ABC Owned Television Stations presents "Our America: Hidden Stories," featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and ABC Race and Culture reporters across the country.
Hannah-Jones is the creator of the 1619 Project, a docuseries that reframes our country's history through a lens of race by examining the history of slavery and how this past continues to affect our communities today.
And to understand the depth of impact slavery has had in all sectors of society, we turn to the power of local storytelling. Hannah-Jones joined forces with ABC Owned Television Station Race and Culture reporters to shed light on these complex, multi-faceted issues, such as voting rights, capitalism, the emotion of fear, the legacy of music, maternal healthcare, justice and race.
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We begin in Houston, Texas, to explore the centuries-long fight to democratize America. Reporter Rosie Nguyen takes a close look at the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The fight for voting rights is not a thing of the past, unfortunately. To this day, there are still policies in place that make it difficult for communities of color, particularly Black and Latino populations, to cast their ballots. Texas is a prime example of a state with controversial legislation on voting.
In this segment, we look at whether our country has actually made progress when it comes to equity in voting. What do older voters of color, advocates, and historians remember about how things were before the Voting Rights Act of 1965? How does it compare to now? How do younger voters feel and what has their experience been? What fuels them to get their ballot cast? What is their outlook for the future?
Race & Maternal Mortality
The Black infant mortality rate is three times more than the white mortality rate in Los Angeles County, California. Reporter Anabel Muñoz explores the crisis and those who are taking matter into their own hands.
Muñoz spoke with LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who was a women's health advocate before holding office. And as a state senator, Mitchell authorized a bill in California that was signed into law requiring all prenatal healthcare providers to undergo implicit bias training.
And this year, Mitchell also authored a county motion passed to increase the access to doulas.
The story also takes us to Kindred Space LA, a birthing center in South Los Angeles, where they support individuals with low-risk pregnancies. Here, the co-founders share their story, as well as mothers who speak about their experiences.
Then, over in Central California, Reporter Kassandra Gutierrez, introduces local leaders using the power of data to bridge the gap of equity in maternal healthcare.
"The 1619 Project" by Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at how, in spite of some of our darkest periods in American history, Black people remained true to themselves - creating and working to shape the culture of music. Reporter Crystal Cranmore in New York and TaRhonda Thomas in Philadelphia celebrate the legacy of music through the Black experience.
Cranmore spoke with DJ Maseo from De LA Soul as well as music executives from Reservoir who headed an initiative to make De La Soul's music available digitally.
"We did this for the fans, we did it for De LA Soul," said Rell LaFargue, CEO of Reservoir.
Thomas covers the legacy of music over generations and its positive influence out of Philadelphia.
In African culture, the Grio has long been held as the keeper of stories. They are responsible for telling the history that keeps a culture alive. Those Grios are still preserving stories of the African American experience, but in a different form.
"The Grio told stories by way of the drum and through lyric," said multi-platinum songwriter and producer Carvin Haggins while working in his music studio in Philadelphia.
Working with artists including Will Smith, Jill Scott, Justin Timberlake and Musiq Soulchild, Haggins carved out a niche in the early 2000s that revolved around positive soul music that spoke to people around the world. His ability to encompass experiences in song was inspired by two other Philadelphia Music Legends: Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Better known as "Gamble and Huff," the duo established Philadelphia International Records and forged a sound that defined a generation of Black Americans. With songs like "Ain't no Stopping Us Now," "Me and Mrs. Jones," "Love Train" and the theme to the show Soul Train. The duo stood out for their big arrangements and their commitment to creating songs that reflected the true Black experience. Dexter Wansel created alongside them as an arranger, composer, songwriter and artist.
"Those messages were life-altering for a lot of us. Really helped in ways where people would start to stand up," said Wansel.
For Haggins, it's a responsibility to continue the storytelling duties of the Grio.
"It's only right for me to do that," Haggins said, "to write records that record our community."
As "Our America: Hidden Stories" continues to unpack the themes explored in "The 1619 Project" through a local lens, we turn our focus to capitalism. The constitution once declared that anyone who was not free would be counted as three-fifths of a person. Enslaved people had no rights, and they were considered private property. With the adoption of the 13th amendment, reporter Akilah Davis in North Carolina explores the belief and evolution of how prisons have become the modern-day plantation.
Davis visited one of the oldest state prisons, Roanoke River Correctional Institution, in Tillery, which I home to hundreds of male inmates who grow about ten million pounds of vegetables a year. Offenders working for the correctional enterprises can make up to $35 per week.
Some feel the rehabilitation program is life-changing and teaches jobs skills, others feel this is free labor. It's a debate Davis further unpacks in the story.
Next, we explore the topic of fear from a framework of slavery and its lingering psychological impact where enslaved black people were seen as a group to be feared. Reporter Julian Glover shares the untold history of the racist roots of restrictions on the second amendment, born from a narrative we were a people to be feared, and that feeling has shaped who many think has a right to self-defense and who doesn't.
Glover visits a firearm safety class in Oakland, Calif., where the attendees are all Black women seeking security and a layer of protection by learning how to safely handle and shoot a gun. Glover gets additional context and insight from Xavier Buck, PhD, the executive director at Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation.
The final topic of "The 1619 Project" takes a close look at how Americans can work towards alleviating the legacy of slavery. Reporter Leah Hope in Chicago examines ways people in the community are trying to bring about justice and equity through reparations.
Hope spoke with Ramona Burton, who was among 16 residents to get the first reparations from the city of Evanston in Chicago, which was $25,000 for each of them toward home improvements, a down payment or mortgage assistance.
Former Evanston councilmember Robin Rue Simmons shepherded the nation's first municipally funded reparations program through city council in 2019 after - she says - seeing the legacy of racism impacting her neighbors. She later founded First Repair a non-profit focused on advancing local reparations.
Rue Simmons is now sharing lessons learned with other towns and globally with United Nations fellows.In a one-night-only event, ABC will air the broadcast debut of two episodes of "The 1619 Project;" "Democracy" and "Justice," May 31 at 8 p.m. ET | PT. All episodes of "," from executive producer Nikole Hannah-Jones, are now streaming on Hulu.
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