TV Series & Beyond
Program Four
Judgment Day

Llewellyn Smith

Program 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.

Historical Highlights
1829 - David Walker, a used-clothing salesman in Boston, sews a subversive anti-slavery tract into the coats of black sailors and smuggles the pamphlets into the South. Walker's treatise calls for the immediate abolition of slavery.

1831 - William Lloyd Garrison publishes the first edition of the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator in Boston, Massachusetts.

1850 - The Compromise of 1850 allows California to enter the Union as a free state. But, as a concession to Southern slaveholders, the legislation protects the national domestic slave trade and creates a new Fugitive Slave Law.

1854 - News of the arrest of fugitive slave Anthony Burns in Boston leads to a violent showdown between abolitionists and the federal government.

1854 - The Kansas-Nebraska Act is passed, allowing each of these states to determine whether slavery will be legal within its borders.

1857 - The Supreme Court hands down its decision in the case of Dred Scott, ruling that "...the African race who came to this country, whether free or slave, were not intended to be included in the Constitution...they ha[ve] no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

1859 - The largest single slave sale in American history is held at a racetrack outside Savannah when 429 people are sold to settle the debts of their master, Pierce Butler.

1859 - Outside the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, the radical abolitionist John Brown assembles a small army to liberate the black people of Virginia. The battle ends within thirty-six hours, but the attempt by abolitionists to capture an arsenal in the heart of the South shocks the nation.

1860 - Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the United States. Within weeks, the northern and southern states are at war.

Key Interviews (In Alphabetical Order)
Cornelia Bailey, resident and community leader, Sapelo Island, Georgia

David Blight, Professor, Black Studies Department, Amherst College

William Scarborough, Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Alumni Professor, University of Southern Mississippi

William Dusinberre, Professor, Department of History, University of Warwick, Coventry, England

Eric Foner, Professor, Department of History, Columbia University

John Hope Franklin, John B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus, Duke University

James Horton, Professor, Department of American Studies, George Washington University

Noel Ignatiev, Historian and author of How the Irish Became White

Norrece T. Jones, Jr., Associate Professor of History, Virginia Commonwealth University

Daniel Littlefield, Professor of History and Afro-American Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Nell Painter, Edwards Professor of American History and Director of Program in African-American Studies, Princeton University

Margaret Washington, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University

Deborah Gray White, Professor of History, Rutgers University

Program One | Program Two | Program Three | Program Four

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