UCLA historians played key role in new PBS series on Africa
Church of St. George in Lalibela, Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay.)

UCLA historians played key role in new PBS series on Africa

“Africa's Great Civilizations,” a new PBS series, was shaped by two historians from UCLA: Christopher Ehret (UCLA Professor Emeritus of History) and John Thornton (UCLA Ph.D. 1979, now professor at Boston University). It airs nationwide on Feb. 27, Mar. 1 and Mar. 2.


UCLA International Institute, February 24, 2017 — The PBS series, “Africa’s Great Civilizations,” produced by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., will air on PBS stations nationwide on February 27, March 1 and March 2. Told from an African perspective, the series takes us from the origins of our common ancestors in Africa through the end of the 19th century. The trailer can be viewed here.

Christopher Ehret. UCLA Professor Emeritus of History Christopher Ehret has been a primary advisor to the series, in which he is featured as an expert narrator. In addition to Ehret, another primary advisor to the final production was Professor John Thornton of Boston University, who earned his Ph.D. in African history at UCLA in 1979 under UCLA Professor Emeritus of History Ned Alpers. Thornton is one of the major figures of the African history field today. So although the PBS series may appear to be a Harvard production, it is also very much a UCLA production as well.

Ehret is a professor of African history and African historical linguistics, whose research focuses on linguistic taxonomy and reconstruction with the archaeological record. He has published eight books and over 70 scholarly articles on a wide range of historical, linguistic and anthropological subjects. Ehret has also contributed to a number of encyclopedias on African topics and on world history.

PBS describes “Africa’s Great Civilizations” as showing the complexity, grandeur and diversity of many millennia of undiscussed and unknown details of Africa's compelling and dramatic history. Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., presents a new vision not only of Africa's pivotal place in world history, but also of the world's relation to Africa. (See the PBS press release below.)

There are six episodes in the series; two will be shown each evening:

Monday, February 27, 9–11 p.m., PST
Episode 1, Origins (through 300 CE)
Episode 2, The Cross and the Crescent (300–900 CE)

Wednesday, March 1, 9–11 p.m., PST
Episode 3, Empires of Gold
Episode 4, Cities (900–1500 CE)

Thursday, March 2, 9–11 p.m., PST
Episode 5, The Atlantic Age (1500–1800 CE)
Episode 6, Commerce and the Clash of Civilizations (19th century)

Happy viewing!

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017