On the eve of last year’s midterm elections, Charles M. Blow, New York Times columnist and best-selling author of “The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto,” sets off across the country on a personal journey to test his theory on Black Liberation, which involves a daring strategy for Black Americans to move to the southern states to control southern legislatures and gain greater political power. Conversing with politicians, historians, community activists, colleagues, friends, and family members, Blow challenges Black Americans to disrupt the status quo by affecting change at the polls through reverse migration and gain control over states that already have the highest percentages of Black residents. Co-directors Llewellyn M. Smith and Sam Pollard’s thought provoking feature documentary SOUTH TO BLACK POWER also takes us on a journey through Blow’s personal story, from his childhood in Louisiana to his relentless commitment to racial justice, revealing the hard-won truths that illuminate his vision for the future. As the returns from the midterm elections roll in, Blow watches, acknowledging the gains, but also reflects on the possibility that a historic political transformation in the South might not come in his lifetime. Co-directors Llewellyn M. Smith and Sam Pollard join us for a conversation on the conflicted history of The Great Migration, the lack of substantive political and economic progress for Black Americans everywhere, and how Charles Blow’s provocative proposal to re-populate a handful of Southern states with enough Black voters to propel a seismic political shift in power towards a more equitable America.
The HBO Original documentary SOUTH TO BLACK POWER, a This Machine production, directed by Peabody and Emmy®-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard (HBO’s “Hostages,” “Black Art: In the Absence of Light”) and Peabody winner Llewellyn M. Smith (“Poisoned Water”), debuts TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28 (10:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.
About the subject – Charles M. Blow is an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times where his column appears on Thursdays and Mondays. Blow’s columns tackle hot-button issues such as social justices, racial equality, presidential politics, police violence, gun control, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. He is also a CNN commentator and a Presidential Visiting Professor at Yale, where he teaches a seminar on media and politics. Blow is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones. The book won a Lambda Literary Award and the Sperber Prize and made multiple prominent lists of best books published in 2014. People Magazine called it “searing and unforgettable.” He joined The New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor and quickly became the paper’s graphics director, a position he held for nine years. Blow went on to become the paper’s design director for news before leaving in 2006 to become the art director of National Geographic Magazine. Before coming to The Times, He had worked at The Detroit News. Blow graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a B.A. in mass communications, and he holds an honorary doctorate from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. He lives in Brooklyn and has three children.
About the filmmaker – Llewellyn M. Smith’s filmography focuses on stories of history and science that illuminate social inequality and transformation. He is the recipient of Peabody and duPont awards, and other honors. The ground-breaking projects Llew has produced, directed or contributed to include Eyes On The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1987); Race: The Power Of An Illusion (2003); Reconstruction: The Second Civil War (2004); Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (2008); Herskovits At The Heart Of Blackness (2010), American Denial (2015), Wounded Places: Confronting PTSD In America’s Shell-Shocked Cities (2014), and Slavery In Effect (2016). As the first Story Editor for PBS’s American Experience (1988) Llew was central in the origination, development and acquisition of more than 70 programs for the acclaimed series. He was project director for the Emmy award-winning series Africans In America: America’s Journey Through Slavery (1997), and directed and produced the final episode Judgment Day. For the PBS science series NOVA, Llew produced and directed Forgotten Genius (2007), the award-winning profile of African American chemist and activist Percy Julian. His film Poisoned Water (2017), an examination of the Flint water crisis, won the AAAS Kavli International Science Journalism Award for best investigative television. His documentary Cuba’s Cancer Hope (2020) tells why some American cancer patients defy the U.S. embargo on Cuba to seek lifesaving immunotherapy treatment in this socialist country. He is a writer/director for documentary series on Future of Work (2021) and the NOVA program Criminals vs Crime (2022), a look at the increasing role of Artificial Intelligence in our criminal legal system. In 2021 Black Public Media named Llew one of the Top 40 Game Changers in public media over the last 40 years.
About the filmmaker – Sam Pollard is a veteran feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director. Between 1990 and 2010, he edited a number of Spike Lee films: Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers, and Bamboozled. Pollard and Lee co-produced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screen, including Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings which was nominated for an Academy Award® in 1998 and When The Levees Broke, a four-part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. Five years later 2010 he co-produced and supervised the edit on the follow up, If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise. As a producer/director, since 2015, his credits include: Slavery By Another Name, (2015) a 90-minute documentary for PBS that was in competition at the Sundance Festival; August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, (2015) a 90-minute documentary for American Masters; Two Trains Runnin, a feature length documentary, which premiered at the Full Frame Film Festival in 2016; and Sammy Davis Jr., I’ve Gotta Be Me for American Masters premièred at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2019, he co-directed the six-part series, Why We Hate, which premiered on The Discovery Channel. In 2020 he was one of the directors on the 2020 HBO Series Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children. also that year, he completed MLK/FBI, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was also featured at the New York Film Festival.
“In a nice bit of journalistic even-handedness, several of Blow’s interviewees are not entirely convinced by his thesis, or they believe there are other paths to political gains.” – Lisa Kennedy, New York Times