The Age of Slavery (1800 – 1860). Full Episode

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 forced the migration of 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.

The Age of Slavery is episode two of  the six-part series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,  premiering on PBS on October 22, 2013, 8-9 pm ET.  Check local listings on the broadcast schedule.

Production Credits | Available until 2/28/2014 | Restricted to U.S. & Territories
  • Cliff Fornwalt

    Such a good series so far. Dr. Gates does a wonderful job of expressing the stories of slavery without getting too bogged down in chronology. This should be shown to all American 8th graders.

    Everyone in this series is so dispassionate and honest, without giving short shrift to the horrors of slavery. Emotion and revulsion should also be shown, but they are appropriately left out of this documentary format – better to express them in dramatic films for maximal impact.

    One criticism:
    1) the female historian (didn’t catch her name) who discusses Nat Turner’s rebellion: When asked “why did Nat Turner do it?” she offers a very eloquent, and certainly true characterization of the evils of slavery – but this is conjecture on her part. She is giving justifications for his actions, but she has no evidence that these were his actual motivations. Read Nat Turner’s actual confession and make up your mind if he was a genius or a madman.

    • Chyll Will

      There’s significant doubt and criticism of the veracity of that book; it was not written by Turner himself, but supposedly “as dictated to” his court-appointed lawyer, who by the result did not seem to have his best interests at heart. If you choose to believe that book, that’s up to you, but you certainly should not hold it up as the Gospel of Nat Turner, if there ever was one.

      • Cliff Fornwalt

        You are confusing the fictionalized book from the 1960′s, entitled “Confessions of Nat Turner” with the actual historical document I linked to – of the same title. I haven’t read the fictionalized book, and I probably never will, because it paints someone I respect in an unflattering light.

        I do choose to believe (mostly) the actual historical document in my link (read it… it’s short). I’m not religious, but I empathize with Nat Turner’s expressed sentiments. Some of the statements do sound like hallucinations (heiroglyphs on the trees, for example), which I find interesting as a person who deals with psych patients regularly.

        Of course, all historical records can and should be challenged. But this is the best there is. Nat Turner did admit in open court that he had confessed everything to his lawyer, so I think you can believe the confession actually did happen. Of course, the accuracy of the text is open for debate. Still, it’s all we have, and it’s better than we have for most historical figures.

        Also, I have to take issue with your statement that the attorney didn’t have Nat Turner’s best interests at heart just because Nat Turner was convicted and executed. There was nothing anyone could have done to stop Nat Turner’s execution short of breaking him out of jail. The white community was out for blood. Multiple people had implicated Nat Turner, and he stated in open court that he had confessed to the killings. It’s actually surprising that he even made it to trial in that environment. The account (in my link) as written seems pretty sympathetic from a old-religious viewpoint, and that was probably all his attorney could do for him – write down his last words sympathetically.

        Now, if you want to say the attorney didn’t have Nat Turner’s best interests at heart because he was a white lawyer in the antebellum South, that seems likely and more justifiable than basing it on the outcome of the trial.

  • daryl

    I am a black man forced to retire from my Delta Air Lines management position by hostile white directors, I substitute teach now and draw a pension. I watched episode 2 during my planning/break and welled up with tears. To think what these black people endured during this time period in our country to me was beyond horrible. My experience I should say pales in comparison surely.

    The link that I have to episode 2 is that my mother, grand mother and many relatives are from Natchez, Ms., my father was born across the river in Ferriday, La.. They married and migrated to Michigan like so many other black people during the great migration of the 40′s and 50′s. I am 56 years old now and my mother cringed and cried her eyes out when I graduated from college (CSU-Ohio) and told her I was moving to Atlanta, Ga to work from our home in Detroit, Mi. Years later, she said to me “All I heard was that you were moving to Georgia and I just knew you would get yourself killed by whites”.

    Well, they haven’t killed me yet, but I’ve had run ins with white males that you would not believe in my professional life down here. I guess in the not so distant past, I would have been killed for being a insubordinate, hostile, aggressive, intimidating, uppity N-Word. It seems many of my white counterparts don’t like it when a black man is in charge. God Bless America. How far she has come and how far she has to go.

    Daryl Bryant

    • treeclimber

      I am sorry. No human being, no animal should be treated with anything but kindness and love. I am not referring that you are an animal, it is just that people seem to treat animals better than they do people, especially people of a different culture/race, In 1962 I was in Texas, from Colorado. I had never seen a black person in my life, Hispanic were the majority where I came from. I was watching the little children, so darn cute, the laughter I could hear from the adults, ringing happy. My dad came up to me, asked what I was looking at and I , very innocently said: Those little children and their parents. Aren’t they cute? I was 14. He never struck me but I got a backside chewing that I will never forget. I was on the train coming home in a few days after that because I was so ashamed to have a father that would act like that or think he was a bove anyone., The N word? Rude and crude.
      We as white folk, especially those of us that live away from the south don’t realize the goings on that you do. I am sorry for that. We have native Americans, who are so beautiful, Hispanic and Mexican, happy happy people, hard working. I now have bi racial people in my family, 3 gorgeous guys. One is Black american and Irish, one is Black american and white, the last one is black american and Mexican. I love those guys so much, so thankful they were adopted into our family; now they are married to other race/cultures, their children are so precious, as they are. Thank God I am color blind. I see red as red, green as green, white as white (love white sheets) but skin color, so highly overrated. If I needed your blood, I would take it, if you needed mine, I would give it. Simple really.
      I am thankful I was born without prejudice, I do not nor will I ever understand why people are. Maybe I am prejudice, I don’t like being around people like that. God created all of us, we are all his children, Jesus Christ is a Jew, does that mean we can’t love him either?

    • Stephen

      Daryl, I don’t think this will help much for you. However, I, a white, was forced to retire by hostile black directors. It was a totally made up racial hate for the white. So, Im sorry what happened to you but don’t feel alone on the race issue. Same but just reversed. We have a lot in common my friend.

  • Susan Woodfin

    I will be at home all morning watching Gates seems like it’s my daily dose of energy I need very much. I need to pry myself away from the computer to be productive so I will go. Keep it coming Professor.

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