If you grew up in the 1960s as I did, comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley was a near ubiquitous presence on TV talk and variety shows. But until this look at her rather impressive and interesting life story produced and hosted by Goldberg, I had little idea the the older African-American woman in her shabby house dresses was such a comedy pioneer and innovator with a long career that goes back to her youth in vaudeville. Nor was I aware of her quite daring and for the times very progressive and daring personal life. Fellow comics and entertainers like Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Arsenio Hall and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara attest to her influence and importance in this film that fills in Mabley’s considerable backstory and gives her rather profound accomplishments and legacy its just due.
In this issue’s column I look at how the PBS series Many Rivers to Cross traces African-American history. That story is not complete without also examining the parallel story of organized anti-Black racism and the “secret” society that inflicted much terror while giving segregation and prejudice a patina of faux “legitimacy” and even mystical power since right after the Civil War into modern times. Yes, the Klan is one of the more shameful and sad strains in our nation’s character, but without understanding what one opposes one is less equipped to work against it. This History Channel documentary provides a solid if also chilling overview.
The History Channel again further fills in the American story by showing how the War Between the States did not end when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in 1865. During Reconstruction battles still raged throughout the Southern states, and this film explores some of the major events that marked how the great American conflict and tragedy continued to reverberate through the years that followed the war.
From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2014
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