The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

This series chronicles the full sweep of African American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent right up to today when America remains a nation deeply divided by race.

A More Perfect Union (1968-2013) - Preview


From Black Power to a black president, a look at African American lives after the landmark court case victories.

Extras + Features

  • Black is Beautiful: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Black is Beautiful

    S1 E6 - 3m

    Black pride is highlighted in the afro hairstyle, the Black is Beautiful message in advertising campaigns, and in Don Cornelius' music and dance program, Soul Train, which brought images of black youth to national television. Musician Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson believes Cornelius used the show's ads to promote Afro-centricity and that the show taught the important lesson of self-love.

  • Civil Rights Movement Leaders in Conversation: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Civil Rights Movement Leaders in Conversation

    S1 E5 - 1h 18m

    In an engaging conversation about the Civil Rights Movement, civil rights pioneers Rep. John Lewis, Georgia 5th District; journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault; and Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, look back and ahead with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. They also answer questions from the audience in a lively Q&A.

  • Ruby Bridges Desegregates a School: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Ruby Bridges Desegregates a School

    S1 E5 - 2m 59s

    Six-year-old Ruby Bridges integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960, escorted by federal marshals. Six years earlier, the NAACP had won a major legal victory with Brown vs. the Board of Education. That case declared the doctrine of separate but equal schools was unconstitutional.

  • Rise! (1940-1968) - Preview: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Rise! (1940-1968) - Preview

    S1 E5 - 30s

    Examine the long road to civil rights, when the contradictions in American society became untenable.

  • Racist Images and Messages in Jim Crow Era: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Racist Images and Messages in Jim Crow Era

    S1 E4 - 2m 25s

    Racist images in the Jim Crow era were used as propaganda to demean African-Americans and legitimize violence. A visit to the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University in Michigan reveals racist memorabilia and messages in all forms, from kitchen items to postcards featuring public whippings. Learn more about the redefinitions of racial stereotypes in Episode 4, "Making a Way Out of No Way."

  • Making a Way Out of No Way (1897-1940) - Preview: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Making a Way Out of No Way (1897-1940) - Preview

    S1 E4 - 30s

    During the Jim Crow era, African Americans struggled to build their own worlds within the harsh confines of segregation. At the turn of the 20th century, a steady stream of African Americans left the South, fleeing racial violence and searching for better opportunities in the North and the West. At the same time, there was an ascendance of black arts and culture, such as The Harlem Renaissance.

  • Robert Smalls: A Daring Escape: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Robert Smalls: A Daring Escape

    S1 E3 - 3m 8s

    Robert Smalls was enslaved and working on a ship used by the Confederate forces during the Civil War. In a daring escape past Fort Sumter, he sailed the ship full of fellow crew members and their families to freedom. He delivered the ship to Union forces and served with the Union during the war before becoming a South Carolina Representative to Congress.

  • The Age of Slavery (1800-1860) - Preview: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Age of Slavery (1800-1860) - Preview

    S1 E2 - 31s

    The Age of Slavery illustrates how black lives changed in the aftermath of the American Revolution. For free black people in places like Philadelphia, these years were a time of tremendous opportunity. But for most African Americans, this era represented a new nadir. King Cotton fueled the rapid expansion of slavery into new territories, forcibly relocating African Americans into the Deep South.

  • The Cotton Economy and Slavery: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Cotton Economy and Slavery

    S1 E2 - 3m

    Many stakeholders benefited from the cotton economy that fueled slavery's expansion. It increased the number of slaves in America and led to cotton plantations spreading across the Deep South to Texas. As African Americans were uprooted from the Upper South to the Deep South, this created the second largest forced migration in America's history. Learn more in "The Age of Slavery," episode two.

  • The Black Atlantic (1500-1800): asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Black Atlantic (1500-1800)

    S1 E1 - 30s

    The Black Atlantic explores the earliest Africans, both slave and free, who arrived in the New World. Through stories of individuals caught in the transatlantic slave trade, we trace the emergence of plantation slavery in the American South. The episode also looks at what that Era of Revolutions — American, French and Haitian — would mean for African Americans and for slavery in America.


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