The History of White People in America

Through musical animated shorts, The History of White People in America tells the history of how skin became race, and race became power.

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Funding Initiative
Short-Form Open Call
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Jonathan Halperin

Jon is an Emmy Award-winning director, writer and producer. He has produced, directed written and overseen documentaries for Amazon, PBS, National Geographic, Time, Inc., ITVS, TED, TechTV, Discovery, and for digital and theatrical distribution. In 2012, Halperin founded Room 608, with Mark Mannucci, a new media and documentary production company. Show more They’re executive producers of the Amazon series Lore, a hybrid fiction/documentary series for Propagate Content and Valhalla Entertainment as well as the HHMI series I Contain Multitudes for PBS Digital. He just won an Emmy for Best Science and Technology film for A Year in Space. Show less

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Clementine Briand

Clementine worked in Paris, France for four years at a commercial production company, working with brands such as Coca-Cola, IBM, L’Oreal, RadioShack, and McKinsey & Co. She worked across various mediums from corporate videos to television (CNN, BBC), and film. Her work took her throughout Europe and the United States, as well as in Georgia, China, Show more Mongolia, Israel, and Libya. Clementine moved back to the United States to pursue a career in the documentary and film industry, most recently helping to deliver quality short form documentary content for the Emmy award winning organization ITVS. Show less

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The Film

Through the entertaining and engaging lens of musical animated shorts, The History of White People in America examines how skin color has come to define race in our country. Episode 1 introduces viewers to the invention of the white “race” by Virginians in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. Episode 2 picks up the exploration a few decades later with an African man and an English woman -- husband and wife -- singing about the fate of their future as new laws render their love illegal. And in Episode 3, President Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings and one of their five children share illuminating insights on how skin became color, color became race and race became power. Each short highlights race as a social construct, invented to distinguish “us” from “them” throughout American history. Viewed collectively, these shorts capture the truth of what it means to be American – that “us” and “them” are constantly redefined, that our racial history deserves contemplation, and that above all else we are bound by our rich differences in experience and identity.