Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross

Starting October 22, PBS will televise a six-part series titled "The African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross." 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.

The six-part series was developed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University.  Please see the series video at Series Preview to learn more.

  • Episode One: The Black Atlantic (1500 – 1800)
  • Episode Two: The Age of Slavery (1800 – 1860)
  • Episode Three: Into the Fire (1861 – 1896)
  • Episode Four: Making a Way Out of No Way (1897 – 1940)
  • Episode Five: Rise! (1940 – 1968)
  • Episode Six: A More Perfect Union (1968 – 2013)
Episodes Two and Three should be of particular interest to students of the American Civil War. 

Episode Two - The Age of Slavery illustrates how black lives changed dramatically after the American Revolution. For free black people in places like Philadelphia, these years were a time of tremendous opportunity. King Cotton fueled the rapid expansion of slavery into new territories, and a Second Middle Passage forcibly relocated African Americans from the Upper South into the Deep South. Yet as slavery grew, so did resistance. From individual acts to mass rebellions, African Americans demonstrated their determination to undermine and ultimately eradicate slavery in every state in the nation. The episode examines how Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen and Frederick Douglass played a crucial role in forcing the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics.

Episode Three - Into the Fire examines the the Civil War and Reconstruction.  From the beginning, African Americans were agents of their own liberation — forcing the Union to confront the issue of slavery by fleeing the plantations, and taking up arms to serve with honor in the United States Colored Troops. After Emancipation, African Americans sought to realize the promise of freedom — rebuilding families shattered by slavery; demanding economic, political and civil rights; even winning elected office.  However, an intransigent South mounted a swift and vicious campaign of terror to restore white supremacy and roll back African-American rights.

I hope you will examine this exciting new series that seeks to educate all Americans about the role of African Americans in the American Experience.

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