Updated October 2014

PBS LearningMedia: The African Americans -- Many Rivers to Cross

Powerful videos, resources deftly explore African-American history

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Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Critical Thinking

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PBS LearningMedia's collection titled The African Americans – Many Rivers to Cross offers teachers and students a host of valuable materials to explore themes of the African-American experience, from 1500 to the present. The lessons use clips from Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s series Many Rivers to Cross to engage students regarding cultural and political issues such as slavery, the Harlem Renaissance, and Civil Rights.

A handful of the lessons include support materials for use with the video clips. For example, in the lesson Many Currents: African American History Since the Civil Rights Movement, there are discussion questions, handouts, and teaching tips. The videos and the activities should help students gain a deeper understanding of the complex history of African Americans. Some of the highlights include a research assignment on a historical figure who fought for equality during the Jim Crow era, and graphic organizers that support students' learning about non-violent protests. You'll want to have access to a projection device, as the videos are best shown in a whole-class setting. 


  • It Takes Courage to Be Weak
  • The African American Migration Story
  • Many Currents: African American History Since the Civil Rights Movement
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Featured review by
Sara J. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Fort Bend ISD
Sugar Land, United States
History of African Americans via video, discussion and reading
This is a well done documentary with quite a bit of ancillary support - including lesson plans - that teachers can use with little work required on their part. I can not speak toward the social students curriculum, but I do know that for reading historical fiction, students were able to gather enough background knowledge that they had a firm understanding of the thematic points, if lacking in details.
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