Henry Louis Gates' PBS Documentary to Cover 500 Years of Black History

The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross will premiere on Oct. 22.

Posted: 08/08/2013 12:21 PM EDT

In an effort to reform the way American classrooms approach the conversation of race, author and scholar Henry Louis Gates will soon introduce a new PBS documentary that will trace 500 years of African-American life.

The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross will be a six-hour special which he hopes will be watched in schools and the living rooms of all Americans, regardless of race. 

"How can I help with the conversation about race? Schools are tools for the formation of citizenship. My target is the school curriculum: getting an integrated story told," he said, according to the Associated Press.

The new film will lead with an account of Blacks' arrival to the New World that is about a century earlier than what is usually reported in textbooks.

Associated Press reports:

"The very first African to come to North America was a free man accompanying Ponce de Leon who arrived in Florida in 1513, more than a century before the first 20 Africans arrived in Jamestown in 1620," Gates said. "Nobody was talking about those first 107 years of African-American history."

Gates has also tried to get the inside story that he says has commonly eluded historians.

"I've always been struck by the quality of conversations in a Black beauty parlor or a Black barber shop, as opposed to what Black officials say or what Black teachers write in a textbook," Gates said, "because we edit ourselves.

Read full story here.

The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross will premiere on Oct. 22. A companion book by the same title will be published on Oct. 1, according to Google Books. 

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(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)