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"Rediscovering America Series"

Rediscovering America is the perceptive telling of the nation's history first conceived by Roger G. Kennedy, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. It covers a range of material in its eleven parts but none in the traditional pattern of chronological political history. Instead it fastens on important ideas, individuals, anecdotes, forgotten and neglected aspects of the American historical landscape in refreshing and exciting ways. Produced by Jonathan Donald Productions for the Discovery Channel it makes history inviting and understandable in human terms. Ideal for schools, college and university courses, historical societies and the inquiring individual.


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Buffalo Soldiers

The US Army's first organized African American troops were nicknamed "Buffalo Soldiers" by their Indian foes for their color and tenacity in battle, Buffalo Soldiers were first organized to fight the Native Americans resisting Westward expansion following the end of the Civil War. Army Service was the only well paying employment offered former slaves and Black men flocked to the colors. However, the recognition of their service would be a long time coming. Here we document not only their bravery in battle but the distrust and even hatred of most white Americans during their struggle for recognition. We present anecdotal accounts of battles against marauding Indians, in the Spanish American War and World War I. There is an equally long record of race riots, lynchings and the lesser crimes they endured over the years, including the tragic story of the first black man to survive West Point, only to be framed and dishonored later in his Army life.

 

Champions of the Land

The battle to conserve wilderness as opposed to exploiting it without regard for its survival was uniquely American spearheaded by a handful of visionaries.

John Muir was a Scottish immigrant whose friendship with President Teddy Roosevelt planted the first seeds of conservation. His evangelistic zeal ultimately inspired the rescue of Yosemite Valley

Rosalie Edge was a powerful society matron in New York City who doggedly challenged the Audubon Society to take up the preservation of species as opposed to simply cataloguing them. Among her accomplishments was the Olympic National Park that preserves the contiguous states only northern rain forest.

Waldo Leopold was a naturalist who thought deeply about the character of wilderness and preserved his ideas in a marvelous book still widely read: The Sand County Almanac

Bob Marshall was a wealthy young man who reveled in wilderness much like the ecstatic John Muir. His work promoting public ownership of wild places would result in great numbers of new wilderness areas.

Rachel Carson wrote the seminal book, Silent Spring, that awakened the whole world to the dangers of pesticides and herbicides and in so doing launched environmentalism

 
Indians Among Us

Only half of the 600 Native American tribes that once existed survive today..

At the roots of this story are ancient prehistoric Native Americans– the Basket Maker people and the Anasazi. In search of their history we will visit 1,000 year old cliff paintings on the San Juan river and equally old and untouched cliff dwellings guarded by the present day Ute people in largely inaccessible canyon country. We also travel to the Anasazi's direct descendants, the Pueblo people, to witness a ceremonial dance now rarely seen.

In the East, we explore the prehistoric roots of Eastern tribes at Poverty Point
and at Cahokia whose temple mounds are no less impressive than the pyramids of the Maya and the Aztecs.

We will visit the commercially successful Choctaw people of Mississippi and the tiny Coushatta tribe of Louisiana. We will cap this experience with a visit to the unseen treasures of the Museum of the American Indian whose artwork, tools, canoes and weapons are the cultural legacy of peoples now largely gone.

 

Mr. Jefferson Becomes an American

Thomas Jefferson was like most Americans of his time a colonial Englishman living in America, yet he consciously undertook the task of defining himself as an American. He sought direction for his "Americanness" in part from the New World's prehistoric architecture that of the "mound builders" and we find that in architectural elements of the great houses he built.

Mr. Jefferson Becomes an American carries us throughout his life, his ideas and actions, from his religious views as a deist, to his evolution as a revolutionary thinker, to his conflicted views on slavery, to his great but little recognized work as an architect, to France and his affair with Maria Cosway, to the controversy over his better known affair with slave Sally Hemmings, to his election tactics, to the views of his friends and enemies even to his tastes in food and wine in which he combined the best Europe could offer with the exotic bounty of America.

 
Mission

Mission relates a darker story than most histories tell us of the growth of Spanish Missions in California and the South West. We relate how the Franciscan Fathers traveling on the heels of the Spanish conquistadores worked their way from California to New Mexico, Arizona and Texas building garrison churches and proselytizing the native population, sometimes forcibly.

Historian Roger Kennedy traveling in the Franciscans' tracks and accompanied by a modern priest, Father Figuroa-Deck tells us how more than 100 missions arose in the South West; how the Franciscans introduced cattle to both Mexico and the US. It is a story of exploration and exploitation. We will learn how the Pueblo Revolt threw the Spanish out for a dozen years and how Father Junipero Serra introduced forced labor to the California Missions. It is estimated that 100,000 natives died as a result.

Today missionary Franciscans incorporate native religious practices into Christian rites. This will be movingly revealed to us at a San Juan Pueblo Mass, in Zuni church architecture and at a Mass for the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico.

  Pirates

The great age of piracy has been handed down to us in the writings of Daniel Defoe and Robert Louis Stevenson. It's a romantic if bloody tale. The real history of piracy preserves some of that romance for pirates were in varying degrees social innovators. A pirate ship operated very differently from Navy or Merchant ships. The crew shared in the spoils of battle and they had a powerful voice in the running of the ship, decided what prey it should attack and administered justice when pirates broke their own laws. It was a many ways a more just world than any they might experience on land in the 17th and 18th centuries.

We will follow the rise of piracy under the privateering sea rovers of Queen Elizabeth, see the rise of the Buccaneers on the Spanish Main, witness the rise of Bahamian pirates and the final convulsive end to piracy in the Indian Ocean where New England pirates preyed on the rich cargo ships of the Great Mogul of India.

 
Railroads, Robbers & Rebels

The story of America's railroads is a mix of invention, greed, revolution and the music and adventure that flowed from these. Steam trains literally drove America's expansion and railroads became the key to great wealth for the owners who often controlled the goods and lives of people along their routes. Building and maintaining the bustling new train traffic gave thousands jobs but at a price. It was often dangerous work and working conditions were the inspiration for the rise of unionism in America, even among farmers as the Granger movement demonstrated.

We will see railroads knit the country together. We will witness violent railroad strikes, which pitted workers against the Army and strike breakers. We will meet the so called "Robber Barons' who owned the railroads, how they gained a throttlehold on society and finally how they were undone. We will see track layers or "gandy dancers" at work, learn how Chinese and Irish immigrants - often at one another's throats- laid the right-of- way for the first transcontinental route.

  Rediscovering Columbus

Beginning near Columbus Ohio, the ancient people we call the Mound Builders erected enormous geometrically perfect circles, squares and octagons, structures. Countless similar structures were built across all of eastern North America. It is a monumental record of architectural achievement that amazingly our national history has largely ignored. With elaborately rendered computer imagery we will present the earthworks in exciting aerial "fly-bys" that permit us to grasp their enormous size and complexity. We will explore the mysterious and even older giant snake shaped structure called Serpent Mound and even older still the vast 3,000 year old Poverty Point settlement in Louisiana which was seven times the size of its contemporary, Stonehenge, in England. North America's architectural prehistory challenges our cultural prejudices that have trained us to look elsewhere for monumental buildings and the roots of civilization. This particularly American heritage has descended to us through the work of architects Thomas Jefferson and Louis Sullivan.

 
The Frontier

There are few more powerful ideas native to the American imagination than "The Frontier." Once a physical boundary it became the idea of a fresh start, of renewal. We'll follow the shifting physical boundary and the many imagined frontiers that took root in our collective psyche. Since the very beginning Americans have looked westward. The Far West saw French trappers, explorers Lewis and Clark, mountain men and of course, Native Americans who had known it for thousands of years. Miners would follow trappers, then homesteaders, railroaders, farmers and finally tourists.

We will meet the real and spiritual descendants of mountain men, gold miners, Norwegian and Czech homesteaders, Lakota Sioux horsemen, and an Indian woman of striking dignity who preserves the reverence for the Earth of its earliest inhabitants

We will travel the path of early railroads, spend a Labor Day in the Frontier's actual crossroads, Julesburg Colorado. This is a journey of nostalgic transformations, a trip through America's romantic vision of itself.

  The Real American Cowboy

The iconic figure of the American Cowboy is almost mythical, passed down for over a century but what was the cowboy really like, how did he become so celebrated, so popular? Who fashioned the legend? First and foremost was Buffalo Bill Cody whose Wild West Shows were centered on the cowboy turning him from a "good for nothing" saddle tramp into a hero. Cody's shows also starred cowgirls like Annie Oakley and Indian heroes like Geronimo and Sitting Bull. There was also a real world of cowboy pioneers who lent truth to the myth , such as Charlie Goodnight, Oliver Loving and Jim Chisholm who pioneered the trails and early cattle drives.

We'll meet modern cowboys who live the legend every day like veteran wrangler and rodeo clown George Shaw, woman rancher Linda Davis, cowboy poet Baxter Black, black cowboy, J.D. Gatson. We'll, take in a distinctively different Mexican-American rodeo, meet a Mexican cowboy singing family, join a cattle drive and dance at a cowboy hoedown.

 
Witches

The Salem Witch trials were among the very few that occurred in America but they were the most mystifying. A group of teenage girls in Salem, Massachusetts in the winter of 1691 began to act strangely complaining they were being attacked by witches. No one could see anything attacking them. Eventually The girls' screams infected other children and the frightened town's fathers decided the children were bewitched. The girls told stories of black magic by an Indian Slave and named some eccentric old women as their attackers. In the months that followed America's most infamous trial unfolded in which hundreds of people were imprisoned, some tortured, and finally several women were hanged. It did not end until the girls accused the Governor's wife among other prominent people and the Governor halted the trials..

In the aftermath the girls recanted their accusations but never adequately explained their behavior which has mystified historians and psychologists ever since.

     

The Phantom Wolf "

The Phantom Wolf is as old as time. Ever since man began to hunt he has followed the wolf, the consummate thinking predator. Early man hunted in bands like the wolf and soon he began to imagine that he possessed a wolf like nature.

Shape shifting was a form of hallucination which persuaded men that they could assume different shapes or living forms. This enabled them to perform prodigies of magic or assume god like powers or so they thought. Men became were-creatures - tigers, bears - but the most powerful, and to others, the most sinister, was the werewolf.

In this hour, you will witness the evolution of the wolf in man's imagination, how he conceived of his wolfish nature 10,000 or more years ago, how the Vikings made the wolf the great ravening beast that consumed the world. In their human form "wolfmen," so called beserkers took on the ferocity of the wolf raiding and killing with inhuman appetites. Within the old religion of witchcraft the "wolf-man" became the monster called a lycanthrope or werewolf who self-induced a spell that transformed him into a fearsome hunter of the night.

Society feared the werewolf and in its fear conducted great witch and wolf hunts to scour out the threat. The inquisition burned countless thousands of "witches" and "werewolves."

Our story traces these fearful phenomena and how they arose, a timeless story that is still with us as men struggle to expunge the dark side of their nature.

 

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Greene County USA, a Local History of National Importance Mermaid, Mary Ann Willson, National Gallery

Greene County USA, a Local History of National Importance” is the extraordinary story of this rural county south of Albany, New York where a great number of “historic firsts” made it a major contributor to the national destiny. These range from an 11,000 year old mine where early man created Mastodon killing weapons, to how the early Dutch deployed their political genius, the story of a skulking guerrilla war of murders and kidnappings during the Revolution, the first American photographer, the invention of color film, the invention of the skyscraper, invention of an early form of steel, invention of the high speed printing press, center of the American Romantic Movement in the Arts with the Hudson River School of Art and novels by James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving, the birthplace of American tourism, a vital role during the Civil War and a late 19th century stronghold of emancipated womanhood and the Arts.

 

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