Black in Latin America, a new four-part series on the influence of African descent on Latin America, is the 11th and latest production from renowned Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., writer and presenter of the acclaimed PBS series African American Lives 1 (2006), Oprah’s Roots (2007), African American Lives 2 (2008), Looking for Lincoln (2009) and most recently Faces of America (2010). Black in Latin America is the third of a trilogy that began in 1999 with the broadcast of Professor Gates first series for public television, Wonders of the African World, an exploration of the relationship between Africa and the New World, a story he continued in 2004 with America Beyond the Color Line, a report on the lives of modern-day African Americans. Black In Latin America, premiering nationally Tuesdays April 19, 26 and May 3, 10, 2011 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), examines how Africa and Europe came together to create the rich cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Latin America is often associated with music, monuments and sun, but each of the six countries featured in Black in Latin America including the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, has a secret history. On his journey, Professor Gates discovers, behind a shared legacy of colonialism and slavery, vivid stories and people marked by African roots. Latin America and the Caribbean have the largest concentration of people with African ancestry outside Africa — up to 70 percent of the population in some countries. The region imported over ten times as many slaves as the United States, and kept them in bondage far longer. On this series of journeys, Professor Gates celebrates the massive influence of millions of people of African descent on the history and culture of Latin America and the Caribbean, and considers why and how their contribution is often forgotten or ignored.
Haiti & the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided In the Dominican Republic, Professor Gates explores how race has been socially constructed in a society whose people reflect centuries of inter-marriage, and how the country’s troubled history with Haiti informs notions about racial classification. In Haiti, Professor Gates tells the story of the birth of the first-ever black republic, and finds out how the slaves’s hard fought liberation over Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Empire became a double-edged sword.
Cuba: The Next Revolution In Cuba Professor Gates finds out how the culture, religion, politics and music of this island are inextricably linked to the huge amount of slave labor imported to produce its enormously profitable 19th century sugar industry, and how race and racism have fared since Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in 1959.
Brazil: A Racial Paradise? In Brazil, Professor Gates delves behind the façade of Carnival to discover how this ‘rainbow nation’ is waking up to its legacy as the world’s largest slave economy.
Mexico & Peru: The Black Grandma in the Closet In Mexico and Peru Professor Gates explores the almost unknown history of the significant numbers of black people—the two countries together received far more slaves than did the United States —brought to these countries as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, and the worlds of culture that their descendants have created in Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific, and in and around Lima, Peru.
Black in Latin America is a production of Inkwell Films, Wall to Wall Productions and THIRTEEN in association with WNET. Written and presented by Henry Louis Gates Jr., Executive producers are Henry Louis Gates Jr., Jonathan Hewes and William R. Grant. Series producer is Ricardo Pollack. Directors are Ricardo Pollack (Haiti & the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided and Brazil: A Racial Paradise?), Diene Petterle (Cuba: The Next Revolution) and Ilana Trachtman (Mexico & Peru: A Hidden Race). Funding for Black in Latin America is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Television Stations and Viewers Like You. Additional funding is provided by the Ford Foundation, Richard Gilder and Alphonse Fletcher.
Executive Producer, Writer, Presenter
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, as well as director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He is the author of Faces of America (New York University Press, 2010), which expands on interviews he conducted for his critically acclaimed PBS documentary series of the same name, and Tradition and the Black Atlantic: Criticism in the African Diaspora (Basic Books, 2010).
Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine focusing on issues of interest to the African American community and written from an African American perspective, and the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and Africana Studies. He is co-editor, with K. Anthony Appiah, of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. With Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, he is the co-editor of the eight-volume biographical encyclopedia African American Lives (Oxford, 2008).
In addition, Professor Gates is the author of several works of literary criticism, including Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the ‘Racial’ Self (Oxford University Press, 1987); The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988), winner of the 1989 American Book Award; and Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (Oxford, 1992). He is the author of Colored People: A Memoir (Knopf, 1994), which traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s; The Future of the Race (Knopf, 1996), co-authored with Cornel West; Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man (Random House, 1997); and In Search of Our Roots: How Nineteen Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past (Crown, 2009), which won an NAACP Image Award in 2010.
An influential cultural critic, Professor Gates’s publications include a 1994 cover story for Time magazine on the new black Renaissance in art, as well as numerous articles for The New Yorker. In addition, he has edited several anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (W.W. Norton, 1996), and The Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers (Oxford, 1991), and is the co-editor of Transition magazine. Previously for PBS, Professor Gates produced and hosted Wonders of the African World (1999), America Beyond the Color Line (2004), African American Lives (2006), Oprah’s Roots (2007), African American Lives 2 (2008), Looking for Lincoln (2009) and Faces of America (2010).
Professor Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He received a B.A. in English Language and Literature, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell and Duke Universities. Professor Gates has received 51 honorary degrees, as well as a 1981 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award,” the 1993 George Polk Award for Social Commentary, and the 2008 Ralph Lowell Award, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s highest award. In addition, Professor Gates was named one of Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” in 1997, one of Ebony magazine’s “100 Most Influential Black Americans” in 2005 and to Ebony’s “Power 150″ list for 2009. He received a National Humanities Medal in 1998, and in 1999 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2006, he was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution after tracing his lineage back to John Redman, a Free Negro who fought in the Revolutionary War.
Black in Latin America (PBS, April 2011)
Faces of America (PBS, February 2010)
Looking for Lincoln (PBS, February 2009)
African American Lives 2 (PBS, February 2008)
Oprah’s Roots: An African American Lives Special (PBS, January 2007)
African American Lives (PBS, February 2006)
America Beyond the Color Line (BBC/PBS, February 2004)
Wonders of the African World (PBS, October 1999)
Leaving Eldridge Cleaver (PBS, 1999)
The Two Nations of Black America (PBS Frontline, February 1998)
From Great Zimbabwe to Kilimantinde (BBC/PBS Great Rail Journeys, 1996)
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