Professor Henry Louis Gates recently completed his latest documentary, The Black Church: This Is Our Story, and will unveil it on PBS during Black History Month.
The four-hour, two-part series explores the broad history and culture of the Black church and African American faith communities. Gates’ documentary will air on Feb. 16 and Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS.
“Our series is a riveting and systematic exploration of the myriad ways in which African Americans have worshipped God in their own images, and continue to do so today, from the plantation and prayer houses, to camp meetings and store-front structures, to mosques and mega-churches,” Gates explained in a statement about the project.
The Black Church: This Is Our Story includes interviews with Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, Bishop Michael Curry, Cornel West and Pastor Shirley Caesar. The film traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America and how it was used to organize and fight for freedom as well as being a spiritual and emotional tool for survival.
“This is the story and song our ancestors bequeathed to us, and it comes at a time in our country when the very things they struggled and died for — faith and freedom, justice and equality, democracy and grace — all are on the line,” Gates added. “No social institution in the Black community is more central and important than the Black church.”
In the film, Gates also explores the church’s current crossroads as its core beliefs are tested with the world’s secular trends and gender and sexual additions. The Rev. Al Sharpton, Yolanda Adams, the Rev. William Barber II, BeBe Winans and Bishop Vashti McKenzie were interviewed about the Black church’s historic relevance as well.
Check out a preview of The Black Church: This Is Our Story on the next page.