Go behind-the-scenes of TV's longest-running, most-watched history series, and get to know the filmmakers, producers, historians, and series staff that make history come alive.
If you had asked me in 2006 where I saw myself in seven years, I wouldn't have said "working for a television history series".
In 2006, I was a student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, majoring in nutrition science with the goal of becoming a registered dietitian. That summer, I was taking the first of two Organic Chemistry classes I would have to take to complete my degree.
During extended periods of procrastination - which were frequent - I would go to the local video rental store and scan the documentary aisle for anything that would further distract me from my studies. One day I came across American Experience's "The Kennedys". I didn't know much about the Kennedy family aside from what was taught in school and what I had read in People Magazine, so I decided to rent it.
Just a little background - I love horror movies. I've seen every classic horror movie and then some. So I was completely mesmerized by The Donner Party when I watched it in 2009. It's a tragic story about pioneers looking to start new lives outWest. They put their faith in a new route across Utah and Nevada - Hastings Cutoff. Little did they know that the man who created the map, Lansford Hastings, had never taken the trail by wagons.
When my colleagues asked me to write about my favorite AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, I was kind of shocked. I mean, I'm sort of the new kid on the team, having joined the production in March as the marketing account manager. Before March, I was more like most of you — longtime viewer and living room commenter. Over the years, this series has blown my mind and tugged at my heart strings, raised my blood pressure and caused me to sob uncontrollably with stories that I never knew, or knew enough of. None had moved me more than the 2010 film Freedom Riders.
This Fall, American Experience will celebrate its 25th anniversary. That's 25 years of documentaries broadcast on PBS -- 287 films, 399 hours of programming, and 428 nights of television. Everyone has a favorite, including all of us on staff at American Experience, and we want to share that with you. As part of our 25th anniversary celebration, we are going to publish a Staff Favorite Film blog post every month, starting today.
On New Years Day, 1863, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and countless other abolitionists across the nation waited anxiously for word on the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. In grade school, I learned that it freed the slaves. But when I later read the document, I realized that it was not that simple: Lincoln only freed the slaves on Confederate soil, exempting those states under Union occupation and those fighting for the Union. Why, then, on January first, 1863, did abolitionists celebrate the news of partial emancipation as if it fulfilled the very core of their mission?
In August, after moving to Boston, Massachusetts from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I started working for American Experience on the Abolitionist Map of America project -- an interactive map also featured on the brand new American Experience: Mapping History iPhone app. I grew up in Monticello, Mississippi, and I have always been fascinated by the history of the Civil Rights Movement -- how the efforts of a few individuals who recognized that it was time for change and progress led to one of the most significant social advancements in the history of this country. And I was thrilled to be working on this project, bringing awareness of the often forgotten heroes from the first Civil Rights movement in American history -- the abolitionist movement.