Slavery and the Making of America

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SLAVERY & THE MAKING OF AMERICA (PBS, DVD)
Each episode is contained on its own DVD; there is a brief intro before the start of each transcript. Times are approximate; PBS provided the transcript, but the times and highlighting has been added by the reviewer. There are some remarkable scenes and commentary in the first three episodes. For the last one, the compelling road of Robert Smalls is the focus, if you are looking for an angle on Civil War/Reconstruction. If you want to show some historians’ interpretation of Reconstruction, you can show the last few minutes of Episode 4 for a good, somewhat hopeful view.

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Episode one opens in the 1620s with the introduction of 11 men of African descent and mixed ethnicity into slavery in New Amsterdam. Working side by side with white indentured servants, these men labored to lay the foundations of the Dutch colony that would later become New York. There were no laws defining the limitations imposed on slaves at this point in time. Enslaved people, such as Anthony d'Angola, Emmanuel Driggus, and Frances Driggus could bring suits to court, earn wages, and marry. But in the span of a hundred years, everything changed. By the early 18th century, the trade of African slaves in America was expanding to accommodate an agricultural economy growing in the hands of ambitious planters. After the 1731 Stono Rebellion (a violent uprising led by a slave named Jemmy) many colonies adopted strict "black codes" transforming the social system into one of legal racial oppression.

Transcript

SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA
Episode 1: "The Downward Spiral"
2:00Scene #1 “The First Eleven”Really interesting—start at 3:25—shows undefined, sort of negotiable early status of Africans in America Morgan Freeman, Narrator: They were from Africa and Europe. Some were enslaved. Some were indentured servants. All of them were poor and exploited. Their status as workers was confusing and complex. Their lives were controlled by the Dutch West India Company. Day after day, they struggled to survive the harsh world of Dutch New Amsterdam in the 1620s. Evening after evening they gathered in taverns.

Jim Horton: Taverns were places where you gathered to talk about your problems. And slaves would complain about their masters and indentured servants would complain about their masters and you had a lot of interracial bonding in these taverns.

Leslie Harris: You also have people who indenture themselves. They promise their labor to a wealthy person for seven years in order to pay off the price of coming to the New World.

Morgan Freeman, Narrator: The Dutch West India Company had established a fur trading post in 1624 on a hilly island called Manahattes. The area would become New York City. Less than 200 people lived in the settlement. Most were men from Northern Europe who worked for the Company. To make larger profits the Dutch West India Company wanted free labor.

(3:25)
Morgan Freeman, Narrator: Free Africans had come to the new world with European explorers in the 1530's. English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia purchased twenty Africans from Dutch traders in 1619. Seven [ed note: video says 5] years later the first enslaved Africans arrived in Dutch New Amsterdam. Their bondage began approximately two hundred years of slavery in what would become America's Northern states.

Leslie Harris: The first 11 enslaved people, all male, who came to New Amsterdam, were brought by the Dutch West Indian Company. They were owned by the company, not by individuals. So they're company slaves. And they're bought by the company for the purpose of building the colony.

Graham Russell Hodges: It was quite common for the Dutch and for the English to raid the wealthier Spanish and the Portuguese shipping to get people and to get property. So these people are really prisoners of war.

Ira Berlin: These people come out of a larger Atlantic world. In the 14th and 15th century as...
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