Production Biographies, Production Teams & Associated Scholars

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross Production Biographies

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Executive Producer, Writer, Presenter

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University. He is the author of Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (Random House, 2011) and 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.  The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, ed. Abby Wolf (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2012), a collection of three decades of his work, was published in 2012.  He co-wrote Lincoln on Race and Slavery, with Donald Yacovone (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

Professor Gates is editor-in-chief of, 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 Kwame Anthony Appiah, of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience and Encyclopedia of Africa: Two-Volume Set (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).  He co-edited The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present, with Claude Steele, Lawrence D. Bobo, Michael Dawson, Gerald Jaynes, Lisa Crooms-Robinson, and Linda Darling-Hammond (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), and Call and Response: Key Debates in African American Studies, with Jennifer Burton (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010).  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; Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (Oxford, 1992); and Tradition and the Black Atlantic: Criticism in the African Diaspora (Basic Books, 2010).  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 has published 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, 2nd ed., 2004) 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), Faces of America (2010), Black in Latin America (2011), and Finding Your Roots (2012). For a complete list, visit Prof. Gates’ full filmography.

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. In 2013, he was named to AARP’s list of The “Influentials”: 50 Over 50.  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 to John Redman, a Free Negro who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Peter W. Kunhardt
Executive Producer

Peter Kunhardt formed Kunhardt Productions, now Kunhardt McGee Productions, in 1987. Currently he is an executive producer of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS) and a second season of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS). Most recently he has worked on Makers: Women Who Make America (PBS), Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  (PBS), Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words (HBO), Teddy Kennedy: In His Own Words (HBO), African American Lives 1 & 2 (PBS). He has also co-authored four companion books, including Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography (Knopf and ABC) and Looking for Lincoln 

Dyllan McGee
Executive Producer

Dyllan McGee is a partner and Emmy-award winning executive producer at Kunhardt McGee Productions.  She is currently Executive Producer on The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS). She recently founded the critically-acclaimed MAKERS: Women Who Make America (PBS and AOL, 2013).  Recent productions also include: Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS, 2012), Emmy-nominated, Gloria: In Her Own Words (HBO, 2011), Emmy-award winning Teddy: In His Own Words (HBO), This Emotional Life (PBS) and Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS, 2010). Other works include: African American Lives 1 & 2, (PBS, 2006 & 2008), Oprah’s Roots (PBS, 2007), Looking for Lincoln (PBS, 2009), ‘til the River Runs Clear (PBS, 2007); The Road to 9/11 (PBS, 2005), In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 (HBO, 2002); and The American President (PBS, 2000).

Julie Anderson
Executive Producer
Executive Producer of Documentaries and Development, WNET

Julie Anderson is an executive producer of documentaries and development at WNET. She is currently working on The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS). Prior to WNET, Anderson served as a producer for HBO documentary films where she oversaw all aspects of production. Anderson’s work on the documentary short God is the Bigger Elvis (HBO, 2012) got her an Academy award nomination. Preceding her work at HBO, Anderson served as creator, executive producer, program development for CNN’s iReport Film Festival. She also worked as co-creator and executive producer for ESPN’s 60-minute magazine series, E:60 and as creator, executive producer for BET’s 60-minute talk show, Meet the Faith. Anderson has received four Emmy awards and two Peabody awards.

Stephen Segaller
Vice President of Programming, WNET
Executive in Charge, WNET, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Stephen Segaller oversees all national and local programming from WNET’s producing subsidiaries – THIRTEEN, WLIW21 and Creative News Group. These productions include: Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Secrets of the Dead, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Cyberchase, NYC-Arts, and Reel 13; documentary series featuring Henry Louis Gates Jr., Niall Ferguson, and Simon Schama; and special projects like the recent Shakespeare Uncovered.

Rachel Dretzin
Senior Producer

Rachel Dretzin is a partner and executive producer at Ark Media. She is currently the senior producer of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS). She was senior producer of the ten-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  (PBS.) Her documentaries for Frontline have earned her an Emmy nomination, a Peabody Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Grand Prize and the du-Pont Columbia Silver Baton. They include Football High (2011); Digital Nation (2010); Growing Up Online (2008); Failure to Protect (2003) The Persuaders (2004); Merchants of Cool (2001) and The Lost Children of Rockdale County (1999.) In addition to her work for Frontline, Dretzin has produced pieces for NPR’s All Things Considered, MSNBC’s Edgewise, AMC Movie Classics and a 15-minute film for The New York Times called “Naked.”

Leslie Asako Gladsjo
Senior Story Producer

Leslie Asako Gladsjo is currently the senior story producer of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. She recently served as Senior Story Editor for the 10-hour national PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr (2012). She produced and directed episodes of the PBS series African American Lives (2006), African American Lives 2 (2008), and Faces of America (2010). Prior to that she was based in Paris, where she directed long-format documentaries on social and cultural topics for European public television stations including Arte (Une Enfance Gaie, Prier dans la Cité des Anges and many others), BBC (Pandemonium), France 2 and France 5 (Peuples d’Ici, Français d’Ailleurs: Les Turcs de Paris), as well as shorter pieces for M6, Canal Plus and others. Her independently-produced films including Truth Under Siege (1994), an award-winning feature-length documentary about dissident media in former Yugoslavia, Stigmata: The Transfigured Body (1992) and a series of collaborations with the controversial machine performance group Survival Research Laboratories have won awards at national and international festivals.

Production Teams

About WNET
In 2013, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.

About Kunhardt McGee Productions
For 25 years Kunhardt McGee Productions, led by Peter Kunhardt and Dyllan McGee, has been making documentary films about the people and ideas that have shaped our history. Kunhardt McGee is currently in production on the six-hour series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Most recently, the company produced MAKERS: Women Who Make America, a broadcast and online initiative with PBS and AOL that aims to be the largest collection of women’s stories ever assembled. Other PBS films include: Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2012), Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2010), Looking for Lincoln (2009), Oprah’s Roots (2007) and African American Lives 1 and 2 (2006 & 2008). For HBO, Kunhardt McGee Productions produced Emmy-award nominated, Gloria: In Her Own Words (2011) and Emmy award-winning Teddy: In His Own Words (2010). Other notable works include This Emotional Life, Looking for Lincoln, In Memoriam, PT Barnum, The American President, Bobby Kennedy: In His Own Words, and JFK: In His Own Words.

About Inkwell Films
Inkwell Films was founded by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to produce sophisticated documentary films about the African and African-American experience for a broad audience. Currently in production, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a six-part series for PBS. Most recently Inkwell Films has co-produced Finding Your Roots (2012), Black in Latin America (2011), Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2010), Looking for Lincoln (2009), African American Lives 2 (2008), Oprah’s Roots (2007), and African American Lives (2006). Inkwell Films is currently developing Finding Your Roots 2, a 10-part series for PBS.

About Ark Media
Ark Media is an award-winning documentary film company founded in 1997 by the husband and wife producing team of Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin. Ark partnered with Kunhardt-McGee Productions on the Henry Louis Gates Jr. series, Finding Your Roots (2012) and Faces of America, (2010) and also with Kunhardt-McGee, produced Looking for Lincoln (2009) and the Makers project for PBS. Ark’s numerous films for the esteemed PBS series’ Frontline and American Experience have won nearly every major broadcast award: the Emmy, DuPont-Columbia, Robert F. Kennedy, Writers Guild and Peabody Awards, as well as earning an Academy Award nomination and official selection to the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to Many Rivers to Cross, the company is currently in production on the six-hour PBS series Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies and a four-hour series for PBS, The Italian-Americans. Ark has also produced documentaries for The New York Times, American Movie Classics, ABC, and the History Channel.

Associated Scholars

Bill Andrews, University of North Carolina
Mia Bay, Rutgers University
Ira Berlin, University of Maryland
David Bindman, University College of London
David W. Blight, Yale University
Vincent Brown, Harvard University
Lonnie Bunch, Director of NMAAHC
Clayborne Carson, Stanford University
Laurent Dubois, Duke University
Brent Edwards, Columbia University
David Eltis, Emory University
Eric Foner, Columbia University
Glenda Gilmore, Yale University
Steven Hahn, University of Pennsylvania
Evelynn Hammonds, Harvard University
Linda M. Heywood, Boston University
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harvard University
Darlene Clark Hine, Northwestern University
Thomas Holt, University of Chicago
Gerald Horne, University of Houston
Walter Johnson, Harvard University
Peniel Joseph, Tufts University
Robin D. G. Kelley, University of Southern California
Jane Landers, Vanderbilt University
Jill Lepore, Harvard University
Thomas Mellins
Ingrid Monson, Harvard University
Philip Morgan, Johns Hopkins University
Susan O’Donovan, University of Memphis
Annette Gordon Reed, Harvard University
Eva Sheppard Wolf, San Francisco State University
John Stauffer, Harvard University
Patricia A. Sullivan, University of South Carolina
James Sweet, University of Wisconsin
John Thornton, Boston University
Stephen Tuck, Harvard University

© 2013 WNET. All rights reserved.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a film by Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films, in assocation with Ark Media.