Tonight, Craig Ferguson will devote his Late Late Show to Black History Month — specifically, to a long, engrossing conversation with Dr. Cornel West and music by the great George Clinton. It’s “my attempt to know my country better,” says relatively new citizen Ferguson. “One of the advantages of doing a show the network barely knows exists is that I can do whatever the hell I want.”

Ferguson and West engage in a spirited discussion of the history of black oppression and triumph in American history. (“We down in the funk now,” says West at one moment of intense conversation.) Ferguson asks West about the “difference between ‘black’ and ‘African-American,'” and the state of black life in America today.

West is direct. Ferguson asks him what he thinks of a recent reediting of Huckleberry Finn to remove the N-word. West is against it: “That’s an attempt to deodorize the funk of the text,” he says, championing Mark Twain as someone who understood what he was doing in using that word, knowing the vexed complications of writing realistic fiction.

The subject of slavery gives rise to a discussion that includes West’s observation that black people were “enslaved for almost 80 years under the U.S. Constitution. This is something our right-wing brothers, who we love and respect but are just often wrong about a lot of things, can forget.”

There is no more suitable musical guest for this show than George Clinton, who performs “One Nation Under a Groove.” Clinton’s vocal power has dimmed (two male vocalists back him up much of the time), but, he and his band dressed in military-fatigue green, Clinton makes sure the groove is driven in deep.

Don’t miss this tonight.

Twitter: @kentucker