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American Experience Season 16 Episodes

9 Episodes 2003 - 2004

Episode 1

New York: A Documentary Series - The Center of the World (2002-Present)

Mon, Sep 8, 2003 180 mins

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."

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Episode 2

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War

Mon, Jan 12, 2004 90 mins

"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."

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Episode 3

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War

Tue, Jan 13, 2004 90 mins

"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."

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Episode 4

Citizen King

Mon, Jan 19, 2004 120 mins

"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.

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Episode 5

Remember the Alamo

Mon, Feb 2, 2004 60 mins

"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. Hector Elizondo narrates.

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American Experience, Season 16 Episode 5 image

Episode 6


Mon, Feb 9, 2004 60 mins

"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 phenominally successful marketing plan. What gives "Tupperware!" its bite is the fact that Tupper and Wise didn't get along.

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Episode 7

Emma Goldman

Mon, Apr 12, 2004 90 mins

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".

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Episode 8

Patriots Day

Mon, Apr 19, 2004 60 mins

"Patriots Day" follows Revolutionary War reenactors as they prepare to refire 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."

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Episode 9

Golden Gate Bridge

Mon, May 3, 2004 60 mins

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."

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