As Americans prepare to celebrate the nation’s birth this Independence Day in the midst of historic uproar about racial disparities and injustices, WORLD Channel — the public media channel that helps us understand conflicts, movements and cultures that may be distinct from our own — presents a new animated musical series, The History Of White People In America.
In partnership with WORLD Channel and PBS’s Independent Lens, The History Of White People In America looks at the history of race in the United States, in particular how the crafting of the idea of the White race — of whiteness — helped shape the nation’s history, designating other groups for subjugation and having wide-ranging ramifications on social class and life experience that exist to this day. The series of digital short films will premiere on Monday, July 6, at 3pm here at WGBH.org and on WORLD’s YouTube channel.
Comprised of three short episodes with musical/spoken word narration and animated dramatizations, The History of White People in America takes the audience on a journey through American history, starting in the 17th century.
The story begins in Jamestown, Virginia, where an uprising of poor indentured Europeans and enslaved Africans against rich landowners leads to new laws designed to undermine unity between the poor of all backgrounds, and how “skin became color, color became race and race became power.”
Each episode explores a critical juncture in race in the United States, from the Virginia Slave Codes which made marriage between Whites and non-Whites illegal to the complicated truths of Sally Hemmings, who was both enslaved by, and mothered the children of, American forefather Thomas Jefferson.
“At this crucial period in American culture, when many longstanding racial inequities are being discussed and hopefully addressed, WORLD Channel is proud to present this series which traces the origins of our race-based society,” said Chris Hastings, executive producer for WORLD Channel. “This series offers a starting point for open and honest conversations on race and privilege so that we can all work toward creating a more equal and just nation and global community.”
The History Of White People In America is created by a collaborative of filmmakers, musicians and animators including: animation producer Leslie Arvio, animator Ed Bell, producer Clementine Briand, writer-singer-composer Pierce Freelon, producer-writer Jon Halperin, composer Aaron Keane and animator-editor Drew Takahshi.
"When Independent Lens began developing History of White People in America in 2016, we saw an incredible opportunity to work with this very talented, on-point filmmaking team and knew they'd make something truly special,” said Independent Lens Executive Producer Lois Vossen. “Their voices are vital to helping us understand how we got here, and how we move our country forward."
The History Of White People In America will be available for streaming on the WORLD’s YouTube Channel beginning July 6, at 3pm with the premiere of episode one. Episodes two and three will launch at 3pm on July 7 and 8, respectively.