Radicals. Agitators. Troublemakers. Liberators. Called by many names, the abolitionists tore the nation apart in order to make a more perfect union. Men and women, black and white, Northerners and Southerners, poor and wealthy, these passionate anti-slavery activists fought body and soul in the most important civil rights crusade in American history. What began as a pacifist movement fueled by persuasion and prayer became a fiery and furious struggle that forever changed the nation.
Bringing to life the intertwined stories of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimké, Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown, The Abolitionists takes place during some of the most violent and contentious decades in American history, amid white-hot religious passions that set souls on fire, and bitter debates over the meaning of the Constitution and the nature of race. The documentary reveals how the movement shaped history by exposing the fatal flaw of a republic founded on liberty for some and bondage for others, setting the nation on a collision course. In the face of personal risks -- beatings, imprisonment, even death -- abolitionists held fast to their cause, laying the civil rights groundwork for the future and raising weighty constitutional and moral questions that are with us still.
Produced with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Abolitionists will premiere in three parts on PBS' American Experience on Tuesdays, January 8th, 15th, and 22nd, 2013 from 9-10 p.m. ET.