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.

illustration of white man looking at families with different skin color
World Channel Presentation
Premiere Date
July 6, 2020
19 minutes
Funding Initiative
Short-Form Open Call
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2020 Webby Awards-Video: Animation
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2020 Webby Awards-Video: Diversity & Inclusion
  • filmmaker Ed Bell

    Ed Bell

    Ed’s career has covered a lot of ground. He is a filmmaker, director, animation artist, and modern day griot. Prior to joining Maverix, he was a key member of Wild Brain directing team. While there he was a lead commercial director, as well as helped to develop numerous television and film projects for the studio. For Wild Brain’s commercial division, Ed’s Show more unique hip-hop/ anime style can be seen in inspired commercial campaigns for clients such as Coca-Cola, Sony, Nike, Target and Wrigley’s Winterfresh Gum with the acclaimed Urban Hip Hopper spot. Ed was also a contributing director on HBO’s Good Night Moon & Other Sleepytime Tales, which garnered the 1999-2000 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program. Show less

    filmmaker Clementine Briand

    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

    filmmaker Pierce Freelon

    Pierce Freelon

    Pierce Freelon is an accomplished Hip Hop/soul/electronic musician and Emmy-award winning producer, director and professor from Durham, NC. For over 15 years Pierce has traveled the world teaching Hip Hop and music production to youth in community centers. He is the co-founder of Beat Making Lab, an Emmy Award winning PBS web-series, has taught in the Show more departments of music and African American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the writer, composer and co-director of History of White People in America. Pierce is also the founder of Blackspace, a digital maker space where he has mentored dozens of youth, teaching digital storytelling through music and film. For over a decade, he has been the frontman of critically acclaimed Jazz/Hip Hop quartet The Beast and has toured internationally and released a series of albums, EPs, and mixtapes. His debut Children's Music album D.a.D is dropping on July 31st. He is the son of famed Grammy- nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon, and the late preeminent architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Phil Freelon. Pierce lives in Durham with his wife and their two young children. Show less

    filmmaker Jonathan Halperin

    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

    filmmaker Aaron Keane

    Aaron Keane

    Aaron has been working in the audio industry for nearly 25 years. He started as a musician and recording engineer in the studios of New York City. He has worked with a diverse group of musical artists including, Mos Def, Pharcyde and Shawn Colvin. For the past 13 years, he has been composing music for TV, film and digital media with Trailblazer Studios in North Show more Carolina. Recent credits include music composition for Emmy Award winning PBS series Twice Born and two short films for TED Science and Wonder. Other credits include scores for Discovery, HBO, NatGeo, and Amazon. Show less

    filmmaker Drew Takahashi

    Drew Takahashi

    Drew is presently the Emperor of Funjacket Enterprises. Previously he was co- founder and Chief Creative Officer of Colossal Pictures. Using any and all techniques in film and video, he directed or creative directed broadcast identities (MTV, Showtime, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon), commercials (Coca-Cola, Intel, Nike, Honda and Show more Levi’s) music videos (Bobby McFerrin, Prince, Joe Cocker, Kronos Quartet) and interfaces (Apple, Americast, Nuvana, Microsoft). At Funjacket Enterprises, Drew has continued to design and direct an even more diverse range of opportunities including naming and identities (Laika Entertainment, House Special, Nuvana), corporate communications (Apple, Intel, Mozilla, Inkling, Corning/Mythbusters), transformative games (CPB, Nike Foundation, Stanford D School, Alameda Probation Department) and animated portions of documentaries (National Geographic, NRDC, Sea Studios, Actual Pictures). 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 America. Episode 1 introduces viewers to Virginians' invention of the white “race” 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. Episode 4 reflects on George Washington’s destruction of Haudenosaunee, an Indigenous nation and the oldest democracy in North America at the time, while episode 5 brings viewers to 1815 when hereditary slavery of Africans had become the backbone of the economy and the social structure of the new nation. In episode 6, Afong Moy, the nation’s first Chinese woman, is exhibited as a circus oddity in 1830s New York. Viewed collectively, these shorts capture the truth of what it means to be American—that “us” and “them” are constantly redefined, that racial history deserves contemplation, and that above all else, Americans are bound by rich differences in experience and identity.