The acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson and his production company Firelight Films announced today that CREATING THE NEW WORLD: THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE will air on PBS in 2021. The four-part documentary will be the final installment in Firelight’s three-part series for Independent Lens, called America Revisited, which began with THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION (2016) the first comprehensive historical documentary on the iconic organization, and TELL THEM WE ARE RISING: THE STORY OF BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES (2018)which chronicled the 150 year history and impact of HBCUs. Both films garnered the highest African-American viewership for any Independent Lens broadcast.
This announcement, which Nelson made at the PBS Annual Meeting in Nashville, comes just as the country begins to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to colonial Virginia in August 1619. The date commemorates the deep impact the transatlantic slave trade would have upon the founding of the United States.
“The transatlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity that took place across centuries and reached every corner of the globe. It’s impossible to understand the modern world without a grasp of the transatlantic slave trade,” director Stanley Nelson said. “The business of buying and selling human beings shaped economic, social and political institutions; established racial and geographic hierarchies; and entrenched wealth disparities. In the United States, current debates about Confederate monuments, reparations for descendants of enslaved people, and systemic racial inequality can be traced to enduring fault lines around the legacy of slavery. In order to grapple with this painful legacy, we must first understand it.”
In four one-hour programs, each covering a defined historical period and featuring a specific voyage as its narrative spine, the series explores the demographic, economic and moral transformations wrought by the slave trade, African participation and resistance to the trade, the business of the trade and the experience of enslaved people at the heart of the trade. Leveraging the latest scholarship, forensic science and recently unearthed archival material found across four continents, the series will challenge widespread popular misconceptions about the slave trade.
CREATING THE NEW WORLD will serve as centerpiece of an ambitious audience engagement and educational campaign beginning in 2019 and continuing through the broadcast in 2021 on the public television series, Independent Lens. The campaign aims to catalyze a new conversation about race; the enduring legacy of centuries of forced migration, enslavement and subjugation; and the wealth that was created — and denied to African-Americans — as a result of the trade.
The engagement campaign will create ongoing opportunities for education, reflection and engagement through public programming, in high school classrooms, and online through a robust interactive website. The campaign will feature partnerships with national and international organizations, events in ten U.S. cities in collaboration with PBS stations and cultural and educational institutions, standards-based curriculum for high school social studies, and resources for teachers and facilitators leading conversations in local communities.
Stanley Nelson is among the premier documentary filmmakers working today. Nelson, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, was awarded an individual Peabody Award for his body of work in 2016. He has received numerous honors over the course of his career, including the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences. In 2014, Nelson received the National Medal in the Humanities from President Barack Obama.
His latest film MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL, the definitive look at the life and career of the iconic jazz artist, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 marking Nelson’s tenth feature to premiere at the prestigious festival spanning twenty years — a record for a documentary filmmaker.
Directed by Stanley Nelson and produced by Nazenet Habtezghi and Hazel Gurland-Pooler, CREATING THE NEW WORLD: THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE is a PBS Distribution release of a Firelight Films and ITVS production in association with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Major funding for CREATING THE NEW WORLD: THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, National Endowment for the Humanities, Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and the Independent Television Service. Principal funding for companion education and engagement activities from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundations and the Wyncote Foundation. Firelight Media is also grateful to Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice as its resources have been critical in properly researching this project.
For more visit pbs.org/independentlens.