This 6-hour series is led by Dr. Gates Jr. — host, among other things, of the wonderful show, Finding Your Roots and filmmaker of the recent four-hour PBS documentary, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise (2016). Dr. Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He is also the recipient of fifty-five honorary degrees and an Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form, as well as the Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and NAACP Image Award.
African History Is The History Of Human Civilization
From the worldview and life perspectives of some, it may seem easy to dismiss African history as secondary to that of European or post-colonial history. This is further from the truth. Dr. Gates Jr. explores 200,000 thousand years of African history and culture with a goal to normalize the conversation of African history as part of, if not the foundation of, human history.
“In his new six-hour series, Africa’s Great Civilizations, Henry Louis Gates Jr. takes a new look at the history of Africa, from the birth of humankind to the dawn of the 20th century. This is a breathtaking and personal journey through two hundred thousand years of history, from the origins, on the African continent, of art, writing and civilization itself, through the millennia in which Africa and Africans shaped not only their own rich civilizations, but also the wider world.”
PBS Africa’s Great Civilizations
African history has contributed to much of what we see in our modern world. Some contributions include the origins of trade, iron work, language, the structure of communities and cities, architecture, royalty, and a hierarchical working class, to humbly name a few. In a mini interview, Dr. Gates Jr., and a few others, talk about how Africa’s contributions to the modern world upheld traditional world orders through their goods, and, to #ShiftYourPerspective a bit, the use of their bodies as forced labor. Just imagine what the Americas and the united states would be if not for the slavery of Africans (and Natives too)? Life, and this country, would be unrecognizable because it would not exist.
Reframing History To Include History
It is important to acknowledge the role that historians have in shaping history and historical facts — for better or for worse. The history of people is ultimately a narrative of human progress; and like all narratives, it is constructed and highly influenced by the creator’s worldview and life perspective. This is an inherent bias of being human that both influences how we understand our world and shapes how we choose to define it. Sometimes there are some that use their bias to willfully shape, ignore, and exclude individual’s truths and realities from the larger narrative. Other times it is because they simply do not know the truth.
I think Africa’s Great Civilizations could not have come at a better time.
Africa’s Great Civilizations is part of a much needed awareness and re-educating project to reframe the historical narrative and to acknowledge that this world of ours is much larger and grander than we ever imagined. Let us actively seek the truth.
Wonders Of The African World
In addition to Africa’s Great Civilizations, Dr. Gates Jr. has already been exploring the history of Africa and African culture through Wonders Of The African World, an active effort to reframe history and to “discover a wealth of African history and culture in Wonders of the African World.” It is an amazing resource that I highly recommend making time to take a look at.
Africa’s Great Civilizations Official Trailer, Mini Interview With Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., & NPR Interview
Below are the official trailer for the show, the link to the mini interview with Dr. Gates Jr., where he, and others, briefly talk about what the show means as a history, and the NPR Interview where Dr. Gates Jr. talks about the show and current events, among other things. If you have not seen the show, it is available to stream through PBS. | Africa’s Great Civilizations’s website.
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Wonders Of The African World’s “Retelling The Story” and the header image are screenshots from their respective websites.