Press Release: Two American Families
June 9, 2013, 8:09 pm ET
TWO FAMILIES—ONE BLACK, ONE WHITE:
It’s a central premise of the American dream: If you’re willing to work hard, you’ll be able to make a living and build a better life for your children.
But what if working hard isn’t enough to ensure success—or even the basics of daily life?
Two American Families, a special 90-minute FRONTLINE documentary more than two decades in the making, is a portrait of perseverance that raises unsettling questions about the changing nature of the American economy and the fate of a declining middle class.
Airing Tuesday, July 9, 2013, at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), this is the saga of two ordinary families in Milwaukee—one black, one white—who have spent the past 21 years in an extraordinary battle to keep from sliding into poverty.
“There’s something that I always say: ‘So a man thinketh, so is he,’” Jackie Stanley, the matriarch of the African American Stanley family, tells correspondent Bill Moyers. “If I think poverty all the time, I’ll act that way. I can’t afford to talk negative and then allow my children to see me that way, down or depressed.”
Moyers and producers Tom Casciato and Kathleen Hughes first began documenting the lives of the Stanleys and the Neumanns more than two decades ago, shortly after the breadwinners in both families had lost well-paying factory jobs and were struggling to adapt to a new, global economy.
“When I got laid off, they wanted me to go on welfare, but I could not stand in that line,” says Claude Stanley, Jackie’s husband. “I just said, it’s not me … I say, I got my strength, my health; I’m going to find me a job.”
“It really bothers us that we have to depend on other people,” says Terry Neumann, the matriarch of the white family. “You just want to get up and … go in the car and go grocery shopping and have a normal life again.”
With searing intimacy, Two American Families chronicles the stories of the Neumanns and the Stanleys through the present as they try to keep their homes, their health insurance and their dignity. The film is the fourth installment in a series of PBS documentaries following the two families that began in 1992 with Minimum Wages: The New Economy and continued throughout the 1990s with two more films—a 1995 collaboration with FRONTLINE called Living on the Edge and a 2000 PBS special called Surviving the Good Times.
Twelve years, two administrations and a Great Recession have passed since that most recent broadcast, and nearly 50 million Americans are now living in poverty. Trends toward low-wage, part-time work have only increased.
How are the Stanleys and the Neumanns making do? After fighting for living wages for more than 20 years, have they found an economic foothold? Are they and their now-grown children financially secure? Have they been able to hold their families together? Will they persevere?
As Jackie Stanley says, “We have no other choice.”
Two American Families is a FRONTLINE production with Okapi Productions LLC and Public Affairs Television in association with Left/Right Docs. The producers are Tom Casciato and Kathleen Hughes. The writers are Kathleen Hughes and Bill Moyers. The correspondent is Bill Moyers. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
Correspondent & Producer Bios
Bill Moyers | A broadcast journalist for more than four decades, with more than 30 Emmys and nine Peabodys to his name, Bill Moyers began his latest media venture in January 2012 with the launch of Moyers & Company on air and online at BillMoyers.com. His previous productions have included NOW with Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home and Moyers on America. He received the PEN USA Courageous Advocacy Award for his commitment to freedom of speech and his dedication to journalistic integrity. He currently serves as president of the Schumann Media Center, a non-profit organization that supports independent journalism.
Tom Casciato | An Emmy Award-winning producer, director, writer and television executive, Tom Casciato is the co-Executive Producer of Okapi Productions, LLC. He has also has created critically acclaimed nonfiction television programs that have appeared on PBS, ABC, NBC, TBS and Showtime. He worked at WNET from 2006 until early 2012, serving variously as Director of News & Current Affairs and Executive Producer of two PBS series, Wide Angle and Exposé: America’s Investigative Reports. With Kathleen Hughes, he has produced, directed and written many Bill Moyers documentaries.
Kathleen Hughes | An Emmy Award-winning producer, director, writer and television executive, Kathleen Hughes is the co-Executive Producer of Okapi Productions, LLC. She has also created critically acclaimed nonfiction television programs that have appeared on PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC. From 2008 to 2011 she served as the Executive Producer of WNET’s multi-platform series Blueprint America. At Blueprint she oversaw the creation of reports about America’s crumbling infrastructure for a wide range of public media outlets. In 2008 Her 90-minute PBS special with Bill Moyers, “Buying The War” was called “one of the most gripping and important pieces of broadcast journalism this year” by the Washington Post. With Tom Casciato, she has produced, directed and written many Bill Moyers documentaries.
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