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Slavery and the Making of America


4 DVDs, 60 minutes each
Source: PBS Video

This four-part series draws on a wealth of recent scholarship to look at slavery as an integral part of a developing nation. Using the stories of individuals, it offers new perspectives on the slave experience and testifies to the active role that Africans and African Americans took in surviving their bondage and shaping their own lives.

  1. Part One: The Downward Spiral
    This episode spotlights the origins of slavery in America, from 1619 through 1739. Focusing on Dutch New Amsterdam (later New York City), this chapter illustrates how slavery in its early years was a loosely defined labor source similar to indentured servitude.

  2. Part Two: Liberty in the Air
    Spanning from the 1740s through the 1830s, this episode explores the continued expansion of slavery in the colonies, the evolution of a distinct African American culture, and the roots of the emancipation movement.

  3. Part Three: Seeds of Destruction
    The third episode looks at the period from 1800 through the start of the Civil War. As the nation expanded west, the question of slavery became the overriding political issue.

  4. Part Four: The Challenge of Freedom
    The final episode takes viewers through the Civil War and Reconstruction. It examines the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the end of the Reconstruction, and the new form of legalized oppression that replaced it.

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