Slavery & the American Revolution – Liberty in the Air
Slavery and the Making of America
Produced & Directed by Gail Pellett
Writer: Gail Pellett
Production Company: Thirteen-WNET
Presented by: Thirteen-WNET
Aired on: PBS     Date: February 9, 2005
Distributed by: Amazon

Photo of enslaved woman in neckshackle from Liberty in the Air, Slavery and the Making of America“Liberty in the Air” is the second hour in the 4 part series, Slavery and the Making of America.  Spanning from the 1740s through the 1830s this film explores the complex story of survival, resistance and the fight for liberty as a diverse African enslaved population shaped itself into an African-American community.  Despite the endless toil and the constant attempts at degradation that came with the continued expansion of slavery in the colonies,  a distinct African-American culture began to take shape.

African-Americans resisted in myriads of ways and as American colonists organized for independence from the British, slaves and freed Blacks were listening.  They fought on both sides of the Revolutionary war. Many found inspiration in the Delcaration of Independence and the Constitution, despite the inherent contradictions that lay in what those documents expressed and what this country practiced.

Photo of Titus, New Jersey slave plowing field in 18th centuryFurther emphasizing these inherent contradictions this film profiles the relationship between Thomas Jefferson — the man who wrote so eloquently about liberty — and his lifelong servant, Jupiter, one of 90 slaves on the Jefferson family plantation.  Also featured is the story of Titus.  Enslaved in central New Jersey, he fled his cruel master at the onset of the American Revolution and later returned to the area as Colonel Tye, the leader of a band of black and white guerillas fighting for the British.  Far more black people fought for the British than for the colonists, believing they would be freed if the British proved victorious in the Revolution.

This hour also introduced Mum Bett, whose successful lawsuit against her owner helped pave the way for the 1783 abolition of slavery in Massachusetts, Maria Stewart who spoke publicly in Boston on behalf of Black women, and David Walker, whose landmark missive, “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World,” marked the first expression of black nationalism and terrified slave owners by urging black people to empower themselves.

Credits:  Editor:  Vanessa Procopio;  DP Recreations:  Marc Kroll;  DP Interviews:  Joel Shapiro;  Narrator:  Morgan Freeman;  Music:  Michael Whalen;  Series Producer:  Dante J. James;  Associate Producer:  Gwendolyn D. Dixon

2 Responses to “Slavery & the American Revolution – Liberty in the Air”

  1. Mary Darden says:

    Doing community access program for black history. Can I use running clip? video only. I’ll purchase from amazon. Will give credit.

  2. Gail Pellett says:

    Hi Mary, great to hear from you! Can you send me your professional email so we can have a short communication about your program, usage, etc. I am just about to post reference to the documentary on FB today, in response to the NY Times’ story about the new museum exhibits planned taking advantage of the recent research surrounding Jefferson and his slaves. Of course we drew on that research and revealed the complex of contradictions surrounding Jefferson when I produced this doc back in 2003/4.

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