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.
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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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