By A. Peter Bailey
Even though some elected officials attempt to rewrite history and remove from school curriculums painful chapters ranging from slavery to George Floyd, there has been a renewed interest in the stories and figures that shaped the Black community and, in turn, the nation.
One of the few retrospectives that has so thoughtfully, yet succinctly, explored the history, culture, and contributions of Black America is “Black History in Two Minutes (or so),” a digital video podcast series written and narrated by noted historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Recently, the series took home another Webby Award, bringing the series’ total to six Webby Awards, while underscoring its impact with the public.
The series, which explores significant historical events and people who have shaped Black culture and history, has already won two Webby Awards for Best Podcast: Documentary (2020, 2021), along with three for Best Video Series: Education & Discovery (2020, 2021, 2022).
“Open discussion and debate will enable us to find solutions to the racial inequality that persists in the nation today,” said Gates, the Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. “Part of that discussion requires a fuller understanding of Black history, and this series opens the door for Americans of all ages—regardless of color—to witness the contributions of Black Americans to the nation’s story.”
Gates added, “I’m honored to see that ‘Black History in Two Minutes (or so)’ was honored with a Webby Award. It’s a testament to the hard and important work everyone who helped make it possible is doing.”
The podcast was initiated in 2019 by Executive Producer and philanthropist Robert F. Smith, who decided to launch the series to educate Americans about Black history during a time when the Black community continued to face numerous threats.
“The series is a way to make Black history more accessible and digestible, not just for Black Americans, but for all Americans,” said Smith. “Because to truly address racial injustice today and move forward as a nation, we must first look to our past and understand the sacrifices made by Black Americans and their roles in shaping both Black culture and U.S. culture.”
The podcast comes amid the backdrop against the police killings of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and other young Black men, and just months after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a critical tool for diversity in our colleges and universities and the fight to keep Black history a part of school curriculums.
“This podcast is now more important than ever before,” Smith said. “We are literally watching as some of our country’s elected officials try to erase or forget parts of our history. If schools cannot teach real history, then it must be up to us to educate the next generation so we can end this cycle of discrimination and hate.”
Along with the podcast, the series also features teaching guides, giving educators a convenient way to incorporate information from the episodes.
Among the topics and figures discussed on the digital podcast are jazz great Billie Holiday, school integration, the Civil War, Jackie Robinson, the birth of the Hip-Hop movement and the 2008 election that saw Barack Obama become the U.S.’s first Black president.
Episodes of “Black History in Two Minutes (or so)” can be found here.
Author and Journalist A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony Magazine, is a founding member of the C. Delores Tucker Chapter of the Assocation for the Study of African American Life and History. He can be reached at Alfonzo.Bailey@gmail.com.