Thursday, March 27, 2008

CNN to Focus Mammoth Spotlight on Black Experience in America

CNN Pressroom - Soledad O’Brien Anchors Documentaries, Special Reports for Four Months Beginning on Anniversary of King’s Death

Forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CNN will launch a sweeping on-air and digital initiative, CNN Presents: Black in America. Breaking new ground in revealing the current state of Black America, this landmark programming features six hours of documentaries, a weekly series of reports that will air on CNN/U.S. and CNN International and appear as part of a multimedia online effort. The programming, which airs over four months in 2008, focuses on fresh analysis from new voices about the real lives behind the stereotypes, statistics and identity politics that frequently frame the national dialogue about Black America.

Reported by anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien, Black in America begins with the two-hour premiere of Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination, a first-person account of what happened on April 4, 1968.

Black in America: Eyewitness to Murder – The King Assassination, Thursday, April 3, 9 p.m. (two hours)

In this first installment of CNN’s Black in America series, O’Brien investigates how James Earl Ray, an armed robber and escaped convict, had already spent an uncommon year on the run that included plastic surgery just a month before his path collided with that of the civil rights leader in Memphis, Tenn. Through interviews with witnesses and investigators, O’Brien retraces the steps of King, Ray, the FBI and Memphis police and explores alternative scenarios of who was ultimately responsible for the murder that, for some, represented the end of the American Civil Rights era.

Black in America continues in July with two additional two-hour documentaries that will air on CNN/U.S. and CNN International:

Black in America: The Black Man, Wednesday, July 23, 9 p.m. (two hours)

Perhaps the most misreported group in America today, black men are often stereotypically depicted in the media as convicts, gang members and absentee fathers. Told through the personal stories of graduates of the 1968 class of Little Rock Central High School, their sons and grandsons, for The Black Man, O’Brien seeks to determine whether life is better for black men now than it was 40 years ago. She reports on the disparities between blacks and whites in educational, career and economic achievement and factors leading to the devastating rates of black male incarceration. Contributing expert analysis are Harvard economist Dr. Roland Fryer, Princeton professor Dr. Devah Pager, journalist/social commentator Ellis Cose; and Georgetown University professor Dr. Michael Eric Dyson; and others. O’Brien reports on successes and dissects myths to explore the state of black men in America today.

Black in America: The Black Woman & Family, Thursday, July 24, 9 p.m. (two hours)

In this installment of Black in America, O’Brien, examines the unique and varied experiences of black women and families in America. O’Brien looks at the reasons behind the disturbing statistics on single parenthood, disparities between black and white students in the classroom, and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS on black women. The Black Woman & Family yields insights into black achievements and struggles and perspectives on King’s hopes for progress. The documentary is told through the experiences of the Houston-based Rand family with expert commentary from economist and Bennett College president Julianne Malveaux, Essence magazine editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray, Dallas-based preacher and life coach Bishop T.D. Jakes, TV/radio personality Michael Baisden, entrepreneur and activist Russell Simmons, actor Vanessa Williams, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher Dr. Camara Jones and others.

As part of the Black in America series, weekly special reports will air between April and June that investigate topics including parenthood and marital rates among black adults, high rates of HIV/AIDS among African Americans, achievement gaps in education, careers, and even disparities in life expectancy rates between African Americans and the general population. These reports will debut after the world premiere of Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination.

“Only CNN could and would undertake a project this comprehensive and ambitious,” said Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer for CNN Productions. “So many passionate journalists have poured themselves into this effort, turning up some surprising storylines and controversial theories about what’s been happening to black people in this country. The stories they will tell will impact all Americans.”

“As we developed this series, it was critical to go beyond what viewers believe and already know to introduce them to the real people behind the headlines that we report every day on our assignments,” O’Brien said.’s interactive special section for Black in America, available at, will launch in late March and will feature excerpts from the series and exclusive interviews with eyewitnesses to history. The section also will include timelines, maps and multimedia stories that highlight the ripple effects the King assassination had on the United States.

Bud Bultman and Steve Robinson are the managing editors for Black in America. Jeffery Reid is an executive producer; James Polk is a senior producer for the series; Jen Christensen and Elise Zeiger are producers. Mark Nelson is the vice president and senior executive producer for CNN Productions. Black in America was filmed in high definition.

Soledad O’Brien has reported on human events, politics, natural disasters and war zones from across the nation and around the world. O’Brien was part of the CNN teams that were recognized with a George Foster Peabody Award for the network’s Hurricane Katrina coverage and an Alfred I. DuPont Award for coverage of the Southeast Asian tsunami disaster. She has been named one of the National Urban League’s “Women of Power” and both Essence and Black Enterprise magazines have named O’Brien to their “40 under 40” lists. In April, O'Brien will be the first recipient of the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award, created in her honor to recognize outstanding catalysts for social change by Community Voices: Healthcare for the Underserved and Morehouse School of Medicine. The award will recognize her accomplishments, her commitment to cover stories that might otherwise go untold and her steadfast willingness to be a voice for the voiceless.

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is the most trusted source for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; CNN Digital Network, the No. 1 network of news Web sites in the United States; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; and strategic international partnerships within both television and the digital media.

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