10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America is comprised of ten films, each created by a different documentary filmmaker. The series spotlights ten historic events that changed the landscape of America.
Fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland, the Battle of Antietam (Battle of Sharpsburg to Southerners) was the first major battle of the American Civil War to take place in the north. The battle would leave more than 23,000 soldiers dead, its carnage impossible to visualize. The victory of the north gave President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, bringing an end to slavery in America.
On May 26, 1637, English settlers and their Indian allies attacked Mystic Fort, home of the Pequot Indians, in Mystic Connecticut would change the relationship between the colonists and Indians forever. Several hundred Pequot Indians would be massacred in this battle, and those who tried to flee were either killed or sold into slavery afterwards. This single battle severely decimated the Pequot Indian tribe. Over the years, the tribe living on their reservation had diminished to merely three people. They would go on to take on the American government, getting land and federal recognition. Their tribe has been able to make a resurgence thanks to the controversial construction of a bingo hall and eventually a casino in the northeast.
On July 16, 1939, at the insistence of Le� Szil�rd and Eugene Wigner, legendary physicist Albert Einstein signed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, personally warning the President of Nazi Germany's scientific research of the atomic bomb. His letter to President Roosevelt would convince Roosevelt of the importance and the danger of this type of weapon in the hands of Adolf Hitler, and Roosevelt immediately created the Advisory Committee on Uranium. After some time had passed, Einstein was forced to send another letter to Roosevelt because the government was not fully funding the committee because Le� Szil�rd and Eugene Wigner were both born outside of the U.S. and were considered possible security risks. Roosevelt immediately ordered the government to give them the needed funds, and this brought about the Manhattan Project. After realizing the bomb would likely be used, Einstein regretted signing the letters to Einstein. Although a pacifist, Einstein never wanted the Nazis to be the ones who had this powerful and dangerous weapon.
While attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. Although doctors were able to remove the bullet, but his health declined soon thereafter because the medical practice at the time was not familiar with the concept of introducing intravenous fluids, as used in modern medicine. The assassination would bring Theodore Roosevelt into the Presidency, and would mark a major political shift in the White House.
Elvis Presley's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 09, 1956 signified a whole new culture that involved teenage independence, sexuality, race relations, and a new form of music. These changes truly scared older generations of Americans.
On January 24, 1848, a carpenter named James Marshall discovered gold in a California river, assuring in the famous gold rush, which would propel the creation of the state of California seemingly overnight, fuel vast industrial growth, and make America a world economic power. While gold had been discovered elsewhere, by the Egyptians, Hittites, Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, there had never been a gold rush. There had always been an emperor, king, pharaoh, or czar who could keep people away from the vast riches.
July 21, 1925 marked the start of the Scopes Monkey Trial. At issue was the Butler Act, which had been passed a few months earlier by the Tennessee General Assembly. The law said "... that it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals".The debate of evolution and divine creation is one that continues to this very day, and this trial is often referenced to.
On July 6, 1892, the union working at Carnegie Steel Company went on strike due to pay cuts and poor working wages. Just before the strike, Andrew Carnegie left for a trip to Scotland, leaving the company in the hands of his manager, Henry Clay Frick, who was well-known to be very anti-union. Frick would bring in replacement workers and used Pinkerton agents to safeguard their arrival. When the workers attempted to go to work, the strikers and the Pinkerton agents got into a gunfight, leaving ten people dead. Two brigades of Pennsylvania state militia were called out to restore piece. In an attempt to get rid of Frick, anarchist Alexander Berkman tried to murder Frick, but he was unsuccessful, and ended up turning public opinion away from the striking workers. Carnegie Steel Company would go on to resume operations without the union, using mostly unskilled immigrant laborers.
The murders of three civil rights workers, part of the Freedom Summer Project, on June 21, 1964 by members of the Ku Klux Klan, spurred Congress to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which made it easier for minorities and poor people to vote. The law would be signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 06, 1965.
With the American Revolution over, the farmers of Massachusetts were upset about growing debt and increasing taxes. Failure to repay debt often resulted in imprisonment in debtor's prisons, which angered many people. Upset about this, a farmer, Daniel Shays decided to form a group of rebels to rebel against the Massachusetts government. Shays' rebellion would grow to include over 9,000 rebels, and was able to close down many courthouses, which meant no one would be sent to debtor's prisons. When retired General George Washington heard about the rebellion, he, with the encouragement of Henry Knox, decided to come out of retirement and be more active in public life. The rebellion resulted in the reevaluation of the Articles of Confederation at the Constitutional Convention, where the US Constitution was finished, creating a new, stronger government.