I am a retired American history teacher and have long loved the PBS historical documentaries. They are among the very best of their kind and have set the standard for excellence. However, even among these films, "The Abolitionists" stands above most all of them in quality and watchability. While the Burns brothers have gained greater fame than Rob Rapley, Rapley creates an even more compelling portrait of a bygone era. Using not only the usual pan and scan photos, narration and interviews with various historians, he also has actors dressed in period settings acting out what you are hearing about on the screen...and you get to hear the words of these great Americans. Short of using a time machine to jump back through the 19th century, I cannot imagine a better way to bring all this to life.
This episode finds the abolitionist movement becoming more radicalized as well as the North finally starting to buy into the movement's ideals. Among the many topics covered are Bleeding Kansas and John Brown's involvement in it, Harper's Ferry, the caning of Charles Sumner, the beginning of the Civil War, Lincoln as an anti-abolitionist, Lincoln's change of heart, the end of the war and the deaths of several of the earliest abolitionists. Interestingly, the war itself was only talked about briefly and the bulk of the show about events leading to it. Again, this is a brilliantly made and eminently educational and entertaining show...one of the best.
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