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Black History: From Civil War Through Today
Black History From Civil War Through Today
Actors: Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Scott Joplin, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther Jr. King
Director: Various
Genres: Documentary, African American Cinema
NR     2008     18hr 13min

49 documentaries on 6 DVD's. includes: Fighter for Freedom: The Frederick Douglas Story; The African Burial Ground: An American Discovery; Tuskegee Airmen Palmour Street; Malcolm X: Nationalist or Humanist; Scott Joplin; J...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Scott Joplin, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther Jr. King
Director: Various
Genres: Documentary, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Civil War, African American Cinema
Studio: St Clair Vision
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 01/08/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 18hr 13min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 6
SwapaDVD Credits: 6
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Disgraceful representation
D. Robinson | 04/03/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)

"There is no pleasant picture to paint regarding the lives of Africans brought to America for slavery. Likewise, no means of media should ever try to downplay the hardships and torment that Africans endured. I find it appalling that the video collection entitled "Black History, from the Civil War Through Today" would try to do so. The videos' portrayals are as misleading as they are insulting and it should be pulled from shelves.

One segment of the series is entitled "The Plantation System in Southern Life." The quality of this segment is reminiscent of a Three Stooges or Little Rascals episode from the 30s. The film is spotted, choppy and at times inaudible. As the feature continues, it highlights a plantation house formerly occupied by a wealthy slave owning family. The narrator speaks of the grandeur of the house, its expensive furniture, and the generous amount of land surrounding the estate. As the narrator continues he states that plantation life was more than an "economic organization, it was an unusual class system." The subsequent scenes depict smiling slave owners riding on horseback inspecting the slaves as they pick cotton. The slaves were also smiling as their owners approached them and the two parties engage in eye to eye conversation. This is one of the most fallacious representations of slave life I have ever seen. Life on a plantation was not a class system nor was it an economic organization. For a class system to exist, all those within the system have to be considered, if nothing else, human. In the eyes of slave owners, slaves were not human; they were considered property, just like cattle or a plow. Secondly, slaves were never permitted to look a slave owner, his family, or any other white person in the eye. This was considered a form of disrespect and the infraction was met with the most serious of consequences. An "economic organization" it was, but not for the slave and not in the way the producers depict. An economic organization would imply that labor was employed and in return, employees were compensated. A slave owner would never fathom compensating a slave for their labor. The planation for a slave was a place of forced servitude, mental anguish and physical taxation. The director's attempt to categorize a plantation as anything other than that is a direct misrepresentation of history.

These are but a few of the misrepresentations of Black History presented in this collection. The directors, producers and editors have obviously not researched one true shred of Black History and should be ashamed for compiling this abomination."
Ronald T. Myles | Cleveland, OH USA | 02/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is an extraordinary collection of historical presentations that must be viewed in its entirety to be truly appreciated. The producers have done an excellent job in digitally restoring the vintage audio/videos but as must be expected by anyone who is knowledgeable of the restoration process some of the restorations are a bit jumpy and choppy. However, it is still a masterful job. As for content, it is quite easy to look at the first few videos dealing with the civil war and the plantation system and take umbrage that not much emphasis is put on depicting the pain and suffering of the slaves, but it should be remembered that this is a report on the history and progress of African Americans and not merely an indictment of the evils of slavery. As such it is entertaining as well as informative and very well put together. My advice is to watch it with an open mind and don't let the poor quality of some of the older training films, movie clips and documentaries distract you from the significance of their content."
Black History from Civil War through Today
D. Kirk | Tulsa, OK USA | 02/17/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"This video series has a wealth of information. However the presentation of that information makes the videos not engaging."
Recommended for Black History Buffs and Teachers
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 01/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Being that I teach Black History classes, I strongly recommend this set and will surely use them in my classes. The casual Black Hisotry fan will find much to enjoy here in this collection of vintage Af.Am. history documentaries and short films.

First of all, the Plantation and Civil War segments were originally filmed in the early 1950s to be used in classrooms. Given the time period, it would be unlikely that a film made for children during that period would be graphic about slavery, which leads one to wonder if this reviewer merely stopped watching this after that one segment. Actually, the no-holds barred view of slavery is represented in the John Brown and African Burial Ground segments, both hosted by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Speaking of which, the John Brown segment aptly handles the indicents and controversy within 25 minutes. Surprisingly, a 5 minute film on the black inventor of the shoemaking machine gives a full understanding of that subject in a remarkaby short period of time.

Some 10 minute documentaries from the 1940s and 50s on the "Negro in Business/Entertainment/Sports" are interesting. Once such documentary has some exremely rare footage of Dr. Charles Drew, inventor of blood plasma storage. Modern viewers will find jarring the advertisments for Chesterfield cigarettes which sponsored that series. The documentaries on Blacks in the military that were made during WW2 (such as "The Negro Sailor" and "The Negro Soldier") may annoy some modern viewers with their non-mention of the fact that the military was segregated at the time, but they are still fascinating to watch for some little-known stories of Blacks in military service.

"Teddy" is a brief, but fascinating short film about a ghetto youth who considers, but is soured on the Black Panther movement. Surprisingly, this does not appear to be a propaganda piece as Teddy dispassionately talks about his life and allows the viewer some peeks into the pre-hip-hop Black teenage culture of the early 70s. We also have some excellent docs on the lives of Frederick Douglass, Paul Robeson, and Booker T. Washington. The latter, which is done in a "You Are there" style, pretty much takes an adversarial view of the early educator.

Among other goodies is a 1954 interview with Adam Clayton Powell on the integration of schools (poor picture, but great content). A full length 1957 discussion between a 28 year old Martin Luther King and Judge Julius Waring (the pro-integration white judge who was forced to flee Charleston, SC in 1952) is interesting, but the meat is a 1963 interview where Dr. King (on the eve of the march on Washington) faces off with a segregationist newspaper editor (William D. Workman of the Columbia State). King fans will admire the good Dr.'s skill in dignified mental combat with his adversary (a lost art today). Also included are films of Malcolm X speaking in Selma, Alabama and armed resistance fighter Robert F. Williams.

The only complaint here is that so few female heroines (aside from businesswoman Maggie Lena Walker) are mentioned. That aside, if you like Black History, you'll love this DVD set.