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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 26

Length: 30 min.

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12, Adult Learning, Professional Development

Social Studies

Video on Demand
Teacher's Guide
Web Resources


Biography of America, A

Presents history not simply as a series of irrefutable facts to be memorized, but as a living narrative, 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.

Episode Guide

1. New World Encounters 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.

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.

4. The Coming of Independence 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 — Independence.

5. A New System of Government After the War for Independence, the struggle for a new system of government begins.

6. Westward Expansion At the dawn of the nineteenth century, the size of the United States doubles with the Louisiana Purchase. The Appalachians are no longer the barrier to American migration west; the Mississippi River becomes the country’s central artery; and Jefferson’s vision of an Empire of Liberty begins to take shape.

7. The Rise of Capitalism Individual enterprise merges with technological innovation to launch the Commercial Revolution — the seedbed of American industry.

8. The Reform Impulse The Industrial Revolution has its dark side, and the tumultuous events of the period touch off intense and often thrilling reform movements.

9. Slavery While the North develops an industrial economy and culture, the South develops a slave culture and economy, and the great rift between the regions becomes unbreachable.

10. The Coming of the Civil War Charts the succession of incidents, from ‘Bloody Kansas’ to the shots on Fort Sumter, that inflame the conflict between North and South to the point of civil war.

11. The Civil War As the Civil War rages, all eyes turn to Vicksburg, where limited war becomes total war.

12. Reconstruction With the assassination of President Lincoln, one sad chapter of American history comes to a close. In the fatigue and cynicism of the Civil War’s aftermath, Reconstructionism becomes a promise unfulfilled.

13. America at Its Centennial As America celebrates its centennial, 5 million people descend on Philadelphia to celebrate America’s technological achievements, but some of the early principles of the Republic remain unrealized.

14. Industrial Supremacy Steel and stockyards are featured in this program as the mighty engine of industrialism thunders forward at the end of the nineteenth century.

15. The New City Chicago — with Hull House, the World’s Columbian Exposition, the new female workforce, the skyscraper, the department store, and unfettered capitalism — is the place to watch a new world in the making at the turn of the century.

16. The West Railroads and ranchers, rabble-rousers and racists populate America’s distant frontiers, and Native Americans are displaced from their homelands. Feminists gain a foothold in their fight for the right to vote, while farmers organize and the Populist Party appears on the American political landscape.

17. Capital and Labor The making of money pits laborers against the forces of capital as the twentieth century opens.

18. TR and Wilson Compares the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson — the Warrior and the Minister — in the first decades of the twentieth century.

19. A Vital Progressivism Offers a fresh perspective on Progressivism, arguing that its spirit can be best seen in the daily struggles of ordinary people.

20. The Twenties The Roaring Twenties take to the road in Henry Ford’s landscape-altering invention — the Model T. Ford’s moving assembly line, the emergence of a consumer culture, and the culmination of forces let loose by these entities in Los Angeles.

21. FDR and the Depression Continues the story of twentieth century presidents with a profile of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is at FDR’s side and, in many respects, ahead of him as the decade unfolds.

22. World War II America is enveloped in total war, from mobilization on the home front to a scorching air war in Europe.

23. The Fifties World War II is fought to its bitter end in the Pacific and the world lives with the legacy of its final moment: the atomic bomb. The GI Bill, Levittown, civil rights, the Cold War, and rock ‘n’ roll are discussed.

24. The Sixties Lyndon Johnson emerges as a pivotal character, along with Stokely Carmichael, Fanny Lou Hamer, and other luminaries of the era.

25. Contemporary History A montage of events opens the program and sets the stage for a discussion of the period — and of the difficulty of examining contemporary history with true historical perspective.

26. The Redemptive Imagination Storytelling is a relentless human urge and its power forges with memory to become the foundation of history.

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