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American Experience: The Abolitionists (2012)

 NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Pbs (Direct)
  • DVD Release Date: January 22, 2013
  • Run Time: 180 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,892 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

American Experience: The Abolitionists. Radicals. Agitators. Troublemakers. Liberators. Called many names, the abolitionists tore the nation apart in order to create a more perfect union. Men and women, black and white, Northerners and Southerners, poor and wealthy-these passionate anti-slavery activists fought body and soul in the most important civil rights crusade in American history. What began as a pacifist movement fueled by persuasion and prayer became a fiery and furious struggle that forever changed the nation. Bringing to life the intertwined stories of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimk+ª, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, The Abolitionists takes place during some of the most violent and contentious decades in American history. It reveals how the movement shaped history by exposing the fatal flaw of a republic founded on liberty for some and bondage for others. In the face of personal risks-beatings, imprisonment, even death-abolitionists held fast to their cause, laying the civil rights groundwork for the future and raising weighty constitutional and moral questions that are still with us today. Directed by Rob Rapley, The Abolitionists interweaves drama with traditional documentary storytelling, and stars Richard Brooks, Neal Huff, Jeanine Serralles, Kate Lyn Sheil, and T. Ryder Smith, vividly bringing to life the epic struggles of the men and women who ended slavery.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
This production is filmed in a unique fashion. It's a mix of documentary presentation (with interviews with various historians, as well as narration), and a large amount of reenacting of events in the lives of pioneering abolitionists, such as Frederick Douglas, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and William Lloyd Garrison. The end result of these efforts is riveting and highly informative. I was sucked in when I started watching this on PBS, and I couldn't turn away.

A stunning level of attention was applied to the set pieces that are used for the acting portions of the program. Everything from the majestic plantation homes of the south to the wardrobes is rendered with great care. The cities of period Boston, Baltimore, and New York are similarly recreated with great success, though they are shown in limited scope (which is understandable, given the presumably small budget). Even the horse and buggies (not to mention the dirt roads they traverse) seems to ring of genuine authenticity. Granted, I'm not an expert on history, but I was sold on everything, and instantly transported to another time. Also of great use is that the acting is top notch, and the HD presentation provides fantastic resolution.

Please be warned that there are some scenes, which while brief in length, are disturbing. Lynch mobs and whippings are depicted, though they are not graphic, nor is the violence in any way gratuitous. Given the serious subject matter, the inclusion of this limited violence is certainly understandable.

I wholeheartedly recommend this program not only to fans of American history, but to all citizens of the U.S., for it does an admirable job of presenting the stories of some of this country's greatest heroes- those who dared to oppose the institution of slavery at the expense of their own safety, and in the face of what seemed insurmountable opposition.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great History piece for any age January 21, 2013
I agree completely with the first reviewer here of this mini-series. I had just seen "Lincoln" in the theater and am now sopping up everything written or filmed on this period in our history.

I think the program was done tastefully, and honestly without being too graphic.

I missed Part 1 on PBS, so I am certainly purchasing the DVD to have it all complete.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome documentary March 10, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I am a 6th grade social studies teacher and I find this documentary to be excellent. It looks real, it is a lot of live actors do a great job of dressing and acting the part. There's a lot of intense scenes, which is exactly what kids love. I have only seen parts and have heard that parts are very intense and may not be appropriate for 6th graders. The historians are well spoken and do not talk for too long in each clip. There's a good balance and spacing out of them versus the acting out part. The narration is clear. My 6th graders really remembered the information that came from this video.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanizes the people who fought for emancipation April 21, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
This video brings to life the people who, at great personal risk, struggled to bring an end to slavery. William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others are portrayed in this video as they fought the institution of slavery, and in some instances fought among themselves about the most effective means to achieve their goal. Language and content may be too intense for younger viewers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary, But where is Sarah Grimke? January 27, 2014
I like this documentary. Overall very informative. But they focus so much on Angelina Grimke, and left out the older sister Sarah, who had a very big impact on Angelina.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learned New Facts December 28, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video
I've seen all the Civil War Period pieces.
This one was way more in depth on key figures of the Abolitionists movement.
I never new that Fredric Douglas met with John Brown before the raid on the Harpers Ferry Armory;
And that he was a fugitive after the raid with a Federal fugitive warrant placed on his head.
This series really shows how the Federal government kept trying to sidestep the slavery issue and prevent all out civil war with compromise after compromise with the southern slave states.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 23, 2013
By Dideo
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I recommend this to anyone interest in American history. The Abolitionists played an important role leading to the dissolution of slavery in America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic !!! March 4, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Ken Burns Civil War series was and will always be the best depicting the conflict. The Abolitionists outlines how it all got there and the politics behind it all. Great view, highly recommended!

Roland from Ontario Canada
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