Making Black America: Through the Grapevine

Tuesdays at 8 p.m., beginning Oct. 4

Making Black America: Through the Grapevine is a four-part series hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., that chronicles the vast social networks and organizations created by and for Black people—beyond the reach of the “White gaze.” Professor Gates sits with noted scholars, politicians, cultural leaders, and old friends to discuss this world behind the color line and what it looks like today.

The latest documentary series by renowned scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., MAKING BLACK AMERICA: THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE highlights the vibrant cultural and social spaces at the heart of the African American experience. 

“For centuries, ‘the Grapevine’ has connected Black Americans in formal and informal networks not just as a way of communicating but of building and sustaining communities large and small,” said Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the program’s host, writer and executive producer. “From churches to fraternal and sororal organizations to Black Twitter, this is the story of the making of Black America and how, in the making, a people did more than survive the onslaught of enslavement and segregation. They redefined America and its cultural gifts to the world. All of us are grateful to our partners at CPB and PBS for giving us the opportunity to explore this history and what it can teach us as we struggle to overcome the challenges of our times.”

Dr. Gates is the series executive producer and host, working with directors Stacey L. Holman and Shayla Harris, who all recently worked together on Gates’s last documentary series, THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG (2021). 

Series directors Stacey L. Holman and Shayla Harris, noted, “throughout history, African Americans have created a dynamic community and culture that flourished beyond the color line. MAKING BLACK AMERICA celebrates the places and institutions that were built by and for Black people with hope, love and sustained by joy.” 

MAKING BLACK AMERICA chronicles the vast social networks and organizations created by and for Black people beyond the reach of the “White gaze.” The documentary series recounts the establishment of the Prince Hall Masons in 1775 through the formation of all-Black towns and business districts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, destinations for leisure and the social media phenomenon of Black Twitter. Gates sits with noted scholars, politicians, cultural leaders and old friends including Charles M. Blow (journalist and commentator), Angela Davis (political activist, scholar and author), André Holland (actor), Fab 5 Freddie (hip-hop pioneer and visual artist), Jason King (chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music), Killer Mike (rapper and activist) to discuss this world behind the color line and what it looks like today.

Over the course of four weekly episodes, MAKING BLACK AMERICA takes viewers into an extraordinary world that showcases Black people’s ability to collectively prosper, defy white supremacy, and define Blackness in ways that transformed America itself.

Oct. 4: “Buliding Black America”

As early as 1775, free Black people in the North and South built towns, established schools, and held conventions ─ creating robust networks to address the political, economic, and social needs of the entire Black community.

Oct. 11: “The Work of the Imagination”

With the hopes of a multi-racial community dashed, African Americans turn within, creating a community that not only sustains but empowers. From HBCUs to Black businesses to the Harlem Renaissance to political organizations, Black life flourished.

Oct. 18: “A Growing Resistance”

To survive a period of economic cataclysm and global war, African Americans relied on informal economies, grassroots organizations and cultural innovations behind the color line to sustain themselves and dismantle the oppressive realities of Jim Crow.

Oct. 25: “Life Beyond the Veil”

Despite the gains of legal desegregation, all Black political and cultural movements – from Black Power to Black Twitter – continued to provide a safe space for a community riven by class, sexuality and generational divisions to debate, organize and celebrate.

With MAKING BLACK AMERICA, Gates continues as one of the preeminent documentarians in public media by producing content bringing the African and African American experience to a broad audience, including the works THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG (2021); RECONSTRUCTION: AMERICA AFTER THE CIVIL WAR (2019); AFRICA’S GREAT CIVILIZATIONS (2017); BLACK AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE (2016); THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (2013); and AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES (2006). Gates’s robust slate of programming also includes the ongoing popular PBS series FINDING YOUR ROOTS WITH HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR., which will return to PBS for its ninth season with all-new episodes beginning Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. beginning January 3, 2023.

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