Following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, where social and political divisions among Americans came into sharp focus, PBS imagined a project to report and reflect on the state of the country. The question at the heart of the project: “What does it really mean to be an American today?” They determined the only way to answer such a profound question was to have people from small towns, large cities, and every walk of life in America share their stories in their own words. Participants responded to a series of prompts and submitted their candid stories. When the American Portrait project started in January 2020, no one could have known that it would become one of the most significant years in American history. The project brought together more than 14,000 stories from across America and aired as broadcast specials in 2020 and a docu-series on PBS stations in January 2021.
We talk with Bill Margol, Executive in Charge of American Portrait for PBS, to learn more.