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Biography of America
Biography of America Video Series
Biography of America web site
for additional resources on
A video instructional series on American history
for college and high school classrooms and adult learners; 26 half-hour
video programs, coordinated books, and web site. View the series online
free on the Annenberg/CPB web site http://www.learner.org; also
available on DVD.
A Biography of America presents history not simply as a series of
irrefutable facts to be memorized, but as a living narrative. Prominent
historians — Donald L. Miller, Pauline Maier, Louis P. Masur, Waldo E.
Martin, Jr., Douglas Brinkley, and Virginia Scharff — present America's
story as something that is best understood from a variety of
perspectives. Thought-provoking debates and lectures encourage critical
analysis of the forces that have shaped America. First-person
narratives, photos, film footage, and documents reveal the human side of
American history — how historical figures affected events, and the
impact of these events on citizens' lives. Produced by WGBH Boston in
cooperation with the Library of Congress and the National Archives and
Records Administration, and with the assistance of Instructional
Resources Corporation, 2000.
Episodes 1-5 are of special interest to this section of World Observer.
1. New World Encounters
Professor Miller introduces A Biography of America and its team
of historians. The program looks at the beginnings of American history
from west to east, following the first Ice Age migrations through the
corn civilizations of Middle America, and the explorations of Columbus,
DeSoto, and the Spanish.
2. English Settlement
As the American character begins to take shape in the early seventeenth
century, English settlements develop in New England and Virginia. Their
personalities are dramatically different. Professor Miller explores the
origins of values, cultures, and economies that have collided in the
North and South throughout the American story.
3. Growth and Empire
Benjamin Franklin and Franklin’s Philadelphia take center stage in this
program. As the merchant class grows in the North, the economies of
southern colonies are built on the shoulders of the slave trade.
Professor Miller brings the American story to 1763 with the Peace of
Paris and English dominance in America.
4. The Coming of Independence
Professor Maier tells the story of how the English-loving colonist
transforms into the freedom-loving American rebel. The luminaries of the
early days of the Republic — Washington, Jefferson, Adams — are featured
in this program as they craft the Declaration of — and wage the War for
5. A New System of Government
After the War for Independence, the struggle for a new system of
government begins. Professor Maier looks at the creation of the
Constitution of the United States. The Republic survives a series of
threats to its union, and the program ends with the deaths of John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson on the Fourth of July, 1826.
Workshops in American History
The following two videos coordinate with programs 2
and 4 of the series described above. View the videos free online on the
Annenberg/CPB web site.
Workshops in American History Videos
Workshops in American History web site
features 8 one-hour video programs, workshop guide, and web site. In
this workshop, 12 high school history teachers explore the use of
primary-source documents in the research and interpretation of American
history. The programs feature informal lectures by prominent historians
on pivotal events from the settlement of Jamestown to the Korean
conflict and the Cold War. The teachers are led in discussions, debates,
interviews, and role-playing as they investigate the original documents
that “transmit the voices of America’s past.” The topics relate to
programs from Annenberg/CPB’s series A Biography of America,
which can be viewed in coordination with this workshop. Produced by WGBH
1. The Virginia
Company: America’s Corporate Beginnings
How can primary sources illuminate historical events? This workshop
tells the story of Jamestown, a less-than-successful example of
America’s capitalist beginnings and a colony as a business operation.
Drawing on contemporary accounts, workshop participants assume the roles
of colonists and shareholders to argue the future of the Virginia
Company’s settlement at Jamestown. Coordinated with A Biography of
America program 2: English Settlement.
Sense and the American Revolution: The Power of the Printed Word
This workshop explores the power and importance of America’s first
"best-seller." Using the language of ordinary people, Thomas Paine’s
Common Sense called for revolution, challenging many assumptions
about government and the colonies’ relationship with England. This
workshop contrasts the declarations of local communities with Common
Sense to see how support for American independence rose up in the
colonies. Coordinated with A Biography of America program 4: The
Coming of Independence.
The Western Tradition Video Series: Programs 35-38 on the
Enlightenment in the Foundation of America
Enlightenment and Society
Scientists and social reformers battled for universal human rights
during a peaceful and prosperous period.
36. The Modern
Freedom of thought and expression opened new vistas explored by French,
English, and American thinkers.
37. The American
The British colonists created a society that tested Enlightenment ideas
and resisted restrictions imposed by England.
38. The American
A new republic, the compromise of radicals and conservatives, was
founded on universal freedoms.
Annenberg Media also offers a video series
(thirteen 60 minute programs) on the US Constitution which you
can view free online. In addition, you may also be interested in
the video series Democracy in America (fifteen 30 minute
programs). View the titles and program descriptions in our
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