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American Experience

Season 23 2010 - 2011

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  • 2010-10-12T01:00:00Z on PBS
  • 55 mins
  • 13 hours, 44 mins (13 episodes)
  • United States
  • English
  • Documentary, History
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13 episodes

23x01 God in America: A New Adam (1) & A New Eden (2)

  • Season Premiere

    2010-10-12T01:00:00Z — 84 mins

A New Adam explores the origins of Christian religion in America and examines how the New World changed the faiths that the settlers brought with them. A New Eden explores how an unlikely alliance between evangelical Baptists and enlightenment figures like Thomas Jefferson served as the foundation of American religious liberty.

During the 19th century, the forces of modernity challenged traditional faith and drove a wedge between liberal and conservative believers.

Hour five explores the post-World War II era, when rising evangelist Billy Graham tried to inspire a religious revival that fused faith with patriotism in a Cold War battle with Godless Communism.

23x04 Robert E. Lee

  • 2011-01-04T02:00:00Z — 82 mins

Robert E. Lee, the leading Confederate general of the American Civil War, remains a source of fascination and, for some, veneration.

23x05 Dinosaur Wars

  • 2011-01-18T02:00:00Z — 53 mins

In the late 19th century, paleontologists Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh uncovered the remains of hundreds of prehistoric animals in the American West, including dozens of previously undiscovered dinosaur species. But the rivalry that developed between them would spiral out of control, permanently damaging their careers and threatening the future of American paleontology.

23x06 Panama Canal

  • 2011-01-25T02:00:00Z — 117 mins

The 1904-1914 construction of the Panama Canal, the 50-mile link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is recalled via archival footage, photos and interviews with workers, as well as insights from historians. The undertaking cost the U.S. about $375 million and 5609 workers (out of 56,307), who perished from both accidents and disease. The documentary also explores what life was like for the workers, who were a mix of Americans, Europeans and West Indians.

On August 15th, 1914, the Panama Canal opened, connecting the world’s two largest oceans and signaling America’s emergence as a global superpower. American ingenuity and innovation had succeeded where, fifteen years earlier, the French had failed disastrously. But the U.S. paid a price for victory: a decade of ceaseless, grinding toil, an outlay of more than 350 million dollars -- the largest single federal expenditure in history to that time -- and the loss of more than 5,000 lives. Along the way, Central America witnessed the brazen overthrow of a sovereign government, the influx of over 55,000 workers from around the globe, the removal of hundreds of millions of tons of earth, and engineering innovation on an unprecedented scale. The construction of the Canal was the epitome of man’s mastery over nature and signaled the beginning of America’s domination of world affairs.

The second half of the 19th century was a time of expansion and great technological advancement. Americans built the Brooklyn Bridge and completed the Transcontinental Railroad. The French had constructed the Suez Canal in Egypt in 1869 and set their sights on a canal through the Panamanian Isthmus. But after eight years of earthquakes, floods and disease-stunted progress, the French returned home bankrupt. The canal project would lay abandoned for nearly 15 years.

When President Theodore Roosevelt came to office in 1901, he saw the creation and control of the canal as the key to America projecting itself as a world powe

23x07 The Greely Expedition

  • 2011-02-01T02:00:00Z — 53 mins

In 1881, 25 men led by Adolphus Greely set sail from Newfoundland to Lady Franklin Bay in the high Arctic, where they planned to collect a wealth of scientific data from a vast area of the world’s surface that had been described as a "sheer blank." Three years later, only six survivors returned, with a daunting story of shipwreck, starvation, mutiny and cannibalism. The film reveals how poor planning, personality clashes, questionable decisions and pure bad luck conspired to turn a noble scientific mission into a human tragedy.

23x08 Triangle Fire

  • 2011-03-01T02:00:00Z — 53 mins

It was the deadliest workplace accident in New York City’s history. A dropped match on the 8th floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sparked a fire that killed over a hundred innocent people trapped inside. The private industry of the American factory would never be the same.

23x09 The Great Famine

  • 2011-04-12T01:00:00Z — 55 mins

The little-known story of the American effort to relieve starvation in the new Soviet Russia in 1921, The Great Famine is a documentary about the worst natural disaster in Europe since the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. Five million Soviet citizens died. Half a world away, Americans responded with a massive two-year relief campaign, championed by Herbert Hoover, director of the American Relief Administration.

23x10 Stonewall Uprising

  • 2011-04-26T01:00:00Z — 55 mins

The event that launched a worldwide rights movement -- a story told by those who took part, from drag queens and street hustlers to police detectives, journalists and a former mayor of New York. The Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village, was raided by police on June 28, 1969. Gay men and women fought back, and the streets of New York erupted in street demonstrations, announcing that the gay rights movement had arrived.

23x11 Soundtrack for a Revolution

  • 2011-05-10T01:00:00Z — 55 mins

The story of the American civil rights movement told through the freedom songs protesters sang on picket lines, in mass meetings, in paddy wagons and in jail cells as they fought for justice and equality. The music enabled African-Americans to sing words they could not say and helped protesters face brutal aggression with dignity. With heart-wrenching interviews, dramatic images and contemporary performances by top artists, including John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean and The Roots.

23x12 Freedom Riders

  • 2011-05-17T01:00:00Z — 55 mins

The story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called Freedom Riders who in 1961 challenged segregation in the American South.

The marriage of Abraham and Mary Lincoln was long and turbulent, and knew many trials, including the loss of two children. Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided weaves together the lives of the two Lincolns, drawing us into their long-vanished world.

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