GBH Openvault

Basic Black; Making of Africans in America, The


License Clip

This program cannot be made available on Open Vault.

More material may be available from this program at the GBH Archives. If you would like research access to the collection at GBH, please email

Basic Black
Making of Africans in America, The
Program Number


Series Description

THe series was formerly known as Say Brother. Series title change as of 1/8/1998. This series is black produced and is one of public television's longest-running series that is rooted in and reflects the culture, concerns, achievements and history of people of African descent. Also includes controversial issues, African American artists, and events of special interest to the African American community.

Series release date: 1/8/1998

Program Description

Executive producer Orlando Bagwell, senior producer Susan Bellows, and project director Llewellyn Smith tell BASIC BLACK host Darren Duarte how they approached the enormous, complex subject of slavery in America to give viewers a new perspective on American history, not Black history. "When you look back at this period of history and the time of enslavement you’re forced to question things like ‘what does American freedom mean?’ ‘What does it really mean to be an American?’" says Bagwell, who previously produced the PBS programs Frederick Douglass: When the Lion Wrote History and Malcolm X: Make It Plain.

Weaving together interviews with scenes from Africans in America, BASIC BLACK explores how the documentary uses strong imagery and stylized, evocative reenactments to tell stories that pre-date most photography and all film. In addition, the producers share their personal reflections on being involved in the series. "Coming into this material I did not see myself connected to the country as an American," says Smith. "This material has made me rethink that belief and realize that I’m more of an American than I thought."

BASIC BLACK also speaks with some Boston teens involved with Artists for Humanity and the Youth Voice Collaborative, two organizations involved in the series’ extensive outreach to teens, to hear how Africans in America has made an impact on their lives and current race relations. "We think the series is really timely right now because the issue of race is something that…we live with every day," says Bagwell. "By studying this…history of slavery, there’s a possibility of understanding how we arrived at these ideas about race that we live with today."



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Chicago: “Basic Black; Making of Africans in America, The,” 11/12/1998, GBH Archives, accessed October 2, 2023,
MLA: “Basic Black; Making of Africans in America, The.” 11/12/1998. GBH Archives. Web. October 2, 2023. <>.
APA: Basic Black; Making of Africans in America, The. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.