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Company is Sole Corporate Underwriter for PBS and Thirteen/WNET Series Slavery and the Making of America

Jan 13, 2004

New York Life is the sole corporate underwriter of Slavery And The Making Of America, a PBS and Thirteen/WNET New York series, as well as a companion educational outreach effort. The series is a four-part documentary that will examine the complexities of this oppressive period in American history. Slated to debut on PBS stations in Fall 2004, Slavery And The Making Of America will be the first comprehensive documentary to draw its content from recent scholarship that offers new perspectives. It reveals the courage, ingenuity and strength of enslaved men, women and children, as well as the contributions they made to the wealth, culture and spirit of America.

"Slavery And The Making Of America will be a landmark series, one we are extremely gratified to be able to offer to millions of PBS viewers, giving them fresh insight into a significant yet often misunderstood period from our nation's past," said Tamara E. Robinson, vice president and director of programming for Thirteen/WNET New York. "We are grateful that New York Life shares our profound commitment to this subject and to quality programming as reflected not only with their support of this series, but also of prior programs, The American President and The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow."

"Slavery And The Making Of America will be a compelling series that explores this painful period in our nation's history, giving viewers a deeper understanding of the effects of slavery on American society," said Chairman Sy Sternberg. "We are pleased to continue our support of the fine educational programming that PBS is known for and to offer a companion Web site that will energize and enhance classroom learning for millions of students."

"PBS is committed to bringing Americans programs that illuminate all aspects of our history," said John F. Wilson, senior vice president, PBS. "PBS is the only broadcaster consistently presenting these kinds of projects, which represent the best of what we offer and provide a lasting legacy to the nation. We also would like to acknowledge Thirteen/WNET's outstanding track record in producing top quality, award-winning shows."

The Series
Beginning with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in what is now the United States, Slavery And The Making Of America will shed new light on the evolution of laws and practices that fostered the institution of slavery. The series demonstrates that although slavery did not originate in North America and was more widespread in other countries, nowhere was slavery more entwined in the social and economic fabric of a nation.

Core to the series will be the examination of the individual lives of enslaved people. It will present accounts that demonstrate that enslaved Africans and African Americans were never passive victims, but survivors that resisted at every stage - in Africa, during the Atlantic Passage and at various points in the United States - in the face of persecution, punishment and continual assaults on family structure, belief systems and other essential cornerstones of character and identity. Moreover, it will show how the enslaved, forced into proximity with other Africans from different cultural, linguistic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, formed an African-American community, one that was dedicated from the outset to the establishment of freedom and equality.

Shot over a period of 14 months, Slavery And The Making Of America will feature interviews with prominent scholars and historians and will depict the history and individual stories of the enslaved through re-enactments shot on film.

The series is executive produced by William R. Grant, director of science, natural history and features programs at Thirteen/WNET New York. Programs produced under Grant's supervision have won eight national News and Documentary Emmy Awards, including one for the 2002 series The Secret Life of the Brain, and six George Foster Peabody Awards, including one for the 2002 series The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.

Dante J. James is senior producer of Slavery And The Making Of America. He also wrote, produced and directed the first installment of the series. A documentary filmmaker, James' credits include several critically acclaimed and award-winning PBS programs: he was executive producer for Blackside Film's six-part series This Far by Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys (2003), and producer and director of a film for Blackside's War on Poverty series (1995), as well as two programs in the critically acclaimed Great Depression series (1994). In 1996, James made the feature documentary A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom, and has also produced and directed a film on the life of Marian Anderson. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at Duke University.

More than 25 prominent historians and scholars consulted on the making of the series, among them the most preeminent experts on African-American history and the issue of slavery including Dr. James Horton, professor of American studies and history, George Washington University, and author of, among other books, Free People of Color: Inside the African-American Community, and Ira Berlin, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, and author of Generations of Captivity, Many Thousands Gone and a number of other books on African-American history and slavery.

Companion Materials
Thirteen Online, the award-winning Web site that extends Thirteen/WNET New York's educational and informational mission, will work closely with the series' producers to create the companion site for the series, which will appear on www.pbs.org, the most trafficked dot-org Web site in the world. The PBS dot-org site will detail the African-American experience through interviews, rare archival footage and interactive presentations. The Web site will chronicle the stories, resistance and social breakthroughs of African Americans from the 1500s to the present using personal narratives and a multimedia timeline.

At the time of the broadcast, Oxford University Press will release a companion book, also entitled Slavery And The Making Of America. Written by Dr. James Horton, one of the experts featured in the series, the book will follow the style of the series and will include additional first-hand stories not included in the program.

Educational Outreach
New York Life has launched a companion educator's Web site, located at www.slaveryinamerica.org , designed to offer social studies and English teachers resources on the institution of American slavery that were previously unavailable or difficult to access.

Unlike many resources on slavery, this site focuses on the experience of individuals who were enslaved. Narratives, both spoken and written, images and biographies of enslaved men, women and young people emphasize the human face of slavery and recognize the dignity of individual identity to the enslaved. Literature by and about the slavery experience further illuminates the individual stories, sometimes tragic and sometimes heroic, resulting from more than 240 years of American slavery.

The site also features tools developed by teachers such as lesson plans, activities and other educational materials that relate to the PBS television series, as well as other Web-based resources to enrich classroom discussion.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving nearly 90 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.

Thirteen/WNET New York is one of the key program providers for public television, bringing such acclaimed series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Wide Angle, Stage on Screen, Secrets of the Dead, and Cyberchase - as well as the work of Bill Moyers - to audiences nationwide. As the flagship public broadcaster in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metro area, Thirteen reaches millions of viewers each week, airing the best of American public television along with its own local productions such as The Ethnic Heritage Specials, The Thirteen Walking Tours, New York Voices, and Reel New York. With educational and community outreach projects that extend the impact of its television productions, Thirteen takes television "out of the box." And as broadcast and digital media converge, Thirteen is blazing trails in the creation of Web sites, enhanced television, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, educational software, and other cutting-edge media products. More information about Thirteen can be found at www.thirteen.org.

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Company is Sole Corporate Underwriter for PBS and Thirteen/WNET Series Slavery and the Making of America

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