Most helpful positive review
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fine documentary of the first civil rights movement
on November 17, 2007
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. The most notable extra is a Biography Channel's episode on the life and times of Frederick Douglass; this 45 minute extra tells us a lot about Frederick Douglass although there are times when the subject matter gets a little too tangential in my opinion.
Overall, this fine documentary about the Underground Railroad can teach many people what it was really like on the risky path to freedom; and we see still photos to add even more of a human touch to the interviews we get with the historians from universities. I highly recommend this for history buffs and for anyone who wishes to study the Underground Railroad, slavery in America and the events leading up to the American Civil War.