The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Last night saw the premiere of a six-part series on PBS, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Airing Tuesdays through Nov. 26th, the series is written and hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Harvard University), who writes on the series website that

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…. Since my senior year in high school, when I watched Bill Cosby narrate a documentary about black history [1968’s Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed — see the full program below], 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.

Beginning with an hour on the history of the slave trade from 1500 to 1800 (The Black Atlantic), Gates’ new series has already drawn rave reviews from the likes of New York Times critic Anita Gates (no relation to the host):

Striking artwork is used to illustrate the early years. Inspiring stories of brave men, women and children introduce us to Harry Washington, one of George Washington’s slaves, who ran away from Mount Vernon and joined the British Army; to the first sit-in (a refusal to worship from the “black pews”) at a Philadelphia church in 1786; and to Mound Bayou, Miss., an all-black town founded proudly by former slaves. But we’re left wishing there were time to learn more.

Gates previously produced Faces of America and two series of African American Lives, among other public television programs. Among his books on African American history is 2011’s Life Upon These Shores.

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