Underground Railroad Film Festival

A Woman Called Moses (200 minutes)Cicely Tyson, Will Geer, Robert Hooks. The life story of Harriet Ross Tubman, a founder of the Underground Railroad, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom in the North before the Civil War. 1978/color – Tubman aided the Union Army as a reconnaissance agent, mobilized black troops against the confederates, freeing slaves and staging raids on plantations. Later she became a leader of the suffragette movement with connections to many of the nation’s great political figures. To those she helped get to the Promised Land, Harriet Tubman became known as “Moses.”

Amazing Grace (111 minutes) – a 2006 American-British biographical drama film directed by Michael Apted, about the campaign against slave trade in the British Empire, led by William Wilberforce, who was responsible for steering anti-slave trade legislation through the British parliament. The title is a reference to the hymnAmazing Grace“. The film also recounts the experiences of John Newton as a crewman on a slave ship and subsequent religious conversion, which inspired his writing of the poem later used in the hymn. Newton is portrayed as a major influence on Wilberforce and the abolition movement.

Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad(90 minutes)directed by Don McBrearty.  1994. Courtney Vance and Janet Bailey star as slaves on a brutal antebellum North Carolina plantation. Vance and Bailey make a daring escape with two other slaves and travel north by means of the Underground Railroad.  Co-produced by two cable-TV services-The Family Channel and the Black Entertainment Network–Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad uses historical fact as background for a fictional adventure tale. Though the film isn’t as suspenseful as it should be, it provides a valuable educational service in detailing the history of the Underground Railroad, the people responsible for its maintenance, and its modus operandi. U.S. history classes could use this exceptional production as supplemental material.  Students, who may find the information about the Underground Railroad in a textbook only vaguely interesting, will enjoy learning while watching the move.  It personalizes the history and will be remembered for a long time.  Race to Freedom offers believable, memorable characters and exciting drama while illustrating both the horrors of slavery and the courageous resistance by people who risked their own lives to free others

The Underground Railroad(200 minutes) hosted by Alfre Woodard, from the History Channel. Describes the network of runaway slaves, freed blacks and anti-slavery whites who were willing to risk everything for the sake of freedom. Features re-creations of escapes and legendary achievements by Abolitionist figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The vignettes, photographs, and dramatizations are stirring, the subject well researched, and the ideas are presented in a clear and concise manner that will hold the interest of younger children as well as adults. Underground Railroad re-creates tales of the slaves’ journey to freedom from secret codes to daring escapes — as well as the selflessness and heroism on the parts of the travelers, conductors, agents, and more.

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story(60 minutes) tells the dramatic story of William Still, one of the most important yet largely unheralded individuals of the Underground Railroad. Still was determined to get as many runaways as he could to “Freedom’s Land,” smuggling them across the US border to Canada.  Bounty hunters could legally abduct former slaves living in the so-called free northern states, but under the protection of the British, Canada provided sanctuary for fugitive slaves. William Still was a humble Philadelphia clerk who risked his life shepherding runaway slaves to freedom in the tumultuous years leading up to America’s Civil War.  Still was the director of a complex network of abolitionists, sympathizers and safe houses that stretched from Philadelphia to what is now Southern Ontario.  In his fourteen years in the service of the Underground Railroad, he helped nearly eight hundred former slaves to escape. Still kept meticulous records of the many escaped slaves who passed through the Philadelphia “station.”  After the Civil War, Still published the secret notes he’d kept in diaries during those years.  And to this day, his book contains some of the best evidence we have of the workings of the Underground Railroad, detailing the freedom seekers who used it, including where they came from, how they escaped and the families they left behind.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery

Part 4: 1831-1865 Judgment Day (90 minutes) “What northerners were saying now is they didn’t want slavery to be part of the future in the West, because slavery would threaten their values, their sense of a work ethic. They were especially concerned that wherever slavery went it tended to degrade the meaning of labor. It tended to degrade the meaning of liberty itself…. Was a civil war inevitable over slavery in America? No. A war was not necessarily inevitable over slavery in America, but a deep conflict over slavery was. Any nation … that founds itself on the creeds of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right of revolution, the doctrine of consent and the doctrine of equality, and yet develops one of the largest systems of human bondage in the world, is living a national life of contradiction. “David Blight, historian

Slavery and the Making of America

Part 3: 1800 – 1860 Seeds of Destruction (60 minutes) The third hour looks at the period from 1800 through the start of the civil War when slavery saw an enormous expansion and entered its final decades. As the nation expanded west, the question of slavery became the overriding political issue. These years saw an increasingly mi9litant abolitionist movement and a widening rift between the North – which had largely outlawed slavery but still reaped the vast economic benefits of the system – and the South, now home to millions of enslaved lack men, women and children. By 1860, every attempt at striking an agreement had failed including the Missouri compromise and the draconian Fugitive slave Law of 1850 effectively splitting the Union apart.

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