This 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.
Further 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