Henry Louis Gates Jr. discusses The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

One way to bring about structural change in America after a tragedy like the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is through schools and their curricula, according to The Root's editor-in-chief, professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

He hopes to do just that with The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, a six-hour PBS documentary series that traces 500 years of black history and premieres Oct. 22, the Associated Press reports.

"To tell the whole sweep of African-American history — no one's tried to do that. That was what we were crazy enough to do," Gates said in an interview on Wednesday.

He hopes the series will find its way into the nation's schools as well as its living rooms, and acquaint audiences of all ages — both black and white — with black history, about which he says both races are equally ignorant.

"How can I help with the conversation about race? Schools are tools for the formation of citizenship. My target is the school curriculum: getting an integrated story told," he said.

An author, Harvard scholar, social critic and filmmaker, Gates has produced such past documentary series as "Wonders of the African World" and "Finding Your Roots."

In this latest project, he reaches back to the beginning — which turns out to be about a century earlier than many accounts of black history in the New World.


Read more at the Washington Post.

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