What if Martin Luther King Jr woke up and asked, “What happened since I’ve been gone?” The answer is the premise of “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise” – the latest documentary series from Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The two-parter premieres on PBS November 15 at 8 p.m., with Gates serving as host, executive producer and writer. There is also a companion book, “And Still I Rise,” published in 2015.
In the 50 years since King was assassinated, progress in Black America has been complex. African Americans have dominated sports, music and pop culture over the past few decades, but struggled since 1965 in the economic and political realms. “Black America Since MLK” explores this multi-faceted coin, examining mass incarceration, child poverty and police brutality alongside the election of the nation’s first black president.
“I want white America and black America to listen to black people talking to each other about what their lives mean and what these events signify,” said Gates, who chairs the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards jury. “I want Americans to realize we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
This series promises new faces will emerge as eyewitnesses to history.
“We’re all familiar with the leadership — especially the male leadership, so I wanted to tell the story of Ella Baker,” Gates told Salon. “But I was also finding foot soldiers, who didn’t make the evening news but were sitting in those churches, clapping their hands, but had never been interviewed before. So we spent a lot of time on the ground, just talking to people. ‘Hey, were you there? Do you want to be in the series?’… We wanted to widen the lens.”
Viewers can tune in November 15 and 22. Watch the official trailer below: