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Henry Louis Gates Discusses PBS Series 'The African Americans'


Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is perhaps America’s most prominent black history scholar. In the last decade, his genealogical research has been the subject of several PBS specials.

His latest PBS project airs next month. It’s a six-part series called The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (airs Oct. 22 - Nov. 26). Professor Gates will discuss that series Monday evening in a sold out lecture at Charlotte’ s McGlohon Theater. He also spoke to WFAE's Mark Rumsey about the project, and how he thinks America's conversations on race need to change.

"Every time there is a racial tragedy or calamity, people call a conversation on race, they all meet somewhere and talk about it and then join hands and sing 'We Shall Overcome," Gates says. "This is not how you solve racism in America."

Instead, Gates says conversations on race must begin in schools, starting with kindergarten. And he says they need to happen "silently." Gates explains:

"You don't draw attention to it. You make it second nature. You just tell it the way it really was rather than say, 'OK class, this is February, Black History Month, and now we're going to talk about the Africans.' And then, when the end of the month comes, you don't a conversation about it anymore."

Here's Mark Rumsey's interview with Gates that aired on WFAE's All Things Considered:

Mark Rumsey grew up in Kansas and got his first radio job at age 17 in the town of Abilene, where he announced easy-listening music played from vinyl record albums.