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THEMATIC: Biographies:

African Americans  |   Asian Americans  |   Mexican Americans  |  
Native Americans  |   Other  |   Pacific Islanders  |   Women

Adam Clayton Powell (no website available)
One of the most charismatic black leaders of the 20th century.
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Affluent, handsome, light-skinned and blond, he could pass for white. But his message about "economics and jobs" would make him one of the most charismatic black leaders in the 20th century. A U.S. Representative for 25 years, he pushed through social legislation, but his relish for money and fast living eventually led him to political ruin.
Building the Alaska Highway

Building the Alaska Highway
One of the biggest and most difficult homeland defense projects ever undertaken.
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In May of 1942, across the rugged sub-Arctic wilderness of Alaska, British Columbia, and Yukon Territory, thousands of American soldiers began one of the biggest and most difficult construction projects ever undertaken -- the building of the Alaska Highway.

The United States had toyed for 80 years with the idea of building a road link from the lower 48 states to Alaska; but it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that spurred Washington into action. Worried that the Japanese might invade Alaska, President Roosevelt directed that a supply line be built to U.S military bases in the region.

Interweaving interviews with the men who were there, archival footage and beautiful cinematography of the sub-Arctic route the road took, this American Experience production tells how for eight months, young soldiers, some of whom had never left the southern United States before, battled mud, muskeg, and mosquitoes; endured ice, snow, and bitter cold; bridged raging rivers, graded lofty peaks, and cut pathways through primeval forests to push a 1,520-mile road across one of the world's harshest landscapes.

Citizen King

Citizen King
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has become a mythic figure, a minister whose oratory is etched into the minds of millions of Americans. This film brings fresh insights to King's difficult journey, his leadership, and his impact.
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The story begins on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, when a 34-year-old preacher galvanized millions with his dream for an America free of racism. It comes to a bloody end almost five years later on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. In the years since those events unfolded, the man at their center, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has become a mythic figure, a minister whose oratory is etched into the minds of millions of Americans, a civil rights activist whose words and image are more hotly contested, negotiated and sold than almost anyone else's in American history. Produced by award-winning director Orlando Bagwell, Citizen King pushes past the myths that have obscured King's story to reclaim the history of a people's leader. Using the personal recollections, diaries, letters, and eyewitness accounts of friends, journalists, law enforcement officers, historians, and others, this film brings fresh insights to King's difficult journey, his charismatic -- if at times flawed -- leadership, and his truly remarkable impact.

Duke Ellington -- Reminiscing in Tempo (no website available)
The international star who created some of the most exciting music America had ever heard.
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At a time when black and white musicians rarely performed together, when black musicians were exploited by record companies, Ellington was an international star. He made the Cotton Club his showcase for original jazz compositions, some of the most exiting music America had ever heard. Underscored with more than 40 Ellington pieces.
Eyes on the Prize

Eyes on the Prize
Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, the series covers all of the major events of the civil rights movement from 1954-1965.
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Produced by Blackside, Eyes on the Prize tells the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today. Winner of numerous Emmy Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award, an International Documentary Award, and a Television Critics Association Award, Eyes on the Prize is the most critically acclaimed documentary on civil rights in America. Eyes on the Prize recounts the fight to end decades of discrimination and segregation. It is the story of the people -- young and old, male and female, northern and southern -- who, compelled by a meeting of conscience and circumstance, worked to eradicate a world where whites and blacks could not go to the same school, ride the same bus, vote in the same election, or participate equally in society. It was a world in which peaceful demonstrators were met with resistance and brutality -- in short, a reality that is now nearly incomprehensible to many young Americans. Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, Eyes on the Prize traces the civil rights movement from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Voting Rights Act; from early acts of individual courage through the flowering of a mass movement and its eventual split into factions. Julian Bond, political leader and civil rights activist, narrates. The driving force behind Eyes on the Prize and Blackside, Henry Hampton (1940-1998) won numerous awards for this landmark series including the duPont-Columbia Gold Baton, the Peabody Award, and Academy Award nominations. He set out to share his vision of what he called "the remarkable human drama that was the Civil Rights Movement" through the Eyes on the Prize documentary and a book of the same title by Juan Williams. In recent years, a number of key figures who appear in the films (including the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, a leader of the Montgomery bus boycott; Coretta Scott King, wife of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and an activist in her own right; Kwame Ture, also known as Stokely Carmichael, leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and George Wallace, the 1960s Alabama governor who resisted integration) have died, making this record of their testimony all the more valuable.
Fatal Flood

Fatal Flood
A dramatic story of greed, power and race during one of America's greatest natural disasters.
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In the spring of 1927, after weeks of incessant rains, the Mississippi River went on a rampage from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, inundating hundreds of towns, killing as many as a thousand people and leaving a million homeless. In Greenville, Mississippi, efforts to contain the river pitted the majority black population against an aristocratic plantation family, the Percys-and the Percys against themselves. A dramatic story of greed, power and race during one of America's greatest natural disasters.
The Fight

The Fight
Joe Louis and Max Schmeling fought for their people, and for their nations on the brink of war. Most of all, they fought for themselves.
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On June 22, 1938, 70,000 fans crammed into Yankee Stadium to watch what some observers have since called "the most important sporting event in history." Millions more tuned in to hear a blow-by-blow description on the radio. The rematch between the African American heavyweight Joe Louis and his German opponent Max Schmeling was riveting -- "one hundred and twenty-four seconds of murder," as one newspaper put it. But for most spectators the fight was much more than a boxing match; it was an historic event freighted with symbolic significance, both a harbinger of the civil rights movement and a prelude to World War II. In this first feature-length documentary about the momentous encounter, American Experience captures the anticipation the bout generated, the swirl of events leading up to it, the impact Louis's victory had on black America and its significance for Jews on both sides of the Atlantic.

Freedom on My Mind (no website available)
Recruits in a nonviolent army fight the white Mississippi political establishment to register black voters, create schools and bring national attention to the struggle.
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In the summer of 1964, two groups converged in Mississippi: one mostly young, white and well educated from out of state; the other, African Americans who lived in the most violently segregated state. Recruits in a nonviolent army, together they fought the white political establishment to register black voters, create schools and bring national attention to the struggle. It was a summer of rage, pain and enormous danger.

Goin' Back To T-Town (no website available)
In a nostalgic celebration of old fashioned neighborhood life, the black residents of Tulsa relive their community's remarkable rise and tragic decline.
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In Tulsa,the community of Greenwood was a place where blacks had some measure of financial, social and political independence. Burned to the ground in 1921 by angry whites, Greenwood was rebuilt and boasted the largest concentration of black businesses in the country. In a nostalgic celebration of old fashioned neighborhood life, the black residents of "T-Town" relive their community's remarkable rise and ultimate decline.

Ida B. Wells -- A Passion for Justice (no website available)
The life of the legendary former slave and crusading journalist.
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Born into slavery, she became a journalist and newspaper owner in Memphis, and was radicalized following the lynching of three friends. Her crusade against lynching led to death threats, but she bravely continued for the rest of her life to call for an end to sexism and racism.
John Brown's Holy War

John Brown's Holy War
Murderer, martyr, hero -- his violent crusade would spark the Civil War.
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Martyr, madman, murderer, hero: John Brown remains one of history's most controversial and misunderstood figures. In the 1850s, he and his ragtag guerrilla group embarked on a righteous crusade against slavery that was based on religious faith -- yet carried out with shocking violence. His execution at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, set off a chain of events that led to the Civil War.
Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory

Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory
Former slaves sing their way into a nation's heart.
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In the chaotic decade following the Civil War, a group of young ex-slaves in Nashville, Tennessee, set out on a mission to save their financially troubled school by giving concerts. Traveling first through cities in the North, then on to venues across Europe, the Jubilee Singers introduced audiences to the power of spirituals, the religious anthems of slavery. Driven to physical collapse and even death, the singers proved more successful -- and more inspirational -- than anyone could have imagined. A portrait of faith, music, and sacrifice.
Malcolm X -- Make It Plain

Malcolm X -- Make It Plain
If any man expressed the anger, struggle and insistence of black people for freedom in the sixties, it was Malcolm X.
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If any man expressed the anger, struggle and insistence of black people for freedom in the sixties, it was Malcolm X. In Omaha, he was Malcolm Little; later he became "Detroit Red" a small time street hustler. From prison emerged another Malcolm, the fiery, eloquent spokesman for the Nation of Islam. After a trip to Mecca, there was a last transformation -- a new willingness to accept white allies. Who killed him and why has never been fully explained.
Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind

Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind
The rise and fall of an African American leader who influenced politics and culture around the world.
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He was both a visionary and a manipulator, a brilliant orator and a pompous autocrat. In just ten years following his emigration to the United States as a laborer in 1917, Marcus Garvey rose to lead the largest black organization in history, was taken to prison in handcuffs, and was eventually deported. Marcus Garvey is the dramatic story of the rise and fall of an African American leader who influenced politics and culture around the world.

The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry (no website available)
The first officially formed regiment of northern black soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
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The first officially formed regiment of northern black soldiers who fought in the Civil War, the 54th's roster included shopkeepers, clerks, cobblers and seamen. They knew the eyes of the nation would be on them at a time when many whites insisted that black soldiers were too cowardly to fight. By the war's end, 180,000 black troops filled the Union ranks.

Midnight Ramble (no website available)
The little-known story of a black independent film industry.
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The little-known story of a black independent film industry that thrived outside of Hollywood and produced close to 500 feature movies for African American audiences between 1910 and 1940. Many race movies tackled some of the difficult social issues that confronted black urban society: alcoholism, crime, morality, class conflict, even racism and lynching, setting the stage for today's independent black cinema movement.
The Murder of Emmett Till

The Murder of Emmett Till
Chicago teen Emmett Till's brutal murder in 1955 mobilized the civil rights movement.
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In August 1955, a fourteen-year-old black boy whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till, a teen from Chicago, didn't understand that he had broken the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. Although his killers were arrested and charged with murder, they were both acquitted quickly by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly afterwards, the defendants sold their story, including a detailed account of how they murdered Till, to a journalist. The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till's death was a spark that helped mobilize the civil rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began.
Partners of the Heart

Partners of the Heart
At the height of segregation in the United States, an unlikely alliance between a black medical genius and a white surgeon led to some of the 20th century's pioneering medical breakthroughs.
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In 1944, two men at Johns Hopkins University Hospital pioneered a groundbreaking procedure that would save thousands of so-called blue babies' lives. One of them, Alfred Blalock, was a prominent white surgeon. The other, Vivien Thomas, was an African American with a high school education. Partners of the Heart tells the inspiring, little-known story of their collaboration. Blalock recognized Thomas' talents when the younger man came inquiring after a hospital janitor's job. But though Blalock came to treat Thomas with tremendous respect in the lab, the two men were rarely treated as equals in the outside world. Over time, Thomas would go on to train two generations of the country's premier heart surgeons. In 1976, more than three decades after the first blue baby's life had been saved, Johns Hopkins finally formally recognized Thomas' extraordinary achievements, awarding him an honorary doctorate.
Reconstruction The Second Civil War

Reconstruction The Second Civil War
The stories of ordinary people, North and South, in the tumultuous years after the Civil War, when America struggled to rebuild the Union and integrate former slaves into the life of the nation.
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In his first speech after the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln began with only a few words to celebrate the recent victory. He went straight to the problem at hand: acknowledging that there was no agreed-upon plan for the future, and warning that the way ahead would be "fraught with great difficulty." Spanning the years 1863 to 1877, Reconstruction tells the story of the tumultuous years after the Civil War during which America struggled to rebuild itself, successfully bring the South back into the Union and integrate former slaves into the life of the country. This three-hour series interweaves the stories of key political players in Washington -- among them Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses Grant -- with the stories of ordinary people, black and white, Republican and Democrat, in the North and South, whose lives were caught up in the turbulent struggles of the era.

Roots of Resistance -- The Story of the Underground Railroad (no website available)
Men and women, black and white, risked their lives to carve an elaborate network of escape routes out of slavery.
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Men and women, black and white, risked their lives to carve an elaborate network of escape routes out of slavery in the mid 1800s -- trails and backroads, safehouses, river crossings and night trains leading as far north as Canada. Disguises, secret rendezvous and special codes were used to guard the identity of "conductors" and their fugitive "passengers." But flight to free territory didn't guarantee freedom; fugitives could be hunted down and returned.
Scottsboro: An American Tragedy

Scottsboro: An American Tragedy
The trial of nine falsely accused teens would draw North and South into their sharpest conflict since the Civil War.
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In 1931, two white women stepped from a box car in Paint Rock, Alabama to make a shocking accusation: they had been raped by nine black teenagers on the train. So began one of the most significant legal fights of the twentieth century. The trial of the nine falsely accused teens would draw North and South into their sharpest conflict since the Civil War, yield two momentous Supreme Court decisions and give birth to the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to its historical significance, the Scottsboro story is a riveting drama about the struggles of nine innocent young men for their lives and a cautionary tale about using human beings as fodder for political causes.

That Rhythm, Those Blues (no website available)
The evolution of rhythm and blues from the 1940s into the 50s.
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The evolution of rhythm and blues through the careers of singers Ruth Brown and Charles Brown, from the 1940s into the 50s, with contemporary performances by both.
THEMATIC: Biographies:

African Americans  |   Asian Americans  |   Mexican Americans  |  
Native Americans  |   Other  |   Pacific Islanders  |   Women

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