Africans in America (1998) PBS

Judgment Day, 1831-1865 (1/2)

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Video Description

Judgment Day describes the last years before the Civil War. Abolitionists agitate against Southern slavery and Northern racism. Seeing their way of life continually under attack, Southern states angrily threaten to leave the Union. In 1850, a last political compromise -- a fugitive slave law -- trades away black rights in order to keep the nation united. As slaveholders call for resumption of the Atlantic slave trade, abolitionists fight back against slavecatchers with sometimes fatal violence. Radical abolitionist John Brown's raid on the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry sends shockwaves through the nation. The program ends with the birth of the abolitionists' vision: the end of slavery.

Documentary Description

America's journey through slavery is presented in four parts. For each era, you'll find a historical Narrative, a Resource Bank of images, documents, stories, biographies, and commentaries, and a Teacher's Guide for using the content of the Web site and television series in U.S. history courses. How did America build a new nation based on principles of liberty and equality while justifying the existence of slavery? Did American slavery and American freedom have to exist side by side in the nation? How has this history shaped current views about race? Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery, takes on these tough questions in a four-part documentary series which debuted in October, 1998 on PBS.

As the United States continues to struggle with issues of race and equality in modern society, this landmark television event examines the historical roots of some of today's most disturbing social problems. Africans in America executive producer Orlando Bagwell believes it's important to look back and learn from the past. "When we realize that we've spent more time as a people with slavery than without it, we can begin to see it as a centerpiece of our national identity," says Bagwell. "My hope is that Africans in America offers an opportunity for open discussion of issues that Americans have not been comfortable talking about. If we recognize our shared history--then we're on the road to reconciling racial divisiveness."

Narrated by actress Angela Bassett (How Stella Got Her Groove Back,Waiting to Exhale, What's Love Got to Do with It?), Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery also features the voices of Andre Braugher, Avery Brooks, William Hurt, Brent Jennings, and Carl Lumbly, among others.

Filmed on location across twelve states and three continents, Africans in America is the first documentary series to examine fully the history of slavery in America. The programs use a combination of vivid first-person narratives, compelling interviews with historians and descendents, rich music, and cutting-edge scholarship. From the nation's early days as an English settlement to the start of the Civil War, each ninety-minute episode focuses on a different chapter in the historic struggle to define freedom.


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