American Experience Season 16
S16 E01Sep 9, 2003
New York (8): The Center of the World Sep 9, 2003 Filmmaker Ric Burns adds a poignant postscript to his series "New York: A Documentary Film" with this chronicle of the World Trade Center's rise and fall. Burns recounts Sept. 11 wrenchingly, but he devotes more than half the film to the Center's rise. This isn't a pretty story: It's one of economic, political, architectural and engineering labyrinths. The result was a critical and commercial flop, though historian Kenneth Jackson says: "It's more important to history now that it's gone."
S16 E02Jan 13, 2004
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War (1): Revolution Jan 13, 2004 "Reconstruction: The Second Civil War," a two-part report, follows political leaders and ordinary Americans alike as it chronicles one of the most contentious periods in American history. "An old social order had been destroyed," says Columbia University historian Eric Foner. "Everything was up for grabs." Part 1 begins with the end of the war, as President Johnson, no friend of the freed slaves, squares off against Republicans in Congress. In 1868 they pass the 14th Amendment, which is "the origin of the concept of civil rights," Foner notes. Johnson vetoed it and, says narrator Dion Graham, "the lines were drawn."
S16 E03Jan 14, 2004
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War (2): Retreat Jan 14, 2004 "Reconstruction" concludes by following whites and blacks in Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana between 1867 and 1877. It begins with the granting of widespread voting rights for blacks in the South, and with whites "preparing for the worst," says narrator Dion Graham. It wouldn't end that way for South Carolina rice planter Frances Butler, who was not at all pleased to "negotiate" with her family's former slaves. Their leader: Tunis Campbell, who would soon be elected to the state Senate. In Georgia, too, blacks were elected to the legislature. And in Louisiana, Vermonter Marshall Twitchell began amassing both cotton lands and political power. Local whites, who resented Twitchell deeply, called him a "carpetbagger."
S16 E04Jan 20, 2004
Citizen King Jan 20, 2004 "Citizen King," a reverential chronicle of the final five years of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, employs eyewitnesses to the history King made to recall it. Among them: Coretta Scott King, former representative William Gray, author David Halberstam, civil-rights veterans Joseph Lowery, Roger Wilkins and Taylor Branch, long-time political figure Andrew Young, former senator Harris Wofford, former attorney general Ramsey Clark and theologian James Cone.
S16 E05Feb 3, 2004
Remember the Alamo Feb 3, 2004 "Remember the Alamo" recalls the contributions of Tejanos (Hispanic Texans) to the struggle for Texan independence. It profiles Tejano leader Jose Antonio Navarro (1795-1871), an ally of Stephen F. Austin in the effort to build up the Texas economy by luring American settlers (cotton planters particularly) in the 1820s. Navarro was also a spearhead of the revolt against Mexican general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in 1836.
S16 E06Feb 10, 2004
Tupperware! Feb 10, 2004 "Modern dishes for modern living" (and they "burped," no less), sold by women at "home parties." This slice of 1950s Americana is recalled in "Tupperware!" "The era and the product were made for each other," says one of the Tupperware "ladies" who are interviewed throughout the hour. Husbands are interviewed too because Tupperware was oftentimes a family affair, with the men working behind the scenes. The man in charge: Earl Tupper, who invented the sealable plastic containers. But a woman, Brownie Wise, developed Tupperware's phenomenally successful marketing plan. What gives "Tupperware!" its bite is the fact that Tupper and Wise didn't get along.
S16 E07Apr 13, 2004
Emma Goldman Apr 13, 2004 Recalling Emma Goldman (1869-1940), the fiery and formidable radical whose life, says narrator Blair Brown, was "dedicated to free speech, free thought and free love." This profile is sympathetic to Goldman, but she doesn't get a free ride. Indeed, historian Kevin Baker calls her anarchism "jaw-droppingly naive," and no one challenges that. No one denies her passion, either. Says playwright Tony Kushner, "She lived a life on fire."
S16 E08Apr 20, 2004
Patriots Day Apr 20, 2004 "Patriots Day" follows Revolutionary War re-enactors as they prepare to re-fire those shots heard 'round the world on April 19, 1775, in Lexington and Concord. Filmmaker Marian Marzynski's style is low key and at times whimsical (real redcoats didn't use cell phones), but the "living historians" are serious. Says one: "It is important to understand the passion of what took place here."
S16 E09May 4, 2004
Golden Gate Bridge May 4, 2004 Recalling the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, a "graceful leap over an unprecedented space," as narrator David Ogden Stiers calls it. The Golden Gate presented its engineers with a "magnificent" challenge of wind, fog and colliding currents, and they succeeded so magnificently that historian Kevin Starr, the State Librarian of California, likens it to "Hamlet" or a Beethoven symphony. This hour blends technology and poetry smoothly, as does the bridge. It is, sums up Starr, "a fusion of perfections."