America's Long Struggle against Slavery

Watch America's Long Struggle against Slavery

  • 2020
  • 1 Season

America's Long Struggle against Slavery is a highly engaging and informative historical documentary series from The Great Courses Signature Collection. This series explores the complex and tumultuous history of slavery in the United States, spanning from its roots in colonial America to the end of the Civil War and the subsequent Reconstruction era.

At the center of the series is Richard Bell, an accomplished historian and a professor of history at the University of Maryland. Bell brings his extensive knowledge and passion for history to the series, providing insightful commentary on the events and actors that shaped the long struggle against slavery in America.

The series is divided into 24 half-hour episodes, each exploring a different aspect of the history of slavery and its abolition in the United States. Bell begins by examining the origins of slavery in America, tracing its roots to the arrival of the first African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, and the subsequent growth of the transatlantic slave trade.

From there, the series examines the rise of the abolitionist movement in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the various political, social, and cultural forces that contributed to its success. Bell highlights the critical role played by black activists and intellectuals such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth, who used their voices and their actions to fight for the rights and freedoms of enslaved Africans and African Americans.

The series also delves into the political and legal battles that were waged over the issue of slavery, including the Missouri Compromise, the Dred Scott decision, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Bell explains how these key moments in American history helped to shape attitudes towards slavery and race, and paved the way for the eventual abolition of slavery.

Throughout the series, Bell paints a vivid picture of the harsh realities of life as a slave in America, and the many ways in which enslaved people resisted their oppression, whether through acts of rebellion, running away, or simply refusing to accept their status as property. He also highlights the contributions of ordinary Americans, both black and white, who played a crucial role in the struggle against slavery, from the Underground Railroad to the armies of the Union and the many volunteers who supported the cause of abolition.

America's Long Struggle against Slavery is a rich and rewarding history of one of the most important and challenging chapters in American history. Its engaging storytelling, insightful commentary, and thorough research make it an essential resource for anyone interested in understanding the legacy of slavery and its enduring impact on American society.

America's Long Struggle against Slavery is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (30 episodes). The series first aired on May 22, 2020.

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Fighting Modern Slavery
30. Fighting Modern Slavery
May 22, 2020
The history of the early 21st century may show racism is alive and well, but so, too, is slavery. Around the world, 20 to 40 million people are enslaved. To conclude this series, survey several case studies of slaves around the world and in the United States. What lessons can we draw from history?
Slavery by Another Name
29. Slavery by Another Name
May 22, 2020
Although the 13th Amendment outlawed race slavery in America and the Civil War is far in the past, the legacy of slavery and the fight for equal protection and representation among black Americans has been an ongoing struggle. Reflect on the effects of Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and the state of race relations in America today.
Fighting Slavery after Emancipation
28. Fighting Slavery after Emancipation
May 22, 2020
The end of the Civil War brought legalized slavery in the United States to an end, and 3.5 million freed slaves in the South stepped into an uncertain future. Dive into some of the many challenges Americans (white and black, southern and northern) faced in the subsequent years.
US Colored Troops: Those Who Served
27. US Colored Troops: Those Who Served
May 22, 2020
Continue your study of the Civil War with a look at the role of black soldiers. Review what life was like for them in a predominantly white army, and the ill treatment many received. Then shift your attention to the role of black women during the war, many of whom served as cooks and nurses in Union hospitals. Survey the incredible wartime career of Harriet Tubman.
The Slaves' Experience of the Civil War
26. The Slaves' Experience of the Civil War
May 22, 2020
From the beginning of the war, enslaved people understood it to be a war of freedom, a war to destroy American slavery. But President Lincoln's charge was simply to preserve the union. Find out how this tension played out on plantations and battlefields, in Congress and in the White House, during the Civil War.
The Black Heart of John Brown
25. The Black Heart of John Brown
May 22, 2020
John Brown's failed raid on Harpers Ferry is one of the most famous antislavery actions before the Civil War. Who was he, and why was this raid so important? Was it an act of revolution or terrorism? Reflect on the irony that he achieved in death what he so palpably failed to achieve in life.
Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman
24. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman
May 22, 2020
Uncle Tom's Cabin was a blockbuster novel that depicted the flight to freedom. Consider this depiction from two very different vantages: the world of the author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the life of Harriet Tubman, who was at the center of immediate and decisive steps being taken by enslaved people.
Frederick Douglass and Aggressive Abolition
23. Frederick Douglass and Aggressive Abolition
May 22, 2020
In the wake of a financial crash in 1837, Garrison's abolition movement was sidelined, but the 1840s and 1850s saw the rise of an even more radical and aggressive phase of American abolitionism. Meet Frederick Douglass, review his writings, and consider the depictions of suicide in antislavery writing.
Roger Taney: Nationalizing Slavery
22. Roger Taney: Nationalizing Slavery
May 22, 2020
Learn about the confounding life of Roger Taney, who as a young man turned his back on his family's tobacco plantation and manumitted many of his own slaves. Yet, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he dramatically expanded the rights of slaveholders through infamous decisions such as Dred Scott v. Sanford.
Surviving King Cotton
21. Surviving King Cotton
May 22, 2020
The mass migration of the Second Middle Passage changed the nature of resistance to slavery. Responding to the threat of separation from their families and opposition to their sale to the Deep South, slaves participated in multifaceted and unrelenting resistance. Survey this struggle and these troubling times.
William Lloyd Garrison's
20. William Lloyd Garrison's "Thousand Witnesses"
May 22, 2020
David Walker's words and Nat Turner's actions had a galvanizing effect upon white abolitionists, most notably William Lloyd Garrison. See how Garrison and others shifted from an attitude of slow, gradual change to a stance of immediacy. Survey an unprecedented campaign to challenge slaveholders' moral authority in the 1830s.
David Walker, Nat Turner, and Black Immediatism
19. David Walker, Nat Turner, and Black Immediatism
May 22, 2020
Writer David Walker and insurrectionist Nat Turner transformed the debate about slavery in America. Their immediate words and deeds terrorized southern slaveholders as never before and forced legislators to articulate just how far they would go to protect the institution of slavery. Meet these extraordinary men and witness their actions.
18. "Our Native Country": Opposing Colonization
May 22, 2020
Delve into the colonization movement, an effort that sprang to life in the 1810s to send black people from America to Africa. Consider the questions this movement posed for African Americans: Where was home? Were they African or American? Where did they belong? Investigate both sides of this controversial movement.
The Second Middle Passage
17. The Second Middle Passage
May 22, 2020
At the turn of the 19th century, social and economic conditions were shifting inside the United States, and President Jefferson signed into law an act prohibiting the importation of slaves. Learn about the mass migration of slaves from Virginia into the Deep South of Louisiana that resulted, and how this migration transformed the country.
Founding the Free Black Churches
16. Founding the Free Black Churches
May 22, 2020
There is more to fighting slavery than achieving legal liberty, a simple truth that this country's first generation of free black leaders discovered in post-Revolutionary War northern cities. See how the expanding free black population in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere looked for ways to help themselves.
The Haitian Revolution
15. The Haitian Revolution
May 22, 2020
Between 1791 and 1804, the Haitian Revolution tore apart a French Caribbean colony. As you'll learn, not only was it the single largest slave revolt in the history of the world, it was the only one that had succeeded so far. Delve into this radical and violent revolution to meet the players and uncover what happened in these 13 astonishing years.
Charles Pinckney's Counterrevolution
14. Charles Pinckney's Counterrevolution
May 22, 2020
While many abolition efforts started to take hold after the American Revolution, an equally powerful revolution was underway to secure the slave system. Here, review the reprehensible three-fifths clause and other pro-slavery measures in the 1787 Constitution, which would take antislavery activists decades to undo.
Taking Slavery to Court
13. Taking Slavery to Court
May 22, 2020
The American Revolution marked a watershed in the history of opposition to African slavery in America. In northern states, Pennsylvania led the charge in legal changes that would lead to gradual abolition. While abolition efforts failed in southern states, some individual slaves were able to strike deals with their masters for manumission.
Slavery in the War for Independence
12. Slavery in the War for Independence
May 22, 2020
While American colonists fought for independence against their British oppressors, the war provided free and enslaved African Americans an opportunity to fight their own war against slavery. Professor Bell introduces you to black militiamen and soldiers on both sides of the Revolutionary War, and reveals the setbacks they faced after the war.
Three Quaker Activists
11. Three Quaker Activists
May 22, 2020
Meet three important Quaker activists from the 17th and 18th centuries: a fiery hermit writer named Benjamin Lay, a shopkeeper and essayist named John Woolman, and a schoolteacher named Anthony Benezet, who set up Philadelphia's first Free African School. Reflect on the transformation in attitudes that was occurring during the 18th century.
Maroons: Those Who Escaped
10. Maroons: Those Who Escaped
May 22, 2020
Runaway slaves in Virginia and the Carolinas had limited options. They could head for the coast or down to Spanish-controlled Florida, but some runaway slaves simply disappeared into the backcountry. Find out where these "maroons" went, how they lived, and what dangers they faced if discovered.
Slave Insurrections in the 18th Century
9. Slave Insurrections in the 18th Century
May 22, 2020
Although there may have been several hundred slave uprisings in British North America and the United States, most of them were minor, or possibly even imagined by paranoid slave masters. Here, delve into the Stono Rebellion of 1739, which was the only significant armed challenge to slaveholders' supremacy on the mainland before the 19th century.
Phibbah Thistlewood: Sleeping with the Enemy
8. Phibbah Thistlewood: Sleeping with the Enemy
May 22, 2020
Among runaway slaves, men outnumbered women nearly two to one, but that doesn't mean women played no role in resistance. As this episode will make clear, women practiced several strategies for resistance, critically important because of the prevalence of assault on plantations. A woman named Phibbah provides a fascinating case study.
Thomas Thistlewood's Plantation Revolution
7. Thomas Thistlewood's Plantation Revolution
May 22, 2020
One hallmark of the plantation economy in Barbados, Jamaica, and South Carolina is that black slaves outnumbered their white masters by a wide margin. As such, see how whites used dehumanizing tactics to control the slave population. Then review Tacky's Revolt, one of the largest slave rebellions in the British Atlantic world during the 18th century.
Quakers and Puritans Join the Fight
6. Quakers and Puritans Join the Fight
May 22, 2020
Where were the moral voices among white Europeans speaking out against the heinous system of slavery? The American Quaker community had a long history of antislavery activism, from legal pamphlets to spiritual protests. Learn more about the Quaker community, its views on slavery, and its limitations in the early American economy.
A Free Black Family in Colonial Virginia
5. A Free Black Family in Colonial Virginia
May 22, 2020
Shift your attention to the Chesapeake tobacco economy in the 17th century, a time when colonial law changed in a way that would promote the slave economy. First, you will meet Anthony Johnson, a freed slave who in turn held his own slaves. Then, see how Bacon's Rebellion paved the way for slave codes that changed the social order in Virginia.
Shipboard Rebellion and Resistance
4. Shipboard Rebellion and Resistance
May 22, 2020
Leaving the continent of Africa, the second place for resistance was aboard the slave ships as they departed for the Caribbean. Although we have limited historical records, this episode explores the suicides, runaways, and revolts on slave ships, as well as the efforts made by Europeans to control the enslaved.
Opposing the African Slave Trade
3. Opposing the African Slave Trade
May 22, 2020
The American slave trade began in Africa. It is an uncomfortable truth that African rulers and merchants played a hand in supplying slaves to Europeans. However, a look at the African continent also shows us the first strategies of resistance, from defensively trying to elude capture to offensive efforts to get away from the hellish confinement of European forts.
Origins of Slavery in the British Empire
2. Origins of Slavery in the British Empire
May 22, 2020
Slavery in the British Empire has its roots in the trading economy of the 16th century. See how the Englishman John Hawkins cut into the Portuguese slave trade in the New World, which led to the founding of the Royal African Company, the largest slaving operation in the Atlantic.
Understanding the Fight against Slavery
1. Understanding the Fight against Slavery
May 22, 2020
Begin your course with an exploration of the long war against slavery, which began centuries before the American Civil War. Professor Bell offers a survey of resistance among enslaved Africans in the 17th and 18th centuries and outlines five generational periods in the long struggle to end slavery. #History
Where to Watch America's Long Struggle against Slavery
America's Long Struggle against Slavery is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch America's Long Struggle against Slavery on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Kanopy and Hoopla.
  • Premiere Date
    May 22, 2020