Posted 10 Nov 2016
'Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise,' a two-part, four-hour documentary series hosted, executive produced and written by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., will premiere on the Arkansas Educational Television Network Tuesdays, Nov. 15 and 22, at 7 each night. The series looks at the last 50 years of black history – from Dr. King to Barack Obama, from James Brown's 'I'm Black and I'm Proud' to Beyoncé's 'Formation' – charting the progress black people have made and raising questions about the obstacles that remain.
Gates offers a fresh examination of key events and turning points in American race relations and black history over the last five decades – animated by viewpoints that have rarely been heard on television, ideas that are not often said out loud and questions that many are afraid to ask.
'We are at a critical moment in the black experience in America,' Gates said. 'Over the past 50 years, following the remarkable strides made during the civil rights movement of Dr. King, African-Americans have achieved a level of cultural, political and economic influence that those early civil rights leaders could hardly have dreamed of.
'At the same time, poverty remains a stubbornly persistent way of life for far too many African-Americans, incarceration rates in our community are at an-all time high, and people are crying out to have their basic human dignity recognized, leading some to wonder if things really have changed. This series looks at the rich history of how we arrived where we are today, through all the highs and lows, and poses provocative questions about how we keep up a momentum of progress.'
The four-part series begins in 1965, in the wake of Malcolm X's assassination and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was followed five days later by an incendiary explosion of black rage: the Watts riots. It moves on to explore the Black Power movement that took much of America by surprise, telling stories of Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panthers and cultural icons like James Brown alongside an exploration of the cultural trends that expressed black pride, from Afros and dashikis to 'Soul Train.' The series continues, charting a wave of new opportunities and new consciousness that would lift black Americans to undreamed-of heights in Ivy League schools, major corporations, the Supreme Court and even the White House.
While portraying these victories, Gates also questions why another swath of black Americans has been left behind as the country's class divide has deepened over the last 50 years, causing the most vulnerable to suffer in ways that King and his peers in the civil rights movement would never have thought possible.
By examining the changes to black America wrought by cultural and political forces, new questions of identity, new modes of communication, a globalizing economy and mass incarceration, Gates asks what the black community has accomplished since 1965 – and what it means to be 'black' today.
Among those interviewed are Oprah Winfrey, Nas, Ava DuVernay, Jesse Jackson, Dr. Cornel West, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Donna Brazile, Robert L. Johnson, DeRay Mckesson, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, former Attorney General Eric Holder and Shonda Rhimes – as well as eyewitnesses to Hurricane Katrina, public intellectuals, education reformers, police officers in communities that have been shaken by racial unrest, and many others.
Major corporate support for 'Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise' is provided by Bank of America and Johnson & Johnson. Major support is also provided by the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation, in partnership with Hoover Milstein and Emigrant Bank; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Ford Foundation Just Films; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and public television viewers and PBS.
The Arkansas Educational Television Network is Arkansas's statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at aetn.org. AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).