“Hey you, Caucasian,” Pierce Freelon raps with confiding urgency as the video begins. He goes on to break down the formation of American whiteness from varied ethnic groups—something defined not by what it was, but by what it wasn’t, meaning Black and Indigenous—over an energetic collage of animated images.  

It’s the first trailer for The History of White People in America, which premieres Monday, July 6 on The World Channel. Freelon—Blackspace founder, former Durham mayoral candidate, and soon-to-be “family album” creator—is the co-director, writer, and musical composer of the series, which was selected by curator Whoopi Goldberg for the Tribeca Film Festival’s animated-shorts category.

Freelon says that much of the music was produced at Blackspace, with beats, voice acting, and audio engineering from teens he mentors there. The series also features Durham musicians such as Freelon’s mother, Nnenna Freelon, who sings the role of Sally Hemings.

The debut episode is called “How America Invented Race,” to be followed by episodes on “How America Outlawed Interracial Marriage” and “How America Made Skin Color Power.”

Though science has made it known that skin color is a geographical history, not a biological destiny, that old belief still holds much power and undergirds systemic racism, and an interrogator as clear and engaging as Freelon can do much to undermine it. Watch the trailer below and subscribe to the series at PBS World.

YouTube video

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