The history of the African American people seems far too wide, deep and complex to boil down into 6 television episodes, but that’s what Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, has done with the series he has written and directed for PBS.
The series begins with the origins of slavery in Africa and covers five centuries of historic events right up to the present by highlighting 70 stories developed in collaboration with 40 historians. As the series host, professor Gates travels throughout the United States, leading viewers on a journey through African-American history. He visits key historical sites, debates with some of America’s top historians and interviews eyewitnesses.
Beyond providing a comprehensive black-history curriculum, the series is designed to make one thing clear: “There’s no America without African Americans,” says Gates.
He spoke to The Root about the program’s surprises and lessons and how he hopes it will be received.
The Root: What about the series will be most surprising to viewers?
Henry Louis Gates Jr.: I think the most surprising thing to many viewers will be that [the first] African Americans did not arrive in 1619, when … 20 Africans arrived at Point Comfort, Virginia, and were transported to Jamestown. Rather, it was a century before that, in Florida, when the first black man whose name we actually knew arrived, in 1513.
Juan Garrido was a free black man, not a slave. He was a conquistador, and like the others, he was looking for the fountain of youth. He went to Baja California, Mexico, looking for the black Amazons. We even have a petition he filed to [the] king of Spain asking for a pension. He claims he was the first person ever to sow wheat in the New World. [In the series] we trace the arc of black history from Juan Garrido’s riveting story to, half a millennium later, another black man who happens to be president of the United States.
Another big surprise is the role of Africans in slave trade. I’ve written about it before and it upsets people, but it’s the truth. According to historians Linda Heywood and John Thornton, 90 percent of Africans shipped across the Atlantic were captured by other Africans.
Gates, who is also The Root’s editor-in-chief, discussed the series on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin. Among the surprising moments he revealed was the time he made former secretary of state Colin Powell lose his famous, military composure. ”I asked Colin Powell and several other people, ‘Where were you on November 4, 2008, and what did you feel when Wolf Blitzer on CNN called the election for Barack Hussein Obama?’” Gates said, as you will hear in the clip below. “And to my amazement, [Powell] said, ‘We did it!’ and he wept. Man, it was just amazing!”
Be sure to tune in to NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, weekdays at 7 a.m. EST.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
1 of 30
2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
2 of 30
3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
3 of 30
4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
4 of 30
5. Jus haaaanngin out
5 of 30
6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
6 of 30
7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
7 of 30
8. new new
8 of 30
9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
9 of 30
10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
10 of 30
11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
11 of 30
12 of 30
13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
13 of 30
14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
14 of 30
15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
15 of 30
16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
16 of 30
17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
17 of 30
18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
18 of 30
19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
19 of 30
20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
20 of 30
21 of 30
22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
22 of 30
23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
23 of 30
24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
24 of 30
25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
25 of 30
26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
26 of 30
27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
27 of 30
28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
28 of 30
29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
29 of 30
30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
30 of 30