Monday, April 19, 2010

America: The Story of Us

Advertising works. The marketing minds over at the History Channel have done a fine job of grabbing my interest in their upcoming new documentary mini-series America: The History of Us.  With nothing more than a massive billboard that I saw as I was driving along the Westside Highway and a couple of posters on bus-stops and subway stations along the busy streets of Manhattan, I was hooked.  The image of the Statue of Liberty being constructed in all its original, shiny, copper-colored glory (before it obtained its current iconic green patina) was captivating and made me set my TiVo to record the 12-part series which begins April 25.

The History Channel is hyping it up as a landmark program, the "most in-depth series ever produced" by the network.  It is also part of a massive educational initiative in which free teachers' guides and free DVDs are being made available to schools around the country.  Here's a link to a press release issued by the History Channel and its sponsor Bank of America.

This certainly looks like an exciting series.  A video teaser on History.com gives a small taste of the massive scope that viewers can expect. 

An "idea book" offered online as part of the network's suggested guides for history teachers to use the program to teach about the creation and development of the United States of America offers an episode list. 

Episode 1: "Rise of the Patriots"
(These titles might change -- my TiVo lists the first episode as titled simply "Rebels") 

The founding of Jamestown and Plymouth, the hardships of the early colonies, the arrival of Africans and development of slavery, and interactions with Native Americans, are explored. As the colonies prevail, tensions with the British ignite.

Episode 2: "Revolution!"
The sparks of rebellion, the Declaration of Independence, and the drama of the American Revolution are examined in this episode. The triumph of General George Washington and his troops pave the way for a new nation; the United States is officially born.

Episode 3: "Westward"
As wagontrains and cattle barrons headed westward, they confronted Native American Indians, the Spanish, and the French. Westward migration, the discovery of gold and other resources, and the battles to dominate the American landscape are covered in this episode.

Episode 4: "Seeds of War"
America became a nation just as a revolution in commerce and industry swept the western world. This episode explores the economic growth of the U.S. in the context of rising divides in the North and South over slavery. After the election of Abraham Lincoln, civil war became inevitable.

Episode 5: "Civil War"
In 1863, the Confederate Army seemed poised to overtake the Union forces. Following the bloody battle at Antietam, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Former slaves joined the Union army in droves. With battlefield technology and steely resilience, the Union prevailed and America was perched to become a global superpower.

Episode 6: "Conquering the Plains"
In 1869, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of America were linked by continuous metal rails. Railroads connected Americans in new ways and altered the entire ecology of the continent. The vast Plains, where buffalo and Native Americans had roamed, were remade by land speculators and industrialists.  In less than a quarter of a century, the West was transformed.

Episode 7: "City"
In 1871 Chicago burned to the ground and from the ashes of the old a new kind of city rose. A flood of new immigration, resistance among workers to unfair conditions, and the expansion of mass transportation are covered. The innovative, entrepreneurial American spirit embodied by business leaders and everyday Americans come to life in this episode.

Episode 8: "Boom"
Henry Fords Model T and assembly line, together with the discovery of abundant oil reserves, opened up a new way of life in the 20th-century U.S.  This episode traces the significance of World War I, African American migration to northern cities, prohibition, and the onset of the film industry.

Episode 9: "Bust"
On October 29, 1929, the boom time of the 1920s crashed on Wall Street.  The dramatic effects of the Great Depression and New Deal are the topics of this episode.  Despite economic collapse, major public works projects such as the Hoover Dam proved the might of the U.S. worker.

Episode 10: "America at War"
America was still mired in the Great Depression, but U.S. involvement in World War II revved the engines of the U.S. economy -- and changed American society forever. This episode delved into the WWII era with attention to the role of women and African Americans, the use of new technologies of war, and the enormous effects of this era on the place of the U.S. in the world order.

Episodes 11 and 12: "Then and Now"
America's most prominent leaders and personalities reflect on the defining moments of post WWII-America including the Cold War, the space race, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and Watergate. September 11th is memorialized and the significance of President Barack Obama's election is analyzed. The series concludes with a look at what has endured -- and what has changed -- over 400 years of American history.

Tune in if you can.  It sounds like an incredible series.

1 comment:

Peter said...

History lessons on TV is usually the most effective way of making people remember. Reading is no where near the emotions which TV reenactments could invoked.