Henry Louis Gates Jr. at The Paris Theatre for The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr at the Paris Theatre: "It's a series about roots, but also about routes." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. half-joked on the red carpet that his six-part series was the only film project timed precisely for 2013 to coincide with the arrival of the first African in America, five centuries ago in 1513.
12 Years A Slave is an unrelentingly brutal account, based on Solomon Northup's memoir published in 1853 as a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the antebellum United States. McQueen depicts the grimaces of enjoyment in the most cruel acts and juxtaposes the rosy skies and dangling gossamer trees of the American South with the struggles to survive in a world without justice.
Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles with Henry Louis Gates, Jr Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
"Purveyors of cool" during the Harlem Renaissance, the disastrous impact of D.W. Griffith's Birth Of A Nation (1915), a large white mob burning down the Greenwood section of Tulsa, the Green Book motorist guide, sixties hairstyles, and 2005 Katrina rescues - the series touches on a lot of issues and can function as a gateway to further explore.
Gates said: "It's so counterintuitive. Every other history series on the African American people is starting in 1619 with the first 20 coming to Jamestown. We start a 106 years earlier. And we go from that free black man from Spain who ended his days in Mexico City in 1513 all the way to the re-election of President Barack Obama and the second inauguration.
The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross TAO afterparty Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
"Real conversations about race happen where real conversations about citizenship happen - in our schools. That's what we have to do with race - We have to put the story of the African-American people into the curriculum."
The invitation for the evening came from Dr Georgette Bennett & Dr. Leonard Polonsky, Harvey Weinstein, Arianna Huffington, Wynton Marsalis, Jessye Norman, Glenn & Debbie Hutchins, Howard & Abby Milstein with the afterparty at TAO.
The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross poster at TAO afterparty in New York Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
12 Years A Slave is out on general release in the US now and will be released in UK cinemas on January 24, 2014.
Lee Daniels' The Butler will be released in the UK on November 15