Skip to main content

Educators invited to national outreach event for PBS documentary on African-American history

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, a new PBS documentary
October 02, 2013

Eight, Arizona PBS, in partnership with the City of Phoenix Latino Institute and the Arizona Informant, will host an event Oct. 5 to unveil the six-part, six-hour series, "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross."

The event, which is free to attend, will lead educators and others serving educational roles in the community through a full-day agenda of professional development – integrating the landmark series into educational curricula – from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the historic A.E. England building in Downtown Phoenix, 424 N. Central Ave., Phoenix 85004. Three hours of professional development credit is available to educators for participating, at no cost to participants.

Written and presented by noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross" documentary series is scheduled to premiere at 7 p.m., Oct. 22, on Eight, Arizona PBS and other PBS stations nationwide, and will run weekly, for six consecutive weeks.

The documentary chronicles the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed – forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, the series moves through five centuries of remarkable historic events, right up to the present – when America is led by a black president, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race.

The agenda for the Oct. 5 curriculum development event includes:

• 8:30 a.m. – Registration and continental breakfast, exhibit tables

• 9 a.m. – Welcome remarks from Eight, Arizona PBS and series producers WNET Thirteen from New York City

• 9:15 a.m. – Video introduction to the series

• 9:30 a.m. – Keynote address by Neal Lester, ASU professor of English, specializing in African American literary and cultural studies

• 10 a.m. – Panel discussion with Arizona African American Community Panel, facilitated by Neal Lester. Panelists include: Cloves Campbell, Ahmad Daniels, Calvin C. Goode, Art Hamilton, Josephine Pete and Judge Penny Willrich.

• 11 a.m. – AZPBS Learning Media presentation

• 11:30 a.m. – Producers' presentation of "Many Rivers to Cross" by WNET Thirteen, NYC

• 12:30 p.m.  – Complimentary lunch with musical performance by Dennis Rowland

• 1:30 p.m. - Producers' presentation of Many Rivers to Cross (continued)

• 2:30 - 3 p.m. – Concluding thoughts and workshop evaluation

The event will also include demonstrations on developing a lesson plan from the information in the film. Registration for the event allows educators to receive three hours of professional development credit at no cost. Guests will also enjoy a complimentary lunch and continental breakfast. Register at

Arizona will be the first stop on the producers’ tour of 15 U.S. cities/PBS stations selected for this project.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Eight, Arizona PBS on the national professional development initiative for 'The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,'” says Chris Czajka, senior director of educational outreach at WNET, the New York City PBS station that produced the series. “Eight has a national reputation for providing high-quality educational resources and experiences for educators across Arizona, and we’re sure the station’s work on this project will be outstanding.”

“WNET has provided rigorous, engaging professional development and community outreach for Eight, Arizona PBS before – including Faces of America and MISSION US,” adds Kim Flack, associate general manager for educational outreach at Eight, Arizona PBS. “We love working with them and are honored that they chose Arizona as their first stop. We are looking forward to this great opportunity to highlight local African American Arizonans sharing regional history and personal stories in this special October event ahead of the broadcast.”

"The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross" website will include video from the series – including all six full episodes for a limited run – as well as scenes not included in the films. In addition to video, the website will elaborate on and explore the rich history covered in the series with text, timelines, images and other multimedia, including: a collection of graphics featuring quotations from well-known African Americans for individuals to share on a number of social media platforms; a blog by Gates that highlights 100 interesting and unexpected facts from African American history; and an invitation for viewers to submit and browse stories about, and reactions to significant moments in history. The website will offer visitors the chance to personalize their experience and share series content on social platforms.

The anchor of the series’ presence on social media platforms will be Gates himself  sharing content and behind-the-scenes photos from his own accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Fans on social media will be offered early access to particular content and opportunities to connect with Gates and scholars from the program, via live online social viewing events.

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.