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America Beyond the Color Line

Harvard professor Louis Henry Gates travels to the East coast, the deep South, inner city Chicago, and Hollywood to interview influential African Americans and investigate their views on the status of black Americans at the start of the new century. 2003. Dist.: PBS. 220 min.

Black Hollywood Does the increasing success of African-Americans as film actors, directors, and producers signal a genuine shift in the role of race and the influence of people of color in the movie business? In this program, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. journeys to the West Coast and asks whether Hollywood remains institutionally racist or whether it is becoming increasingly color-blind in pursuit of the box office dollar. Interviewees include Chris Tucker, Samuel L. Jackson, Alicia Keys, Quincy Jones, Nia Long, Don Cheadle, and John Singleton. 56 min.

Ebony Towers The existence of a small group of African-Americans at the heart of the corporate and political establishment is something that, just two decades ago, seemed unimaginable. How did they get there and what is the significance of their success? Beginning at Harvard University, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. travels to New York City and Washington, D.C. to ask if this new black elite represents genuine progress for black America as a whole. Interviewees include Colin Powell, Russell Simmons, Vernon Jordan, and many others. 56 min.

Streets of Heaven Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. visits Chicago's South Side in this revealing program, finding out what life is like for residents of notorious housing projects like the Robert Taylor and the Ida B. Wells. "What happened," Gates wonders, "to the city of refuge my father's generation sought in the North… where ‘the streets of Heaven were paved with gold'?" Confronting a culture of criminality, poverty, and despair, the film takes an unflinching look at the uncertain American dream for which one-fifth of black America still struggles. 56 min.

The Black Belt In this program, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. finds new meanings in the streets of Memphis, Birmingham, and Atlanta—the battlegrounds on which civil rights were won for black southerners in the 1950s and 60s. The very cities from which African-Americans fled during the era of Jim Crow are today drawing them back by the tens of thousands. But how much have these cities really changed since the civil rights era? Interviewees include Morgan Freeman and Maya Angelou. 56 min.