Becoming Helen Keller

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Becoming Helen Keller

The Becoming Helen Keller documentary revisits how Helen Keller (1880-1968) used her wit and celebrity to advocate for social justice, particularly for women, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty. We think many in the audience will be surprised to learn about Keller’s long life and career, and how it remains relevant to our present.

Keller’s complex life and legacy are legendary, but the meaning of that legend has changed over time. Becoming Helen Keller reaches beyond her childhood to revisit Keller’s career and her deep commitment to social justice. She worked for access to health care, assistive technology, education, and employment for all as a human right, and yet she took controversial positions in medical ethics debates. The film recounts lesser-known details of Keller’s personal life with Anne Sullivan – they starred together in Vaudeville, for example. After Anne’s death, Keller and her assistant, Polly Thomson, toured the world advocating for people with disabilities. Until her own death at 87, Helen Keller was an icon, among the most famous and beloved of Americans, but the time has come to reconsider her role in our national life and recognize her as one of the 20th century’s human rights pioneers.

The film is told with archival photos and film clips, interviews with scholars and disability rights advocates. Narrated by Rebecca Alexander, who is blind and deaf herself, the program also features on-camera performances from Tony- and Emmy Award-winning actor Cherry Jones performing Keller’s written words, while actor and dancer Alexandria Wailes provides American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation of Keller’s point of view. All other on-camera ASL interpretation is by writer and rapper Warren ‘WAWA’ Snipe. The program will be audio described by the National Captioning Institute and closed captioned by VITAC.;

Becoming Helen Keller premieres October 19th at 9pm

Achievement Center of LECOM Health
Erie Homes for Children & Adults
Erie Audiology
Erie County Community Center for the Deaf
Voices for Independence
Western PA School for the Deaf

Support for American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller is provided in part by National Endowment for the Humanities, Arthur Vining Davis, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NEC Foundation of America, The Gibney Family Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, The Better Angels Society including The Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Harris Mathews Charitable Foundation, Inc., Irving and Sara Selis Foundation, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Newcastle Foundation Trust, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Dorothy S. Koretzky Memorial Fund, and Alice & Jim Hardigg.

Original series production funding for American Masters is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Mrs. Rosalind P. Walter, Seton J. Melvin, Vital Projects Fund, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Cheryl & Philip Milstein Family Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Judith & Burton Resnick, Ellen & James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, and The Ambrose Monell Foundation.