Freedom: A History of US

Episode Descriptions

Episode 1: Independence
The episode begins by examining how the terrorist attack of September 11th sparked a renewed focus on freedom. The program then takes us back to the summer of 1776.

The thirteen colonies stake everything on an armed struggle for freedom and the chance to build a new kind of nation. Beginning with a look at the decision to declare independence, the film explores the escalating conflict with Great Britain, including the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's famous midnight ride. America's founding fathers such as George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson -- along with other well-known historical figures, including Abigail Adams and Tom Paine -- all play roles in the fight for liberty.

Episode 2: Revolution
Colonial Americans fight together to defeat the world's most awesome military power. Then they strive to create a new kind of government that will live up to their high ideals. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson each become President; Lewis and Clark undertake their great expedition; and the American dream is born.

Episode 3: Liberty for All?
While America was founded as a free land in which people could live out their own destinies, it came at a terrible cost to Native Americans. The Pilgrims laid the groundwork for religious freedom, while the Puritan-led Salem Witch Trials were a frightening reminder of superstition and intolerance. The nation's population migrates westward, emboldened by a new philosophy called Manifest Destiny; the Wilderness Trail leads to the Trail of Tears and then the Gold Rush. Key historical figures include Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk.

Episode 4: Wake Up America
The nation is in love with progress, and innovations include steamboats, the Erie Canal, and the first railroads. The Industrial Revolution brings Americans new leisure and personal freedom -- but there is a dark side to the story for factory workers and women. Reformers begin to rail against horrendous conditions, while people like Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rally for equal rights.

Episode 5: A Fatal Contradiction
The Declaration of Independence stated "all men are created equal," but the nation's slaves were a glaring exception. The colonial slave trade and brutal life for African Americans on Southern plantations spark the abolition movement and the Underground Railroad. This episode explores the role of Frederick Douglass, and then looks at the impact of the Lincoln-Douglass debates on the westward expansion of slavery. It ends with Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency.

Episode 6: A War to End Slavery
Heroic soldiers in blue and gray endure the bloodiest battles ever fought on American soil, as the country fights a civil war over the future of slavery. Grim battles unfold: Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. Famous generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee lead the war between the North and the South. Lincoln speaks eloquently at Gettysburg, and just a year and a half later is brutally assassinated at Ford's Theater.

Episode 7: What is Freedom?
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Reconstruction begins as a time of great hope for the devastated South. When political turmoil continues and the Reconstruction efforts fail, a new era of segregation begins. In the Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson, "separate but equal" becomes the law of the land.

Episode 8: Whose Land is This?
The nation seethes with racial conflict as immigrants increasingly become targets of prejudice, and as settlers and soldiers massacre Western Indians and force them onto reservations. As European freedom-seekers continue to pour into America through Ellis Island, the Supreme Court finally rules that non-citizens are due equal protection under the law.

Episode 9: Working for Freedom
As industrial progress continues and the gap between the rich and poor widens, a new labor movement emerges to advocate for workers' rights. The strike at Lawrence, Massachusetts is a victory for workers; and Susan B. Anthony paves the way for women's right to vote.

Episode 10: Yearning to Breathe Free
The newly unveiled Statue of Liberty is a symbol of all that is best in America, inspiring a time of reform and compassion. Mother Jones brings the child labor issue to the forefront of the nation's consciousness, and Jane Addams, America's first social worker, creates Hull House. Ida Tarbell exposes the abuses of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company.

Episode 11: Safe for Democracy
With help from the Wright brothers' introduction of the airplane, the country begins to soar. Woodrow Wilson and America reluctantly join the fight in World War I, while on the home front, women at last get the right to vote. The twenties roar with new levels of personal freedom.

Episode 12: Depression and War
With Black Thursday, and the collapse of the stock market, America heads into the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt builds a New Deal, while, overseas, Adolf Hitler rises to power and invades Poland. Responding to Pearl Harbor, the worst attack in American history to that time, FDR guides the nation through World War II.

Episode 13: Democracy and Struggles
In the postwar free world, America becomes the acknowledged leader, striving to rebuild democracies abroad. As the Iron Curtain falls and the Cold War begins, fear of communism spreads through the country, sparking Joseph McCarthy's communist witch-hunts. At the same time, the U.S. finally faces up to racial separatism when the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education outlaws segregation.

Episode 14: Let Freedom Ring
The Civil Rights movement becomes the most effective social movement in U.S. history. During this era, Martin Luther King marches on Washington, and Little Rock's high school is integrated. John F. Kennedy is inaugurated as President of the United States.

Episode 15: Marching to Freedom Land
The 1960s bring new progress in the quest for freedom, but this is also an explosive decade that threatens to tear apart the fabric of society. President Kennedy is assassinated, and Lyndon B. Johnson pursues the war in Vietnam. Martin Luther King is assassinated, leaving behind an impressive and growing legacy of non-violent civil rights resistance.

Episode 16: Becoming Free
America continues to make tremendous strides through the prosperity of the 1980s, 1990s and into the new millennium. The nation's mettle is severely tested by the tragedy of September 11, 2001, but the people of the United States rally together. New York City comes to stand as a symbol of American diversity.




learn more at: www.pbs.org/historyofus
© 2002 Picture History and Educational
Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Thirteen/WNET PBS