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Host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., sits in the barbershop with Naneka Brathwaite, Bernard Lumpkin, Julee Wilson, Dennis Mitchell Jr. and Joseph Ravenell while shooting MAKING BLACK AMERICA: THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE
Courtesy of McGee Media/PBS
Host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., sits in the barbershop with Naneka Brathwaite, Bernard Lumpkin, Julee Wilson, Dennis Mitchell Jr. and Joseph Ravenell while shooting MAKING BLACK AMERICA: THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

Wednesdays, Feb. 1 - 22, 2023 at 10 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 a.m. on KPBS 2 / Watch now with KPBS Passport!

The latest documentary series by renowned scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., MAKING BLACK AMERICA: THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE, will premiere on Tuesday, October 4, 2022. The four-part series highlights the vibrant cultural and social spaces at the heart of the African American experience.

MAKING BLACK AMERICA chronicles the vast social networks and organizations created by and for Black people beyond the reach of the “White gaze.” The documentary series recounts the establishment of the Prince Hall Masons in 1775 through the formation of all-Black towns and business districts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, destinations for leisure and the social media phenomenon of Black Twitter.


Gates sits with noted scholars, politicians, cultural leaders and old friends including Charles M. Blow (journalist and commentator), Angela Davis (political activist, scholar and author), André Holland (actor), Fab 5 Freddie (hip-hop pioneer and visual artist), Jason King (chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music), Killer Mike (rapper and activist) to discuss this world behind the color line and what it looks like today.

Over the course of four weekly episodes, MAKING BLACK AMERICA takes viewers into an extraordinary world that showcases Black people’s ability to collectively prosper, defy white supremacy, and define Blackness in ways that transformed America itself.


Episode 1: “Building Black America” encore Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Hour 1 explores how free Black people, in the North and South, built towns, established schools, held conventions - creating robust networks to address the political, economic, and social needs of the entire Black community.

The Evolution of Black Literature

Episode 2: “The Work of the Imagination” encore Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Hour 2 explores how African Americans turn within, creating a community that not only sustains but empowers. From HBCUs to Black businesses to the Harlem Renaissance to political organizations, Black life flourished.

The Building of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Episode 3: “A Growing Resistance” encore Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - To survive economic disaster, hour three shows how African Americans relied on informal economies, grassroots organizations and cultural innovations behind the color line to dismantle the oppressive realities of Jim Crow.

Episode 4: “Life Beyond The Veil” encore Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 a.m. on KPBS 2 - Despite the gains of legal desegregation, hour four reveals how Black political and cultural movements - from Black Power to Black Twitter - provide a safe space to debate, organize and celebrate.

Annie Malone's and CJ Walker's Beauty Empires

Watch On Your Schedule:

The series is now on demand with KPBS Passport, a benefit for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Filmmaker Quotes:

“For centuries, 'the Grapevine' has connected Black Americans in formal and informal networks not just as a way of communicating but of building and sustaining communities large and small," said Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "From churches to fraternal and sororal organizations to Black Twitter, this is the story of the making of Black America and how, in the making, a people did more than survive the onslaught of enslavement and segregation. They redefined America and its cultural gifts to the world. All of us are grateful to our partners at CPB and PBS for giving us the opportunity to explore this history and what it can teach us as we struggle to overcome the challenges of our times.”

Series directors Stacey L. Holman and Shayla Harris, noted, “throughout history, African Americans have created a dynamic community and culture that flourished beyond the color line. MAKING BLACK AMERICA celebrates the places and institutions that were built by and for Black people with hope, love, and sustained by joy.”

Dr. Gates and the directors recently worked together on THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG


Join The Conversation: #MakingBlackAmericaPBS

Credits: Produced by McGee Media, Inkwell Media, and WETA Washington, D.C.