Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates in Conversation at SXSW 2016

“Race is the single most important sub-theme in American history.” – Ken Burns

Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. have explored how race is part of the American fabric in their own work and championed the importance of public broadcasting. With USC Professor Dr. Todd Boyd as moderator, Burns and Gates discuss why race is critical to their understanding of America, their work, and how as a nation we deal with race today.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Among his multi-hyphenates, Gates is also a journalist, historian, literary scholar, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker for The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, and host of the acclaimed PBS genealogy series Finding Your Roots. Gates discusses his upcoming documentary Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise which will air on PBS in the fall of 2016.

Ken Burns has been making compelling documentary films for more than 35 years including The Roosevelts, Jazz, Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge as well as television series including The Civil War and The National Parks, and many more. Burns discusses his latest documentary film Jackie Robinson (which aired on PBS on April 11, 2016) represents a different image of Robinson than what the public may be accustomed to and exposes these myths. Gates and Burns go onto talk about mythology of historical individuals and how they are often frozen in one moment that doesn’t always tell the full (or even accurate) story.

Examining how race and conceptions of race influence our politics and policies, Gates and Burns explore America’s history from abolitionism to civil rights to the war on poverty and presidential campaigns. Burns states, “it’s important to realize that history is a table around which you can still have a civil discourse.” Watch the video above for the full session and audience Q&A with Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from Sunday, March 12 at SXSW.

Browse more 2016 Keynotes, Featured Sessions, Showcases, Red Carpets, Q&As, and more on our YouTube Channel. Stay tuned to and follow us on Twitter for the latest event recaps and 2017 information.

Photo by Amanda Stronza

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