American Experience: Season 13 (2000 - 2001)


Season 13
American Experience

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Air date: Oct 16, 2000

A dramatic two-part profile of the Rockefellers, a family whose name is synonymous with wealth, begins. Part 1 traces how John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) struck oil (figuratively) in the 1860s and parlayed it into a corporate behemoth that the Supreme Court had to break up in 1911. It also examines how he and his son John D. Jr. (1874-1960) lived with that money---and the hatred it engendered. The family's strategy: philanthropy. David Ogden Stiers narrates.

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Air date: Oct 23, 2000

Part two of The Rockefellers chronicles the efforts of John Rockefeller Jr. to rebuild the family's reputation by various acts of philanthropy. Burdened by his father's wealth, he poured money into a number of projects including the Museum of Modern Art, a medical college in China, and Radio City Music Hall. Rockefeller also attempted to instill the same rectitude in his sons. Laurance became a venture capitalist and conservationist, while Winthrop was elected governor of Arkansas; David served as the CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank while John Rockefeller III became an expert on Asian affairs. The highest profile, however, belonged to the second son, Nelson, who served as governor of New York four times, attempted to run for the presidency, and became Vice President under Gerald Ford. In 1976, a number of third-generation Rockefellers wrote a tell-all book critically detailing the internal workings of the family. A number of deaths within the Rockefeller family during the 1970s, however, renewed the family's commitment to philanthropic activities.

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Air date: Oct 30, 2000

In this edition of The American Experience, viewers investigate the life and work of one of America's greatest engineers, James Eads. Eads, a largely self-educated man, built the first ironclads, designed steel bridges, and, in the culmination of his career, designed the system of dams, levees, and jetties that control the mighty Mississippi and make it navigable for commerce. To do this, he came into direct conflict with another man, Andrew Humphreys, head of the Army Corp of Engineers. Their struggle to control the future of the river mirrors in many ways the conflict between civil and military authority that rages along the river today. This program presents a complex portrait of a complicated man.

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Air date: Nov 14, 2000

Screening in the American Spectrum section of the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary by Academy award-winning filmmakers Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision) and Terry Sanders (A Time Out of War) explores the 462 American prisoners of war who were held in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War. Told entirely through interviews with survivors and previously unseen Vietnamese footage that documents their lives during the imprisonment, the filmmakers focus on the strength of overcoming adversity rather than the horrors of the war and the prisons. The film also concerns itself with the return of the 462 pilots held for over eight-and-one-half years, and how Americans celebrated their homecoming.

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Air date: Jan 12, 2001

Nearly 600 drowned, burned, or killed from debris driven by a 183 mph wind; almost 9,000 houses flooded or smashed to splinters; even stone buildings swept away by the 15-foot high wall of water known as a "storm surge." In the days before radar and flying meteorological labs, hurricanes could strengthen and strike with little or no warning. That's what happened to the residents of New England on September 21, 1938. Originally telecast on the acclaimed PBS series The American Experience, this documentary blends commentary from historians and meteorologists, interviews with storm survivors, and archival film footage and photographs.

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Air date: Jan 19, 2001

Marcus Garvey was one of the first and most important African-American leaders of the 20th century. Born in Jamaica in 1887, Garvey began studying African culture and history in England, and in 1914 founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a pioneering organization advocating empowerment and equal opportunities for blacks. Garvey moved to the United States in 1916 and founded The Negro World, a newspaper for African-American readers that espoused pride and solidarity among African-Americans. Garvey also founded the controversial "Back to Africa" movement, based upon Garvey's belief that blacks would never receive true equality and justice in a nation ruled by whites and should repatriate to the land of their ancestors. While Garvey became a popular and respected leader in the black community, he also became involved in a number of ill-advised business ventures; FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, no fan of Garvey's black nationalist politics, began an intense investigation of his affairs, which led to Garvey's deportation after a conviction for mail fraud. Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind is a documentary that chronicles Garvey's rise to prominence and the lasting importance of his message, while also offering an unblinking look at the poor business acumen and personal arrogance that led to his downfall in the United States. Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind was directed by Stanley Nelson, who previously helmed an acclaimed documentary about the history of the African-American press, The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords.

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Air date: Feb 19, 2001

Part 1 of a six-part chronicle of the Abraham Lincoln-Mary Todd relationship begins with their childhoods and courtship. He, of course, was born into poverty; she, however, grew up in luxury, the daughter of a Kentucky banker and slave owner. (Several of her brothers would die fighting for the South in the Civil War.) While he was something of a rube when they met, she was the opposite, polished and refined. Yet they shared something in common: a love of politics. Narrator: David McCullough.

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Air date: Feb 19, 2001

Part 2 of 6. The marriage of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln proves to be a tempestuous affair accented by her temper, his depression and their political ambitions. Included: his elections to the U.S. House of Representatives and, later, the presidency.

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Air date: Feb 20, 2001

Part 3 of 6. When the Lincolns arrive in Washington, D.C., in 1861, the president-elect is deemed untested and is mistrusted; Mary, meanwhile, is suspected of being a Confederate sympathizer due to being the daughter of a Southern slave owner. As Abraham deals with the national tragedy of the Civil War, the couple also face a tragedy much closer to home: the 1862 death of their son Willie.

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Air date: Feb 20, 2001

Part 4 of 6. The aftermath of son Willie's death finds Mary turning to spiritualists for comfort and, perhaps, slipping from sanity. President Lincoln, however, has another matter larger than his own grief that demands attention---the war. Included: the step he took that changed the nature of the conflict, the Emancipation Proclamation, which he issued on Jan. 1, 1863.

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