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Henry Louis Gates examines ‘Black America Since MLK’

October 28, 2016 GMT

At a preview screening and panel discussion taking place tonight, Fri., Oct. 28, at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., known for his superb PBS series, “African American Lives,” will promote his forthcoming documentary “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise,” premiering Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. on WHYY.

While tonight’s event has sold out, the public is invited to visit whyy.org/specialcoverage.php at 7 p.m. to watch the live streaming event.

“Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise,” a two-part, four-hour documentary series hosted, executive produced and written by Gates, will premiere on PBS over two of tonight’s evening installments — Nov. 15 and Nov. 22 at 8 p.m.

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“I’m just going to make some opening remarks and then they’re going to turn it over to a panel discussion,” Gates said of tonight’s event, hosted by James Peterson of WHYY’s “The Remix.” “They’ll be talking about cases of gender discrimination, economic discrimination, racial discrimination and how they all interact. And there are some very smart people on that panel, like Salamishah Tillet, and I think it’s going to be great.”

In his own unique way, Gates explained during an exclusive interview with The Philadelphia Tribune his premise for “And Still I Rise,” which spans the past 50 years of our history in America.

“The conceit of my series is basically, if Martin Luther King woke up and asked you and me, ‘So Skip, Ms. Roberts, tell me, how are our people doing?’ And we’d say, ‘Well Dr. King, we’ve got a Black man in the White House — a beautiful Black family — elected two terms. We have more Black people in the middle class and the upper-middle class.’

“He’d say, ‘My! Hallelujah!’ And he’d say, ‘So we have no poverty left?’ We’d say, ‘Uh, the percentage of Black children living in poverty is almost the same, sir, as it was when you departed.’ Well, he would say, ‘How in the world did that happen?’ And that is the question that I want to ask and seek to answer.”

With the hope that America is on the road to understanding and possibly healing, Gates encourages everyone to listen to Tuesday’s discussion, and tune in to the premiere of “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise.”

“It is the first attempt to tell the history of our people, really, since my friend Henry Hampton did ‘Eyes on the Prize’ — the first history of the period since ‘Eyes on the Prize,’” he said. “It’s a love letter to Black America, and I hope everyone tunes in.”

For more information, visit whyy.org.

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