By Jueseppi B.
The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “Trailer” | PBS
Published on Oct 3, 2013
Watch full-length episodes at http://video.pbs.org/program/african-… (US Only)
Noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history in his groundbreaking new six-part series premiering Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 8-9 p.m. ET on PBS and airing six consecutive Tuesdays through November 26, 2013 (check local listings). For more, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-ameri…
The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross | Life of Priscilla, Episode 1 | PBS
Published on Oct 19, 2013
Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. investigates the life of a slave known only as Priscilla. She was purchased as just a young girl at a slave auction in South Carolina by a rice planter, Elias Ball. She arrived on Ball’s South Carolina rice plantation in 1756, alone, without family. A third of South Carolina’s slaves died within a year of their arrival. Nearly two-thirds of all children were dead before they turned 16. Priscilla beat the odds. For more, visit: http://www.pbs.org/manyrivers/ The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross airs on PBS on October 22, 2013, 8-9 pm ET
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross | The Cotton Economy and Slavery, Episode 2 | PBS
Published on Oct 29, 2013
Watch the full-length episode at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365104986… (US Only)
“The Age of Slavery” premieres on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 8/7c on PBS. For more, visit: http://www.pbs.org/manyrivers Many stakeholders in the South and North benefited from the cotton economy that fueled slavery’s expansion. The cotton economy increased the number of slaves in America and led to cotton plantations spreading west across the Deep South to Texas. This created the second largest forced migration in America’s history, as African Americans were uprooted from the Upper South to the Deep South.
NEW YORK — NEW YORK (AP) — Slavery in the United States was once a roaring success whose wounds still afflict the country today.
So says Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who examines both its success and shame in “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” his new PBS documentary series that traces 500 years of black history.
“Slavery is a perfect example of why we need limits on the more unfortunate aspects of human nature,” he says. “Slavery was capitalism gone berserk.”
The horrifically profitable practice of slavery and the brutal inhumanity of Jim Crow loom large in “The African Americans” (premiering Tuesday at 8 p.m. EDT; check local listings), which, through its six hours, performs a neat trick: Its reach extends far beyond American shores, venturing through the Caribbean region and all the way to Africa, while deftly folding this sprawl of black history into the larger American story that, too often, has kept the role of black America shunted to the margins.
Slavery — “the supreme hypocrisy” — was always an essential ingredient of the American experiment. White America always drew heavily on the labor, culture and traditions of blacks while denying them due credit in exchange, not to mention their human rights.
The father of our country was one of its largest slave owners, even as one of his slaves, Harry Washington, understandably fled to join a British regiment and fight against the patriots.
“Because of the profound disconnect between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the simultaneous practice of slavery, we’ve had historical amnesia about slavery,” Gates was saying in a recent interview. “We still see the effects, and feel them.”
Even the site for the nation’s capital city — Washington, D.C. — was chosen to accommodate the mighty bloc of Southern slave owners.
And the series also notes that, among too many other cruel paradoxes, slaves cut the stone and laid the bricks for the U.S. Capitol.
“The African Americans” doesn’t fall prey to white scapegoating. For instance, Africans practiced slavery long before white Europeans cashed in, and Gates journeys to Sierra Leone, where he visits with Africans whose forebears profited from it.
Gates — an author, Harvard scholar, social critic and filmmaker — is more interested in recognizing and discovering oft-neglected pieces of the American puzzle.
The series starts with what Gates deems a downright scoop. It turns out the very first African to come to North America was a free man accompanying Spanish explorers who arrived in Florida in 1513. This was more than a century before the first 20 African slaves were brought to the British colony of Jamestown by pirates who traded them for food.
Thus does his series roll the clock back 106 years to a largely unknown starting point in African-American history.
From there, it covers slavery, the Civil War, the Jim Crow era and the rise of civil rights. It concludes on a high note, exactly 500 years from where it began, with the second inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.
Even so, Gates says he didn’t want to sound a false note of triumph: “By nature, I’m an optimist, but we end the series with the message, ‘This is the best of times, the worst of times.'”
Worst? He points out many dismaying facts. A disproportionate number of black men are imprisoned today. A huge percentage of black children are born out of wedlock to single mothers.
And it’s no secret that, while a winning number of Americans cheered on Obama, many others disdain the idea of a black man in the White House, a mindset Gates sees as yet another legacy of slavery and the racism it perpetuated.
One possible solution — and one mission for his series — is to bring the big picture to the nation’s schools, where Gates hopes to place “The African Americans” as part of a permanent curriculum.
“If we start with first grade, in 12 years we’ll have the whole school re-educated about the real nature of American history,” he says. “The series is designed to inspire black people about the nobility of our tradition in this country, and to inspire ALL people about the nobility of that struggle.
“If we confront the excesses and sins of the past,” he says, “it will help us understand where we are today.”
The introspective, six-part, six-hour series, hosted by the Harvard scholar, social critic and filmmaker, examines the trials and tribulations of African-American history, charting the course of five centuries.
During episode one titled “The Black Atlantic,” Gates explored the earliest documentation of enslaved and free Africans arriving on American shores.
And as expected, many are commending the docu-series for its in-depth storytelling;
Everyone (you hope) knows that slavery existed at least as long ago as Ancient Egypt. Many are also aware that black Africans helped the white slave traders who arrived on their shores. But Episode 1 (“The Black Atlantic: 1500-1800”) delves deeper — in Sierra Leone, the Temne people would sell the Loko people, so they didn’t see it as turning against their own — and points out that Europeans invented the idea that skin color determined who was and was not enslavable. As Mr. Gates observes, “the dehumanization of an entire race” takes a while. — The New York Times
Gates’ documentary remains faithful to the familiar template of African American history we learn in school. But by adding the less familiar facts and figures of history to the story, he gives us a much broader perspective. — The Washington Times
Chapter one, “The Black Atlantic,” races through the 300-year history of the slave trade. Part two covers the 19th century up to the start of the Civil War, and so on, with the final chapter beginning in 1968 — the year Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated — and carrying through the present, and how the election of the first African-American president hasn’t resolved long-simmering racial tensions. — Variety
Besides its all-inclusive historical sweep — from the first African to set foot in the New World to the first African American to occupy the White House — what distinguishes Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s new series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” from many previous documentaries on the black experience is … Henry Louis Gates Jr. — Los Angeles Times
Gates intends the series to help teach race in what he considers to be an utterly ineffective school system; he’s quick to cite studies indicating that black history is not being taught well in schools. —Salon
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