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David Harewood travels across America to explore how African American artists now dominate global popular culture. How have they acquired such influence in the 70 years since the civil rights era?

Episode 1

Actor David Harewood takes us on a journey across America to meet his heroes, and discover some of the true stories behind the incredible artists who captivated and inspired him, and changed the course of his life. Along the way he discovers how these African American performers, film-makers and writers have come to transform popular culture around the world. 

In the first episode, David takes us from the decade of his birth, the 1960s, to the birth of hip-hop in the 1990s. With songwriter Eddie Holland (Heatwave) he discusses how Motown’s creator, Berry Gordy, turned the sound of Black America into the sound of young America. Smokey Robinson reveals the label’s surprising links with the Civil Rights movement. Motown's legacy, including Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross, David discovers, had a profound effect on taking America on a journey towards integration. 

David follows the story of actor Sidney Poitier, who inspired his own choice of career, using his box-office power to change the script for In the Heat of the Night to enable his character, Virgil Tibbs, to make a stand against southern racism. Poitier’s co-star, Lee Grant, talks about the electric moment it created, and how people on the film set reacted with shock. 

David encounters fellow actor John Amos, who played Kunta Kinte in the groundbreaking TV series Roots, and together they discuss how the series rewrote history and forced America to reckon with its past. This resulted in a new conversation about race, power and violence, and the country could never look at itself the same way again. And meeting Blaxploitation star and Bond girl Gloria Hendry, David learns how Blaxploitation films redefined the movie business. 

The extraordinary moment that saw Michael Jackson’s Thriller video released to a global audience is unpacked with Jackson’s co-star in the video, Ola Ray, and David gets dancing tips from the man who taught Jackson the Moonwalk, Shalamar’s Jeffrey Daniel. (00:59:10)


Episode 2

David Harewood takes us from the birth of hip-hop in the early 1980s to the present day, exploring how a new generation of producers and performers increasingly began to own their 'creative capital', and became billionaires with lifestyles to match. 

He explores the influence of hip-hop on 90s film with director Allen Hughes, meets The Wire actor Jamie Hector, learns about the bling and excess of Puff Daddy's parties from his in-house photographer Johnny Nunez, talks with choreographer Sherrie Silver about her work on Childish Gambino’s This Is America video, and meets Black Panther star Florence Kasumba. (00:58:55)