The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Posted by Ashley Strong on

The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross is a six-part, six hour primetime series airing October 22 – November 26th on PBS SoCaL at 8PM. This is the first documentary film series to chronicle the full sweep of African American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent, through the arrival of black conquistadors in North America in the 1500s, to the disembarking of twenty slaves in Virginia in 1619, and onward--through almost four hundred subsequent years of historic events to 2008, when Barack Obama became the United States’ 44th President.

Building upon existing research and drawing from recent scholarship, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. guides viewers on an engaging journey across continents and centuries to shed new light on the experience of being African American. Contrary to what is commonly thought, the road to freedom for blacks in America was not linear, but instead, like the course of a river, full of loops and eddies, with progress slowing (often suddenly) and at times, reversing.  African American history encompasses multiple locations and venues, and must be viewed through a transnational perspective to be fully understood.


The series is accompanied by sample lesson plans and curriculum which adhere to national learning standards are designed for immediate use in junior and high school classrooms  containing  video segments from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., comprehensive instructions for classroom implementation, printable student handouts, links to online resources, and suggestions for extension activities to enhance your students' reading, viewing, and appreciation of African-American history.

Additional lesson plans will be posted following the national broadcast of each episode of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.

On Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 65 middle and high school teachers joined PBS SoCaL at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles celebrating the most recent prime time series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. PBS SoCaL hosted  Vera Stewart (Bank of America), Bobby McDonald (PBS SoCaL board member) as honorary speakers and Charmaine Jefferson as the keynote speaker. In addition, Chris Czaijka joined us from WNET for two hour long presentations centered around the series, lesson plans and curriculum related to the content of the series. Those involved in the event were served a delicious meal from Dulan’s Catering from Los Angeles. The teachers that attended were presented with lesson plans, curriculum, series resources, notebooks and a USB drive filled with information on local educational organizations. Check here for photos of the evening.



Major corporate support for The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is provided by Bank of America.  Additional corporate funding is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and McDonald’s.  Leadership support is generously provided by the Abby and Howard Milstein Foundation, in partnership with HooverMilstein and Emigrant Bank.  Major funding is also provided by the Ford Foundation, Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky in Memory of Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, Richard Gilder, the Hutchins Family Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Support is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.