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Underground Railroad (History Channel)

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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(Jan 28, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

They were determined to undo slavery one person at a time, even at the risk of imprisonment-or death. Alfre Woodard hosts this inspiring journey to freedom, with historical documents and interviews with descendants telling the tale of the history, heroes and villains of the Abolitionist movement. Includes A&E's Biography: Frederick Douglass , segments on the Emancipation Proclamation, Dredd Scott case and Harriet Tubman, and a timeline. 1998/color/120 min/NR/Stereo.

The Underground Railroad, "the first civil rights movement," was no mere act of civil disobedience. The secret network of guides, pilots, and safe-house keepers (the Railroad's "conductors") was built by runaway slaves who, over the decades, communicated their experiences through songs and secret gestures, and were supported by abolitionists (many of them former slaves) who risked their own freedom to help free the enslaved. The "passengers" risked their lives.

A wealth of photos, documents, and commentary by modern historians provides the broad lines of history, but it comes alive in the individual stories of conductors and passengers, among them abolitionist and historian William Still, called the "Father of the Underground Railroad," and Henry "Box" Brown, who mailed himself to freedom in a cargo crate. They (and many others) take their place beside Harriet Tubman ("the Moses of her people") and Frederick Douglass as courageous heroes in America's first integrated social movement.

The DVD also features the Biography episode on Frederick Douglass, the complete text of the Emancipation Proclamation, a biographical essay on Harriet Tubman, and other historical background pieces. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

  • "Frederick Douglass" episode of A&E Biography
  • Background information on the Dred Scott case
  • Harriet Tubman biography
  • Timeline of key historical events

Product Details

  • Actors: Alfre Woodard
  • Directors: Jeff Lengyel
  • Producers: Jeff Lengyel, Steve Kroopnick, Stu Schreiberg, Susan Michaels
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 28, 2003
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007GZYD
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,404 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Underground Railroad (History Channel)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
The History Channel's documentary on the Underground Railroad remains one of the definitive television documentaries of this very early civil rights movement. After quickly establishing that the Underground Railroad was certainly not a railroad train that literally ran underground, we see that the Underground Railroad was in fact a hodge-podge, "make it up as you go along" way of escaping slavery in the southern United States to freedom in the northern United States.

The documentary gives us great interviews with historians from fine universities including Princeton and Howard University. Together these historians tell stories that enlighten us about what it was like to use the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom. We see that the routes to safety didn't always work--some slaves were caught and either killed on the spot or returned to their masters for brutal treatment. There were bounty hunters everywhere and even if a runaway slave was successful just crossing the Ohio River proved to be a whopping challenge--after all, many people didn't know how to swim at the time.

We also learn of the pivotal roles played by white and black abolitionists including Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman during the decades before the civil war; and the re-enactments have acting that simulates rather well what a runaway slave looked like as they made their daring escape to freedom.

There's so much more about the Underground Railroad that is discussed in this fantastic documentary; but I must leave some things out to whet your appetite to watch or buy this awesome film.

The DVD comes with a few extras.
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This DVD was essentially a collection of stories about the underground railroad. They include most, if not all of the well known railroad "conductors". There was not a whole lot of dramatization, but the stories and the visuals throughout the stories were good enough to keep me occupied and interested throughout.
Stories that they tell include some of the more well known one's, like "boxcar Brown" and they also told some stories that I had not heard (despite going over this period of history 4 times during college, one of which the class was dedicated to the subject of slavery). They also talk a lot about some of the abolitionists and the sentiment of the North and how they aided the escape of numerous slaves.
All in all I really enjoyed the DVD, more than I had anticipated that would. The one criticism that I would make is the glowing portrayal of John Brown. IMO the man was a half-baked nut job and his attack on Harpers Ferry was is not something that should be counted as a positive moment in the anit-slavery movement. They failed to mention that the first man killed in Brown's assault was a black man, a freed slave...
Aside from the John Brown stuff however, it was a great DVD that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in slavery, the Civil War, or just American hitory in general.
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Format: DVD
One of the most general perceptions that I received from my high school history days in the 1960's concerning the fate of black slaves in America was that they essentially passively waited for the Union armies to free them during the process of the Civil War in the 1860's. In short, blacks had no pre-history as a people who struggled for freedom in their own right but were merely the victims of history. Of course, since those days I have made it my business to find out the real story of slave resistance and although there are many parts that are lost to history we now know that as least some slaves in some situations found ways to break their bondage. Aided during the past few decades by serious scholarly research into the subject we have a more rounded view of the dynamics of slavery in ante bellum American society. This well done History Channel docu-drama, hosted by actress Alfre Woodard, presents one part of that struggle- the work of the Underground Railroad- the fight of courageous individual blacks, aided sometimes by their Northern supporters, to `follow the drinking gourd' North to freedom.

This presentation, complete with the `talking head' commentators that inevitably accompany such efforts, goes back to the early days of slavery and demonstrates that there was always an element of the struggle for freedom by black slaves from the earliest days of European settlement in North America. Moreover, a cadre of freed blacks who were the catalyst for the freedom struggle developed from early on as well. However, the black anti-slavery movement (and for that matter the white part of the anti-slavery movement) did not get energized until the early 19th century in response to the increasing use of slaves to cultivate the expanding cotton crop on Southern plantations.
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Format: DVD
This is a very good release by the history channel that sheds some light on the underground railroad. I could care less about the acting in this film because this is a documentary. Most documentaires aren't rated on how the acting is but how the information is conveyed to the masses. I felt this is a good release because it is talking about a lot of people and information that are being neglected universally in the schools of amerikkka. More documentaries about africans and our history need to be produced and fused into all schools around the nation.
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