Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Presents The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross Premiering October 22 at 7 pm
New six-part, six-hour series takes viewers on an unprecedented journey through African-American history—from slavery to freedom, and from the plantation to the White House
This fall, noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history in his groundbreaking new six-part series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. premiering Tuesdays, October 22, 29 – November 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2013, 7pm. Written and presented by Professor Gates, the six-hour series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, the series moves through five centuries of remarkable historic events right up to the present — when America is led by a black president, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race.
Professor Gates travels throughout the United States, taking viewers on an engaging journey through history. He visits key historical sites, partakes in lively debates with some of America’s top historians and interviews living eyewitnesses — including school integration pioneers Ruby Bridges and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, former Black Panther Kathleen Neal Cleaver, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and many more.
“The story of the African-American people is the story of the settlement and growth of America itself, a universal tale that all people should experience,” says Gates, Alphonse Fletcher University professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. “Since my senior year in high school, when I watched Bill Cosby narrate a documentary about black history, I’ve longed to share those stories in great detail to the broadest audience possible, young and old, black and white, scholars and the general public. I believe that my colleagues and I have achieved this goal through The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.”
The series will take viewers across five hundred years and two continents to shed new light on the experience of being an African American. By highlighting the tragedies, triumphs and contradictions of the black experience, the series will reveal to viewers that the African-American community, which abolitionist Martin R. Delany famously described as “a nation within a nation,” has never been a uniform entity, and that its members have been actively debating their differences from their first days in this country.
Throughout the course of the series, viewers will see that the road to freedom for black people in America was not linear, but more like the course of a river, full of loops and eddies, slowing, and occasionally reversing the current of progress.
Below are brief overviews of each episode in this six-part series.
Episode One: The Black Atlantic (1500 – 1800) Tuesday, October 22, 7pm
Episode Two: The Age of Slavery (1800 – 1860) Tuesday, October 29, 7pm
Episode Three: Into the Fire (1861 – 1896) Tuesday, November 5, 7pm
Episode Four: Making a Way Out of No Way (1897 – 1940) Tuesday, November 12, 7pm
Episode Five: Rise! (1940 – 1968) Tuesday, November 19, 7pm
Episode Six: A More Perfect Union (1968 – 2013) Tuesday, November 26, 7pm
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is the centerpiece of a multiplatform project including educational outreach events, a robust website, social media, and a companion book. Accompanying the broadcast is an ambitious national outreach initiative to extend the impact, utilization, and “life after broadcast” of the series, which will include development of digital educational resources, an educational poster and an educator’s premium. The initiative will also include partnerships with PBS stations across the country, which will produce local broadcasts and host live professional development workshops.
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross’ website (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/) will include video from the series, including all six full episodes for a limited run, as well as scenes not included in the films. In addition to video, the website will elaborate on and explore the rich history covered in the series with text, timelines, images and other multimedia; include a collection of graphics featuring quotations from well-known African-Americans for individuals to share on a number of social media platforms; feature a blog by Gates that highlights 100 interesting and unexpected facts from African-American history; and invite viewers to submit and browse stories about and reactions to significant moments in history. The website will offer visitors the chance to personalize their experience and share series content on social platforms.
The anchor of the series’ presence on social media platforms will be Gates himself — sharing content and behind-the-scenes photos from his own accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Fans on social media will be offered early access to particular content and opportunities to connect with Gates and scholars from the program via live online social viewing events.
A companion book of the same name, written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Donald Yacovone, which further explores the events portrayed in the series, will be published by SmileyBooks on October 1.