Episode Five: Rise! (1940 – 1968)
Tuesday, November 19, 8-9 p.m.
Rise! examines the long road to civil rights, when the deep contradictions in American society finally became unsustainable. Beginning in World War II, African Americans who helped fight fascism abroad came home to face the same old racial violence. But this time, mass media — from print to radio and TV — broadcast that injustice to the world, planting seeds of resistance. And the success of black entrepreneurs and entertainers fueled African-American hopes and dreams. In December 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, heralding the dawn of a new movement of quiet resistance, with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its public face. Before long, masses of African Americans practiced this nonviolent approach at great personal risk to integrate public schools, lunch counters and more. As the civil rights movement scored one historic victory after another, non-violence was still all too often met with violence — until finally, enough was enough. By 1968, Dr. King, the apostle of non-violence, would be assassinated, unleashing a new call for “Black Power” across the country.
Episode Six: It’s Nation Time (1968 – 2013)
Tuesday, November 26, 8-9 p.m.
After 1968, African Americans set out to build a bright new future on the foundation of the civil rights movement’s victories, but a growing class disparity threatened to split the black community in two. As hundreds of African Americans won political office across the country and the black middle class made unprecedented progress, larger economic and political forces isolated the black urban poor in the inner cities, vulnerable to new social ills and an epidemic of incarceration. Yet African Americans of all backgrounds came together to support Illinois’ Senator Barack Obama in his historic campaign for the presidency of the United States. When he won in 2008, many hoped that America had finally transcended race and racism. By the time of his second victory, it was clear that many issues, including true racial equality, remain to be resolved. Now we ask: How will African Americans help redefine the United States in the years to come?
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.