Dr Henry Louis Gates Jr*Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. has released a companion book for his recent six-part PBS documentary “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” along with his collaborator Dr. Donal Yacovone.

The book features Gates’ latest findings on African-American history.

The book and documentary delves in African-American history from the 1500s to the present day.

“Many of us were told that black history in this country began in 1619 when 20 Africans arrived in Jamestown, but a black conquistador Juan Garrido actually came to what is now the United States in the early 1500s,” said Gates in an interview with theGrio.

“Our black conquistador, a free black man, is all new information for most people. That was an amazing find.  The first slaves, who were also pre-Jamestown, didn’t arrive until about 20 years after Garrido. I wanted to show the complexity of the black experience in the New World.“  Garrido led a life full of Caribbean adventures, including joining in conquests alongside Juan Ponce de León.

Another interesting story that can be found in The African Americans is that of Anthony Johnson. Originally known as Antoney and possibly one of those 20 Africans who arrived in Jamestown in 1619, this man owned 250 acres of land by 1635.

“Not only did this brother have 250 acres of land, he had white indentured servants and he also had a slave,” said Gates who noted that the black slave took Jordan to court to be considered an indentured servant like the white people and the court sided with Jordan. The slave remained a slave.  Jordan’s son and grandson were also land-owning black men.

Unfortunately, when Jordan died in 1670, a white man was allowed to seize his property because under the law at that time Jordan was a black man, he was not a citizen and so his family had no rights to keep the property.

According to Gates, the book and the series are suitable teaching materials for middle school, high school and college.

“The African Americans: Many Rivers” to Cross is available now online and in book stores.

Read/learn MORE at theGrio.