The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Expand/Collapse The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross


Noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history in his groundbreaking series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. The series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds.

Using video clips from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, this collection of lesson plans addresses a wide range of themes of the African-American experience from 1500 to the present.

  • African American Quotation Posters

    This media gallery includes posters that can be displayed in the classroom and used to launch discussions around the themes in The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.

    Grades: 7-13+
  • The African-American Migration Story

    This interactive resource from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross traces African American history through the lens of migration routes.

    Grades: 7-13+
  • Successes and Failures in Resistance to Slavery

    In this lesson from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, learn about runaway slaves who fled to St. Augustine, Florida and were granted freedom by the Spanish for political reasons.

    Grades: 6-10
  • The Evolution of Slavery in Colonial Virginia

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross traces evolution of slavery in Colonial Virginia through the life of Anthony Johnson, an African American who lived in Jamestown.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Harry Washington

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross describes the life of Harry Washington, a slave owned by George Washington at the beginning of the American Revolution.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Antebellum Agents of Change: Causes and Effects of Abolition

    In this lesson, students view clips from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross and explore the concept of “cause and effect” as it relates to the abolition of slavery in the United States in the 1800s.  

    Grades: 2-4
  • The Second Middle Passage

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross shows the expansion of slavery in America from 1790 to 1860 and its impact on the lives of free black men.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Images of African Americans

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross examines the ways in which pro-slavery proponents defended slavery. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Calculated Acts: Civil Disobedience and Social Change

    In this lesson from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, students explore civil disobedience as a tool for social change, focusing specifically onthe Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case of 1896. 

    Grades: 7-9
  • Forty Acres and a Mule

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross explains the origins of the phrase “forty acres and a mule.”

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Struggle for the Vote

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross examines the political context of the African Americans’ struggle for the right to vote.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Free but Not Free: Life After the Emancipation Proclamation

    In this lesson from The African American: Many Rivers to Cross, students explore the realities of life after the Emancipation Proclamation and learn about courageous individuals who fought against the inequalities African Americans experienced.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Harlem in the 1920s

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross shows the changing neighborhood of Harlem in New York City during the 1920s. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Music and Films of the Harlem Renaissance

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross explores the contributions of jazz and independent films to popular culture during the Harlem Renaissance.

    Grades: 9-12
  • It Takes Courage to be Weak

    In this lesson from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, students begin by analyzing quotations about activism and social change, and rewriting them in their own words.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Selma, Alabama: The Role of News Media in the Civil Rights Movement

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross examines the impact of media coverage on the 54-mile civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Ella Baker and the SNCC

    This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross tells the story of Ella Baker, the unsung hero of the civil rights movement. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Many Currents: African American History Since the Civil Rights Movement

    This series of videos from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross explores the legacy of the civil rights movement on African Americans from 1968 to the present. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Hutchinson’s Rebellion

    In this video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, examine Hutchinson’s rebellion (also known as the Stono rebellion), a slave revolt that started outside Charleston, SC, but ultimately failed.

    Grades: 6-10
  • St. Domingue

    Learn about the slave revolt in St. Domingue (now Haiti) that led to the world’s first black republic in this video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.

    Grades: 6-10

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