All Episodes

Time For A New Story

If you’ve heard stories about Reconstruction, you’ve probably heard that it failed. And sure, some parts of Reconstruction did fail—but not because Black people didn’t claim their freedom.

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A Powerful Black Hand

How Black men and women fought to participate in the war against slavery, and how the Union’s decision to allow them to enlist shifted the tide of the Civil War.

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Interview: Crystal Feimster

The importance of digging into archives and disrupting the myth that the Civil War and Reconstruction are histories that belong to white men.

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A Bedrock For Freedom

How freedom wasn’t as clear-cut as wartime refugees from slavery expected, and how—despite terrible conditions in many camps—Black people’s desire for self-determination kept them going.

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Interview: Abigail Cooper

How Black people established communities in Civil War refugee camps, celebrating their African traditions and adapting to survive in the American patriarchy.

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Reconstructing Family

How freed people sought out their kin following emancipation, and how they worked to establish new lives with their families, pushing for recognition in the eyes of the law.

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Interview: Deborah Willis

What photography can reveal to us about the lives Black people led during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and what they wanted future generations to understand about them.

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A New Joy Awaiting Me

How newly emancipated African Americans expanded their labor on their own terms to build livelihoods for themselves, and how they were met with extreme repercussions.

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Interview: Rhiannon Giddens

Tracing Black history through music and acting as a vessel for the voices of ancestors found in the archives.

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They Can’t Keep Me Out

How African Americans pushed to secure their rights to make a free living in the face of extreme violence, and how they never lost sight of what made Black life worth living.

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Interview: Tera Hunter

How Black workers wanted to shape their working lives after the Civil War and what activities they found joy in.

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Truth Makes The Free Man

How literacy was a pathway to freedom, joy, and citizenship, and how African Americans were willing to go to any length to acquire it.

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Interview: Hilary Green

What family histories can tell us about African Americans’ quest for knowledge and their stereotype-defying vision for education.

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Equal Children Of God

How the ability to worship as they saw fit sustained Black Americans through centuries of enslavement and into freedom.

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Interview: Kelly Brown Douglas

How the Black church in America evolved out of a plethora of African religious traditions, and how the Black community can find God in times of injustice.

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The Final Word On Liberty

How African Americans’ insistence on having a full stake in freedom helped transform federal policy and codify the rhetoric of “liberty” into law.

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Interview: Kate Masur

How African Americans persevered in their quest for civil and political rights during Reconstruction, and the impact of those efforts up to the present.

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A Heritage Unique In The Ages

How gaining the right to vote opened doors to new lives for African Americans, and the ceaseless threats they faced as they sought to be treated as equals.

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Character Spotlights

Extended insight into the lives of some of the people whose stories we couldn’t fit into our episodes.

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Trace The History

Check out the Seizing Freedom interactive location map to see where these incredible events took place, in the context of our current country.

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Seizing Freedom is a co-production of VPM and Witness Docs.