This ambitious and poignant PBS documentary is enthusiastically hosted by scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He also serves as writer and executive producer of this six-hour series.
Educational institutions and citizens of the world have long promoted the idea that African history consisted only of records of meandering barbaric tribes and some primitive attempts to build communities before the arrival of sophisticated European leaders and settlers.
Gates and company take a fresh look at the history of Africa from the birth of humankind 195,000 years ago until 1896 and the dawn of the modern world.
A major mission of the series is to reframe our views of this large continent and its diverse peoples along with our relationship to them. "We are all Africans," Gates points out as he examines scientific discoveries proving that Africa is the genetic home of all currently living human beings! DNA records show that more than seven billion humans all are descendants of one African community. We are all related.
Another mission of the series is to convey this fact: "When these early human beings migrated out of Africa 80 to 50 thousand years ago, they weren't traveling alone. They were carrying something within them, and that something had developed slowly over the millennia. It was culture."
In these programs, we see that writing and painting discovered in Africa predates European artifacts. Africa produced the first ceramic technology, cotton textile weaving, and iron works. All of the gold used in Europe from 1000 A.D, to 1500 A.D. was mined in one of three regions in West Africa. Yet to this day, it is commonplace for people to think of Africans only with images of poverty, disease, starvation, AIDS, graft, civil wars, and child soldiers. Gates and company are challenging us to see African history in a much broader perspective.
Be sure to watch for details on the following and other fascinating subjects.
Episode 1: Origins
- The fossil remains near the Omo River
- Mitochondrial Eve
- Early climate change in the Sahara Desert
- The Great Pyramid of Giza
- The Bantu Migration
Episode 2: The Cross and the Crescent
- A treasured book written in Greek in the first century A.D.
- The pre-Christian Temple of the Moon in Yeha
- Africans of Berber descent as Christian theologians
- The spread of Islam through large areas of Africa
- The Ethiopian church and Saint Lalibela
- The monasteries at Lake Tana
Episode 3: Empires of Gold
- North and West Africa as the crossroads of advanced and wealthy trading civilizations
- The unusual cities of Fez known for its libraries
- The famous Quaraouiyine mosque, the world's oldest institution of higher learning
- Legendary Timbuku
- The gold wealth of the Empire of Mali
- Contemporary Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka
Episode 4: Cities
- Kilwa, an island port of Tanzania, and its Great Mosque
- Great Zimbabwe, the continent's Elodrado exporting gold and ivory
- Benin City in Nigeria with its extraordinary earthworks system
- Gondar, the capital city of Ethiopia with its palace complex and famous Fasilides' Bath
Episode 5: The Atlantic Age
- The king of Kongo's trade relationship with the Portuguese and conversion to Roman Catholicism.
- The Portuguese slave port in Angola
- The warrior queen Njinga, who outlasted 10 Portuguese governors
- The port of Ouidah, once the busiest slave market
- Resistance to the slave trade
Episode 6: Commerce and the Clash of Civilizations
- Competition for resources and trade in the nineteenth century
- The Zulu empire in South Africa
- The Arab kingdom on Zanzibar
- Discoveries of diamonds and gold
- How the Europeans carved up Africa into colonies
- The mythic status achieved by Ethiopia