American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller


Premiering Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 9 p.m.

“Becoming Helen Keller” examines one of the 20th century’s human rights pioneers in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The new documentary rediscovers the complex life and legacy of author and activist Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was deaf and blind since childhood, exploring how she used her celebrity and wit to advocate for social justice, particularly for women, workers, people with disabilities and people living in poverty.

Keller first came into public view at a young age, soon after her teacher Anne Sullivan taught her to communicate. As she progressed through her education, graduating from Radcliffe College, Keller steadily gained international attention. Though she lived until age 87, became an accomplished writer and activist, Keller continues to be immortalized as a child, such as in the U.S. Capitol with the statue of her at a water pump. She recounted this moment from her youth in her first autobiography, “The Story of My Life,” later made famous by the book’s stage and screen adaptation, “The Miracle Worker.” American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller delves beyond the mythologized disability icon to present a critical look at her rich, decades-long career and some of its controversies, including her support of socialism and her changing positions on eugenics.

The film reveals little-known details of Keller’s personal life and examines her public persona and advocacy, including the progressive reforms she helped achieve. Speaking out for civil rights at great personal cost, Keller supported women’s suffrage, the NAACP, access to health care and assistive technology as a human right, and workers’ rights as a member of the Socialist Party of America and the labor union Industrial Workers of the World.

Sponsor message:

Sponsor message:

NOVA “Butterfly Blueprints”

A blue and green butterfly with spread wings.

Investigate the hidden scientific secrets of butterflies that reveal them as smarter and more resilient than we ever imagined.

Great Performances “Reopening: The Broadway Revival”

Charity Angel Dawson, Sara Bareilles, and Caitlin Houlahan in "Waitress."

Reopening: The Broadway Revival pulls the curtain back on some of Broadway’s most popular shows, revealing how the New York theater industry undertook the monumental process of turning the lights back on after its longest hiatus in history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

American Masters "Ailey"

Alvin Ailey on stage

American Masters: Ailey is a portrait of the legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey (1931-1989), a trailblazing pioneer who founded his influential studio Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 at age 27.