When Ida B. Wells was just 21 years old, authorities kicked her off a train for sitting in the all-white “ladies’ car.” She sued. She wrote about the experience in her local church newspaper.
“I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap,” she said later.
Wells would soon become one of America’s greatest journalism pioneers. After the lynching of her close friend, she investigated the prevalence of lynchings across the American South. She collected data, interviewed sources on the ground and wrote fiery articles that dispelled racist myths. By the end of the campaign, she was one of the most famous Black women in America.
While her force can be felt over a century later, in her time Wells faced backlash from the white and Black community alike. She co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – or NAACP – in 1909, but was temporarily ousted for being too radical.
“Doing good journalism actually means that you're not making any friends,” said journalist Caitlin Dickerson, who wrote Wells’ obituary for The New York Times series Overlooked. “It’s a bad sign if there's one group of people who think of you as ‘on their side.’”
On the latest episode of Making, host Brandon Pope leads a conversation with Dickerson, Wells’ great-granddaughter Michelle Duster and acclaimed scholar Paula Giddings, author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions, on the life and legacy of this journalism and civil rights hero.
Making Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens’ four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin is the stuff of legend.
“A man who's a second class citizen at home, son of a sharecropper, grandson of slaves, going over to Hitler's Germany,” explained ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap on Making. “And he rose to the occasion in a way that embodies true greatness.”
But Owens’ journey from Alabama to Ohio to Germany and back again was filled with many highs and lows. His mother used a hot knife to excise a tumor from his chest when he was 5. He tied the world record in the 100 yard dash as a senior in high school. His college years at Ohio State were marked by both racial segregation and unparalleled athletic achievement.
And after his return to America following the Berlin Olympics, Owens and other African-American medalists did not receive the same invitation to the White House that their white counterparts did.
“It was one of the things that really hurt him,” said Marlene Rankin, Owens’ daughter and the co-founder of the Jesse Owens Foundation. “Not everything got to him, but I think that did.”
On this week’s Making, host Brandon Pope leads a conversation on the years that defined Jesse Owens’ life, featuring Rankin, NBCNews.com contributor Cecil Harris, Owens’ son-in-law and former business partner Stuart Rankin, and Schaap, author of Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics.
Making Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass’ journey out of slavery and into the most powerful rooms in the country is a story of tenacity, luck and self-liberation. Hear the story of his improbable rise with Douglass’ great-great-great-grandson, Ken Morris; Douglass’ Pulitzer-prize-winning biographer, David Blight, and Emmy-award winning actor Jeffrey Wright, who’s lent his voice to Douglass for HBO and Apple Books. "He's a founding father of the American conscious.” Wright says of Douglass on Making. “That’s how I view him.”
When RuPaul’s mother was pregnant, she went to a psychic who said RuPaul would be famous.
That psychic was right. With Emmys, Tonys and 14 studio albums, RuPaul Andre Charles has become the world’s most famous drag queen. But before superstardom, Ru was just a kid in the big city, go-go dancing to make ends meet.
“None of us had any money back then. We were all shopping at thrift stores,” said friend and legendary drag queen Lady Bunny. “We were all kind of artsy-fartsy bums.”
Joining Lady Bunny are DJ and songwriter Larry Tee, author and drag historian Simon Doonan and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Shea Couleé in conversation with host Brandon Pope. A dive into the critical years that turned RuPaul into a supernova.
Making Maya Angelou
Perhaps best known for her seminal autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou is one of the most celebrated literary minds in history, whose poetry and prose has touched generations of readers. But before Caged Bird, Angelou danced and sang on and off Broadway, earned the moniker “Miss Calypso” in the 1950s, called dozens of American cities and African nations home, and even became the first Black woman to work as a cable car conductor in San Francisco.
On this episode of Making, host Brandon Pope leads a conversation on Maya Angelou’s early days and what made her who she was. Joining him is Rita Coburn, co-director of the Peabody-Award-winning PBS documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise; Randal Jelks, professor of African and African American studies and American studies at the University of Kansas; and a legend in her own right, Dr. Maxine Mimms, the founder of the Tacoma Campus of Evergreen State College and a longtime friend of Angelou.