4 episodes on 1 DVD (widescreen)


   Order Code: PBS584DV   
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This landmark series probes the history of slavery in America, underscoring its influence on all sections of the country.

Four hour-long programs present slavery as evolving from a loosely defined labor system—in which Africans could own property and seek legal redress—into a structure of tightly controlled servitude based solely on race. Breaking with documentary tradition, the series incorporates dramatic reenactments and stories of real people to draw viewers deep within the slave experience and give them a profound sense of what it meant to be in bondage. Episode 1, "The Downward Spiral," covers the period from 1619 through 1739 and spotlights the origins of slavery in America, focusing on Dutch New Amsterdam. Episode 2, "Liberty in the Air," spans the 1740s through the 1830s. Highlights include the participation of slaves in the Revolution, and how they resisted oppression in the nation’s early years. Episode 3, "Seeds of Destruction," concentrates on the years between 1800 and 1861. The program shows how sectional differences over slavery dominated politics and split the Union despite efforts at compromise. Episode 4, "The Challenge of Freedom," follows the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction when newly freed slaves saw hope replaced by Southern militancy against blacks, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and racial prejudice speaking through violence, oppressive laws, and legally sanctioned segregation. Narrated by Morgan Freeman.

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8 and up



Run Time

Total time: 240 minutes