"Why we're overdue to know the brilliance of Africa's civilizations" PBS NewsHour 2/27/2017
SUMMARY: Archaeologists and scholars are learning more about Africa than ever before, from the digitization of records and the unearthing of ancient treasures. Audie Cornish talks with Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University about Africa's rich but overlooked history and how his six-part PBS series “Africa's Great Civilizations” took shape.
AUDIE CORNISH, NPR: The history of the African continent, home to the 15 percent of the world's population, remains a mystery for many.
Historian and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. admits, in his youth, it was a place he rarely considered. Now he has a new PBS documentary series that reveals great moments in the continent's pre-colonial history.
It's called “Africa's Great Civilizations.” He joins me now to discuss that work.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., welcome to the program.
HENRY Louis Gates JR., Harvard University: Thanks. Thanks for having me on.
AUDIE CORNISH: So, you have tackled all kinds of African-American history, but this goes all the way back, way back to cave paintings.
So, what was the genesis of this idea?
HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.: I wanted to do a comprehensive history of Africa, and this is it.
I have been thinking about it five years. Took us a year to shoot. We went to 12 African countries. And it's exhilarating, six-hour series on 200,000 years of African history.
When I was growing up, Africa was a place to be avoided, even for black people. Our images of Africa came from Tarzan and Ramar [of the Jungle] and Sheena [Queen] of the Jungle. And we were embarrassed about Africa.