My husband and I recently watched this PBS documentary hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. Gates, (born September 16, 1950), is a literary critic, scholar and filmmaker known for his pioneering theories of African literature and African American literature.
There are two two hour segments, and the film covers a lot of ground. It examines the development of the black church from plantation roots up to the present day. For the black community, church was the one place where members could express themselves honestly. It was an institution under the control of the members, and gave the black community the ability to work together, pool resources, practice their own traditions and exercise power. It promoted black education and the formation of black businesses. Church was at the center of community life, and therefore cannot be separated from the study of black history. The documentary touches on slavery, emancipation, the Civil War, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights movement and more. It also traces the musical traditions of the black church from spirituals to hip-hop and rap. Gates interviews many scholars and ministers. Also included are clips of some of the political debates, musical traditions and important figures in different eras.
There is one failing my husband noticed. The film was critical of the conservative black church of today, and did not interview any conservative pastors. We would have preferred a more unbiased presentation.
VERDICT: 3 STARS. It was interesting, and a good look back at some important events that occurred during my own life. However, the unbalanced approach to present day churches made me question the integrity of the history presented as well.
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