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Independent Lens presents Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness


Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

In early America, anthropology zeroed in on supposed correlations between anatomical features and assumed behaviors of various races. Then came Melville J. Herskovits. At the turn of the 20th century, the white, American anthropologist of Jewish ancestry questioned this style of study and developed “cultural relativism:” The idea that cultures should be understood from the inside, on their own terms, and not from an anthropologist’s point of view. “Herkovits at the Heart of Blackness” tells of the late university professor’s studies and how they ignited controversy by challenging the way people thought about racial identity.