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. The collection of original posters created for The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross features quotations by notable African Americans, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Audre Lorde, Bobby Seale, and President Barack Obama.

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

    From the transatlantic slave trade to today's New Great Migration, learn about the major African-American migrations and how those movements changed the course of American history in this interactive resource from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.

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

    In this video 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, Virginia. Johnson owned a 250 acre tobacco farm until the booming tobacco industry in Virginia transformed slavery into a system based on race.

    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. Sensing that the talk of liberty and independence was not meant for slaves, Harry Washington joined the Loyalist regiment, the Black Pioneers, along with 20,000 slaves who decided to fight for the British.

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

    In this lesson, students explore the concept of “cause and effect” as it relates to the abolition of slavery in the United States in the 1800s. Using clips from the PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, students examine the causes and effects of events in the Antebellum period of American history that contributed to the end of slavery.

    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 and explores how negative perceptions of African Americans are perpetuated.

    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 on Homer Plessy’s 1892 refusal to leave a “whites only” train car in New Orleans, which led to the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson.

    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” and what became of this idea.

    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 and Americans’ responses to the passing of the 15th Amendment.

    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 how, in the 1920s, New York City’s Harlem neighborhood evolved from a white middle class community into the center of an African American cultural movement, known as the Harlem Renaissance.

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

    Besides jazz, the Harlem Renaissance also introduced films made by independent filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross explores African American music and film to popular culture in the 1920s and 30s.

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

    In this lesson, students begin by analyzing quotations about activism and social change, and rewriting them in their own words. Students view video segments from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross to learn about the philosophy of non-violence and about the role of nonviolent protest in the Civil Rights Movement. They conclude by writing first-person accounts from the point of view of a civil rights protester in 1950s and 1960s America.

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

    The peaceful marchers on the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama ended with assaults by the state police that were broadcast nationwide by television networks. This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross examines the impact of media coverage on this 54-mile march.

    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 who founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.

     

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

    In this media gallery, you will find a series of videos from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross that examines the major movements and turning points in African American history from 1968 to the present, including the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement, Afrocentricity in culture, the rise of the black middle class, the development of hip hop culture, the effects of the War on Drugs, and the election of Barack Obama. As you view the videos, consider the legacy of the civil rights movement, the tensions that emerged from the progress made, and how they reshaped the African American experience.

    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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