UC Berkeley Library

Africans in America

A four part series portraying the struggles of the African people in America, from their arrival in the 1600s to the last days before the Civil War. 1998. Produced and directed by Orlando Bagwell, Susan Bellows. 90 min. each installment Africans in America, Part 1: The Terrible Transformation.This first episode examines the origins of one of the largest forced human migrations in recorded history. After the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619, the British colonies laid the groundwork for a system of racial slavery, which generated profits that ensured the colonies' growth and survival. ; Africans in America, Part 2: Revolution. In this second episode, while the American colonies challenge Britain for independence, American slavery is challenged from within as men and women fight to define what America will be. When the War of Independence is won, black people, both enslaved and free, seize on the language of freedom even while the new nation's Constitution codifies slavery and oppression as a national way of life. ; Africans in America, Part 3: Brotherly Love. In this third episode, during the first 50 years of the new nation, freedmen and fugitive slaves in Philadelphia push the country to live up to the promises made in its Constitution. But with the invention of the cotton gin, slavery expands into America's western frontier, and a revolution in Haiti inspires slave rebellions throughout the southern United States. ; Africans in America, Part 4: Judgement Day.In this final episode, as the nation expands westward slavery becomes the most divisive issue in American life. Abolitionists struggle to bring the institution down and the nation is tested as never before. When tensions over slavery erupt into violence, Americans are forced to consider how long the country can continue as a democracy built on the profits of bondage. ; Related web sites: PBS web site for Africans in America See separate bibliography of reviews and articles about this film