Episode Two: The Age of Slavery

The Age of Slavery illustrates how black lives changed dramatically in the aftermath of the American Revolution. For free black people in places like Philadelphia, these years were a time of tremendous opportunity. But for most African Americans, this era represented a new nadir. The cotton industry fueled the rapid expansion of slavery into new territories, and a Second Middle Passage forcibly relocated African Americans from the Upper South into the Deep South. Yet as slavery intensified, so did resistance. From individual acts to mass rebellions, African Americans demonstrated their determination to undermine and ultimately eradicate slavery in every state in the nation. Courageous individuals, such as Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen and Frederick Douglass, played a crucial role in forcing the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics, helping to create the momentum that would eventually bring the country to civil war.

Production Credits | | Restricted to U.S. & Territories
  • Lavinia Mayfield-Redmond

    cant wait to watch this

  • Kimonique Fleming

    I saw episode 1. Amazing!!!! Please tell everyone you know. Bring all the children and young people to watch it with you!!!

  • James McGilvray

    I just watched the first episode. This information is eye-opening, and complements what I’ve been learning recently about black women authors in the early 20th century, at least in terms of historical context.
    I tried to click on episode 2, but got a playback error. I’ll keep coming back to check to see if this is working.

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  • John Smith

    Whites did enslave other whites in early America.

    • Lawrence Eness English

      But they were able to escape and blend in.

    • lwanveer

      Someone always posts this nonsense on any article on slavery online. Whites were not enslaved! Indentured servants had a term of servitude that always ended and their children did not inherit their status. A master could not kill an indentured servant but they could kill a slave without it being a crime. Also, a freed white indentured servant was given full status as a citizen of the colonies where free blacks were never fully brought into the fold. Indentured servitude was either a reprieve from the death penalty back in England or a voluntary agreement with the legal protection of a contract. Was it nice to be an indentured servant? No. But it was NOT the same as enslavement. I know facts won’t change your mind but hopefully my reply will stop incorrect information from spreading.

      • jamaica leesa

        Whites may not have been enslaved in America, but enslavement of whites by whites did occur in Europe. Just as enslavement of Africans by Africans occurred in Africa.

        • lwanveer

          We have to be careful to separate Atlantic World slavery(in the Americas and Caribbean) from other systems that have existed. Never before was a whole class of people set aside in society to be permanently enslaved(the laws in colonies were designed to allow very few to ever obtain freedom and they were not full citizens if they did) and sold in a world market involving three continents. Never before was the slave status inherited through three and four and five generations. The whole category of race is created because of Atlantic World slavery. This form of slavery does stand alone in world history though all cultures have had many systems to force labor from people.

          • jamaica leesa

            My comment was addressing the fact that a historian (the one with dreads) in the documentary stated that whites did not enslave whites. Period. I don’t need a lecture on Black history. Preach to someone who has no clue about African & African American history — which would not be me.

          • lwanveer

            You should probably chill out a bit and take a look at why you are getting such a negative response from others here. As for me, I thought the idea of a discussion board was to have a little interesting (and civil) back and forth with other interested parties, not to be digitally screamed at for my polite comments. We are definitely not of equal knowledge on this subject. On THAT I agree.

          • jamaica leesa

            Listen, why don’t *you* chill out? #2. Who are you? The “negative PBS response police”? Save your advice your wife (or husband) and keep steppin. Peace.

      • TrthBTold11

        @lwanveer:disqus; you’re right. That’s their way of saying, ‘so we don’t really care about the atrocities America subjected Africans for over 400 years b/c this (insert whatever they’re pointing out) was done to this group of people too (whether in America or else where). It would be amazing if the ACT’s & SAT’s required having knowledge of true US history regarding these revolutions & atrocities….how many would ‘score’ high enough to get into college.

        • jamaica leesa

          Oh Lord. Look, most Americans can’t pass anything period. Math, science. You name it. Stop looking for racism everywhere. Geez Louise. We have another documentary from Dr. Gates. No need to be hypersensitive about every little remark in response to the documentary.

          • TrthBTold11

            @durbanbreeze:disqus…you know its you that has brought up “racism”…I was just mentioning a mere “fact”, which is the US doesn’t teach all the ‘real facts’ about US history. I think its you that’s being “hypersensitive” and trolling for something to negate & argue about. However, I totally understand you bringing up racism b/c we live in a racist society but if real history was taught, maybe it would be less of that and you’re absolutely correct in stating that the word slave is derived from the Slavic people, which were indeed suffer from a form of enslavement.

          • jamaica leesa

            Maybe I am being hypersensitive. However, I am far from a “troll”. But thanks for your feedback.

          • jamaica leesa

            Plus, I might be sensitive. But at least I brought some interesting discussion to PBS. Just sayin. I mean. Really. If I was gonna troll…do u think I would choose PBS? How many people do u know in your circle who sit around and watch documentaries on slavery? I reckon, it’s me, you and the people posting here.

    • jamaica leesa

      Also, Europeans *did* enslave other Europeans. The word “Slave” is derived from the word “Slav” for the Slavic peoples. I was surprised that this mis-information was given in the documentary.

      • TrthBTold11

        it was mentioned but perhaps not expounded upon b/c it was covering the history of Africans in America.

        • jamaica leesa

          No, it was *not* mentioned. In fact, I was amazed that a so called historian in the doc specifically stated that whites did not enslave whites. My original comment was simply addressing his *error*. If someone is calling themselves a “historian” in a Henry Louis Gates documentary they need to get their facts straight. This has nothing to do with negating what happened to Africans or negating the Atlantic Slave Trade or negating how slavery in America differed from slavery through time, history and the world.

          • TrthBTold11

            my error if it wasn’t mentioned. I recalled something being mentioned about Europeans not wanting to enslave other ‘chrisitians’ but enslave people that were not chrisitian. Not every one has perfect hearing like you; some of us have a bi-lateral hearing loss.

          • jamaica leesa

            Yikes. Sorry. I’m not sure what bi-lateral hearing loss is… but…yikes :-( Okay. Sorry. I think I kind of just seized on what the historian said…because many people don’t know that “slave” originated from “slav” for Eastern European Slavic people (and therefore only identify people of W. African descent with the history of slavery). And Europeans were fine with enslaving other “whites” at that time because the whole construct of race with regards to “whites” and “blacks” hadn’t even been created — which is why Africans could sell Africans — because a different tribe, to them, held the same connotation as race does to us today. I guess I was just irritated by the historian because I felt that explaining this dynamic in European history, as well as the evolution of slavery — even going to the very origin of the word, is important to present as an intellectual and as a historian. btw, my B.A. is in African & African American Studies — hence my pickiness and accurately identified hypersensitivity.

  • Claudy Delne

    While the documentary has its merit, the intent does not seem clear. It will make Whites, who inherit from it, feel good, less guilty given the fact that Prof.Gates, in this episode, stresses on how the Africans themselves participated, enslaved their own people, and sold them to European traders without context. In relying exclusively on some Africans, who seem to be compelled to take part of the gathering, rendered the said testimony suspicious, and to some extent, bogus. This part has many flaws and leaves a lot to be desired. Gates could have been more serious by portraying a clear distinction between indigenous, muslim and Western slavery. The Africa’s experience of slavery resulted from these three legacies of servitude. They were substantially different given the social mobility that could have resulted from one to the expense of the other. Indigenous slavery was nothing compared to muslim and Western slavery. The Muslims institutionalized slavery but the West internationalized it.

    • jamaica leesa

      True. Good points. But African Americans still have a way of romanticizing Africans and Africa. I’m glad Dr. Gates told the truth. It is more comforting to think that wp ran into Africa and robbed Africans. It’s more distressing to learn the essential role that Africans had in helping Europeans to plunder the African continent of it’s people and it’s resources due to *greed*. Maybe at first, Africans didn’t know what they were selling other tribes into in the Americas — and the atrocities that lay in wait…but u can’t tell me that after *hundreds* of years they didn’t figure out this shizzle. Come on, now. This was about greed and wealth and I’m not going to excuse anyone white or black who participated in the slave trade. At the end of the day, it is about evil and good in whatever color on the outside someone propogated the evil or the good. Albeit, I know that African indigenous slavery was different but stop exonerating Africans for their very serious role in the decimation of the African continent; the results of which are evident to this day in the current status of most sub-Saharan African countries. I do agree that Arab enslavement of Africans should have been mentioned.

      • Claudy Delne

        My point was not to render the Africans less guilty. Their involvement in Western slavery needs to be put in context. Also, historians should put forward the history of african resistance to slavery.

        • jamaica leesa

          I can’t argue with that. But when you say, “put into context,” it just sounds like you want to let them slightly off the hook simply because their type of slavery in W. Africa was different. js. Isn’t inhumanity inhumanity, regardless of the race of the individual perpetuating it? I think in human history, millions of people across continents who resemble one another have committed atrocities against each other. I totally, totally understand that African slavery was different…but I just think “the white man” has gotten all the blame and African Americans, because of being ruptured from Africa and then being treated like crap in America, tend to romanticize Africans and Africa; and also tend to excuse the African role in one of the largest genocides in human history. This has been acknowledged with at least one African country asking African Americans for forgiveness. The rest of the countries have gotten away scot free. If we’re gonna talk about the past, let’s lay it all out and call out the people involved, whatever their ethnic origin.

          • AlwaysBlossom

            Context is context and if you don’t have the right context you’ll end up coming to conclusions like yours.

          • Fawzi

            You need to educate yourself without Eurocentric view of history. Europeans were the culprits of this heinous crime of Slavery and some other worse crimes. Africans had not participated the Slavery trade rather they were the victims of it. Look, Africa lost its able sons and daughters. Besides slavery did not differentiate the nobles among Africans as they had raided and captured Ayuba Suleyman Diallo freom his hometown of present day Senegal. Yes, he regained his freedom and went back home. There were other instances where such people had returned home too. So, Europeans had forcibly taken any African they could lay hand on regardless of nobility and commoner. No matter how hard one would like to whitewash history, the truth will prevail.

        • lwanveer

          Claudy I can assure you that there has been a LOT of talk and writing on the history of resistance in the academic literature for some decades now. It takes some time for academic scholarship to filter out to the wider world(ie. high school curriculum) though. I spend an hour in my US history classes (introductory community college course) in discussion with the students on themes of resistance (+ 20 minutes on Stono) and another hour later in the semester on rebellions of the 19th century. Then again, my main specialty in the field is AFAM history. So there’s one of us out there in the trenches. :)

        • Veritas

          Africans institutionalized slavery among themselves long before Europeans ever expanded into Africa. If you think slavery was less brutal, or that it was completely benign inter-tribally then you need to do more research. I appreciate the concept of this program, but I abhor the politically correct fallacy and distortion being presented that Europeans were more brutal than Africans slave holders and traders. War, slavery, are inherent in human nature and history depending upon situations most people cannot comprehend. The utopian idealism that Africans were less inhuman than any other hominid group is to suggest a sense of racial superiority. No race of humans has been superior in its development without war or slavery. Though societies have advanced with war, slavery, technical and industrial advances sporatically around the world no race or ethnicity is greater than another in its humanity, and no less inhumane than another.

      • Mary Coronell

        I don’t know the African Americans you are speaking about , But I assure you that we do not sit around ROMANTICIZING AFRICA! Yes, most of us would love to visit, if we had the chance ! That is because we know our history and that our Roots are in “Africa” Our Mother Land , But don’t get it TWISTED! We are well aware of the part that some of the African Tribes played in Slavery ! This is like telling the Native Americans that they are responsible for the demise of their people because some Tribes helped the U. S. Soldiers! Just like the Native Americans were manipulated with trinkets and promises by the White Man ,I’m sure the Africans were also! Yes they were a contributor but not for Hundreds of years, I’m sure the well ran dry and the trinkets lost their glimmer or maybe they realized that members of their family could be captured and taken into slavery also and resisted! Dr. Gates did not reveal anything that was not already known by most African Americans! The problem here is that the Whites wanted more slaves and they would have gotten them by Hook or Crook! I find it interesting that those who don’t walk in our shoes have so much to say about our experience and what we think! There is but one Blame for the Horrible Conditions of ” SLAVERY ” and what followed in this country and it sure wasn’t the tribes in Africa!!

    • TrthBTold11

      Enslavement has been apart of history since the beginning of time, ie: biblical. It’s no secret that Africans from other tribes enslaved others, but the point that was made was that it was taken to another level; making it exclusively for people of African descent as well as the atrocities they implemented: that’s the difference. I don’t think White America should feel “guilty” about history facts, but ALL the facts need to be taught in order for healing in the Western world to take place: both for African Americans & Caucasian Americans. Just by seeing some of the hate geared towards the President shows how in America, “tolerance” not acceptance has been politely accepted. Historical trauma is a real condition that SAMHSA has now recognized but only in Native Americans. However, the characteristics of historical trauma are very prevalent in the AA community & just as stated, when historical trauma is not ‘treated’ properly it turns into anger & aggression; also prevalent among AA in society. Its unfortunate that it wasn’t mentioned that enslavement is still taking place in the Muslim world today as indicated in the story that broke recently in July 2013; regarding the Saudi Princess that brought her slave to the US this summer, SMH.

      • Claudy Delne

        The West is a fiction and a project. I don`t see how healing as you suggest can occur in the West. However, It’s paradoxically possible unless those in power acknowledge their serious guilt in profiting from historical injustices. Take a look at Elazar Barkan’s book: ”The Guilt of Nations”.

        • lwanveer

          There is a lot of historical evidence that some ceremonial and practical gestures of reconciliation have ended or assuaged conflicts thought to be intractable. I think you’re onto something. North and South in America held many ceremonies of this type during Reconstruction and the hatred dissolved fairly quickly. South Africa had a long reconciliation process where truth telling about apartheid was encouraged and they are further along the road to racial equality than the US was after Southern Redemption. How wonderful would it be to have a multi-year slavery reconciliation project with participation of the Americas, Caribbean, and European nations. Plus I would love to see some grant $$$ spread around to preserve history! AFAM history is shockingly underfunded since most archives, libraries and museums have seen their budgets go down year after year since the 1970s. If rich folks continue to pay for these places, we will see their ancestors’ deeds recorded to the exclusion of others.

        • GALLEXIE
        • GALLEXIE

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?… YOUR THINKING WILL KEEP US WAITING ANOTHER 50 YEARS

        • TrthBTold11

    • AlwaysBlossom

      totally agree

    • GALLEXIE

      HISTORY IS OUR DEFENSE FOR AND TOWARDS WINNING REPARATIONS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT WE ARE SURLY ENTITLED TO RACIAL ENTITLEMENTS DUE TO DISCRIMINATION AS BLACK CITIZEN

    • Tara

      Well said. I’ve noticed many whites are quick to remind us of that detail in hopes of averting attention from how horrific slavery really was by the hands of their ancestors. The fact remains that African American enslavement was the most cruel, brutal, inhumane and horrific form of enslavement throughout the world. To date different forms of the new Jim Crow and oppression are still as alive and well as the racism created to justify enslavement of Africans. The hatred and racist views are embedded in the foundation of this country, unfortunately.

  • AlwaysBlossom

    Slavery did not exist in Africa. What it was really was akin to indentured servitude, not slavery. I think many people need to begin to understand this distinction. Slavery, its practice and its meaning stems from the enslavement of SLAVic people. What I tend to find is that Whites and others typically like to hone in on African participation to equalize the responsibility and to ease their conscience, won’t work. African servitude was 1.) a form of imprisonment if they were prisoners of war and they were let go after a while; they weren’t dehumanized. They were allowed to keep their language etc 2.) African servitude was different from slavery, the two are not interchangeable. Servants were able to move up in rank becoming kings/queens; you could protest, leave when you felt, worship what you want. There were no beatings, many were buried like family as well. So when we look at things, we need to cease looking at them through the lens of Eurocentrism. Additionally, while there were Africans who freely participated in the slave trade, many did not know the conditions under which the others were being sold into, as Africans didn’t utilize these practices. I also have noticed that many do not shed light on how many were forced to capture other Africans and many countries were also colonized and were forced to participate in the slave trade and some were stolen. So, it’s quite a complex history. Nonetheless, the problems arise from the treatment AFTER we left the continent and what we STILL continue to face. I also find it quite interesting that we never hear about the resistance that took place on the African continent when faced with the slave trade; that part seems to be perpetually amiss in these types of programs. Gates is one fellow that likes to make Whites comfortable.

    • Richard Sharrieff

      Also, in west African warfare, it was a common tactic to surround your enemy on three sides. Giving him the chance to retreat if he desired. This lends more credibilty to the fact that captives were more prisoners of war than slaves.

  • GALLEXIE

    REPARATIONS ARE CERTAINLY DUE

    • Michael R. Saunders

      Gallexie with all due respect your calling for reparations is futile. Who do you think I going to pay you? the United States government/treasury? How much do you figure you have due you? The gubbermint is loathe to help anyone in poverty with a few measly food stamps. Good luck, Bro, but I would not hold my breath if I were you, regardless how many sign your petition.

      • GALLEXIE

        point being did you sign reparations for our community could come in the forms of racial entitlements to lift the masses out of poverty through housing grants with low mortgage rates spanning 50 with low interest , reparations comes in play through business loans , tv conglomerates where blacks can purchase into major stations ECONOMIC UPLIFTS ,we don’t feel we deserve it but PUTTING IT INTO TO ACTION FOR GENERATIONS TO FOLLOW

      • GALLEXIE

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avCbhrqT3tA YOUR THINKING WILL KEEP US WAITING ANOTHER 50 YEARS

        • Michael R. Saunders

          really? I don’t think that’s true. My thinking has no effect on your situation. Nice try, but swing and a miss. I’m NOT responsible for anyone’s problems but my own. And by the way, homey, I’m living below the poverty level my own damned self. so there ain’t much I can do to help you. Don’t sit around on your ass waiting for the gubbermint to help you…the gubbermint’s looking out to help the rich…you should know that by now

          • GALLEXIE

            depending on your political philosophy

          • GALLEXIE

            The ignorance,laziness and denials of white constituante’s is amazing,it’s not about those with the gubbermints,it’s about action, i don’t need the, but the generations of those who perceed us need not go through this struggle again, And the CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS must be UNMOVABLE, because in 2013 the hateful intention of racism is alive,whereby the 13 and 14 admendant in it’s orginal form was set or better yet {interpretated to protect African American,s under the law AS USA citizen,}against those of the confederate ideology black were not to be treated any different than the white man

      • GALLEXIE

        • Michael R. Saunders

          sorry, Bro. I don’t have an hour to waste listening to some old timey radical…good luck

  • Davi Mosley

    This is wonderful cant wait for the next one!

  • Mary Coronell

    WOW! I just love this type of discussion,but I can not help but notice in all of the many different yet valid opinions on the History of Slavery that is represented here,I find it very troubling that there is ANY DOUBT that the slave trade was purposely tailored for and against Africans and people of Color! There were no accidents in this endeavor even to this DAY of SYSTEMATIC OPPRESSION of people of COLOR! To those who think that some of us are Super Sensitive when placing blame!There Is No Question where it Falls! Whites have a history of persecuting and profiting off the blood and sweat of others and calling it Building A Nation! I often wonder why it is, when we speak the TRUTH and bring to LIFE the Horrible Crimes that our people have suffered through out history and still today, there is always that famous line , ( You Can’t Blame Everything On Racism)! I beg to differ ! This country was built on the money and power of RACISM! The fuel that still drives this country is RACISM! This does not mean that we lay down and give up! We RISE ABOVE IT, this is the only way that we could survive over the decades and not become like the Animals that enslaved our people and murder them all in their beds! The TRUTH is BRUTAL and UGLY ,yet the TRUTH! Don’t you ever wonder what type of mind set it would take to Enslave,Buy, Sell and Breed like live stock, Rape, Torture, Hang ,Murder,another group of Human Beings for so long and be willing to go to War and Die to continue to live this way! Today they wonder why African Americans in this country feel and act the way they do! African Americans had to Fight and Suffer for every Right and Freedom we have today , something that Whites felt was their God given right since birth and still do! Yes Racism is Alive and Well in America and until the Powers That Be make Amends to the African American Descendants of the Slaves in this country there will always be Unrest and Anger among our people ,that is only getting worse with every generation and with the induction of the cheap labor of Illegal immigrants to this country’s work force and driving African Americans to lose employment at a Staggering Rate does not help the situation! Not Racist Paranoia! REALITY!!

  • GALLEXIE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkI0DLRUtSM REPARATIONS

    SUPPORT BILL HR 40 71 DAYS LEFT 25,000 SIGNATURES NEEDED TO PROTECT FUTURE GENERATIONS
    https://www.causes.com/actions/1726661-support-hr-40-by-signing-white-house-petition

  • mischling3rd
  • Isra YaYa

    Growing up going to public school in San Francisco, and then in CT, I certainly learned about the age of slavery in school in some part. But this documentary makes it so much more real, so much more detailed, and nuanced in the issues considered from various angles, and it feels almost like a witnessing: the artifacts, art, documents, monuments, interviews. our nation’s horrendous institution of slavery that contradicted our fundamental values -how so many were dehumanized, and those brave who resisted. I was moved to weeping more than once watching just episode two – what a shameful and heavy and all too often forgotten (or ignored) chapter in U.S. history. I am grateful for this video series, accessible and educational, and the accompanying resources that go with this project as a whole. Thank you to all involved in this, and I hope to see the coming episodes.

  • GALLEXIE


    Michael R. Saunders GALLEXIE

    Gallexie with all due respect your calling for reparations is futile. Who do you think I going to pay you? the United States government/treasury? How much do you figure you have due you? The gubbermint is loathe to help anyone in poverty with a few measly food stamps. Good luck, Bro, but I would not hold my breath if I were you, regardless how many sign your petition.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?… YOUR THINKING WILL KEEP US WAITING ANOTHER 50 YEARS KNOWING YOUR HISTORY WE MUST DEMAND REPARATIONS FOR THE INJUSTICES OF RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION ” AFRICAN AMERICANS ” MUST UNITE FOR BLACK BUSINESS,HOME OWNERSHIP AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO OBTAIN WEALTH

  • Candace Kendrick

    Thank You Jamaica Leesa! I am not alone in agreeing to be accountable and taking the emotion and shame out of the realities of history. Not one man’s history is perfect, But it is what it is. I laugh at those who refer to Africa as ‘our motherland’. Where is your proof, because there is proof and testimony that says otherwise. Reparations and a day of reckoning, yes. Only there must be a legal and intelligent position. No feelings and finger pointing, just the facts jack. I personally believe once black people tell the truth the WHOLE truth, we may then begin to heal our social ill that once again only we suffer for. In my humble opinion :)

  • Candace Kendrick

    I posted before I read more of the comments. Wow! we are really nasty and personal attacks. inappropriate an not productive. I pray that we will take the good intentions and focus that emotion to thirst for information and truth. Love wins every time. I think I will sign off here and withdraw any further participation. Peace & Love.

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