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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

PBS EXPLORES AN UNSUNG AMERICAN HERO IN
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: THE WILLIAM STILL STORY

 

Debuts February 6, 2012 at 9 p.m. on WTVP-HD.

 

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

William Still

“It was my good fortune to lend a helping hand to the weary travelers flying from the land of bondage.”

William Still

 

 

The compelling story of one of the most important, yet largely unheralded heroes of the Underground Railroad, comes to life in the new 60-minute documentary UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: THE WILLIAM STILL STORY, airing Monday, February 6, 9-10:00 p.m. on WTVP-HD. The film airs as part of PBS’ Black History Month commemoration. It also explores the major role Canada played in the complex humanitarian enterprise that helped deliver tens of thousands of men, women, and children from bondage.

The first generation of his family born free, abolitionist and historian William Still (1821-1902) was determined to get as many runaways as he could across the U.S. border to Canada. He accepted delivery of transported crates containing human “cargo” and helped smuggle them to “Freedom’s Land.” Still risked everything to keep detailed records of individuals’ stories, eventually compiled into a book recognized as the most authentic account of the inner workings of the Underground Railroad and the plights of those who used it.

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: THE WILLIAM STILL STORY uses these powerful diaries, evocative reenactments, historical perspectives and moving accounts from the day to re-create one of North America’s greatest sagas. Scenes were shot on "living history" plantations in the South and in locations in Southern Ontario.

“William Still is a true American hero who — until now — has not had the tribute he deserves,” said Donald K. Boswell, President and CEO of program co-producer WNED Buffalo/Toronto. “This ‘starring role’ brings to light Still’s bravery and legacy and reveals the important role that Canada played in the success of his valiant efforts for his fellow man’s freedom.”

After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, bounty hunters could legally abduct former slaves living in the so-called free northern states, but under the protection of the British, Canada provided sanctuary for fugitive slaves. While Still’s home base of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was on the front lines of the struggle over slavery, he considered Canada the ultimate destination for the fugitives he was helping liberate.

“I believe history connects best when it is built from a great story,” said Gordon Henderson, founder of 90th Parallel Productions which produced the program in association with WNED Buffalo/Toronto. “There are unforgettable scenes in William Still's extraordinary life —such as meeting his own long-lost brother while working in the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery office — that bring to light the significance and impact of his contributions.”

The New York Times called William Still “the father of the Underground Railroad,” but he saw himself as just another soldier for the cause.

 

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: THE WILLIAM STILL STORY is a production of 90th Parallel Productions Ltd., in association with Rogers Broadcasting Limited and WNED–TV Buffalo/Toronto. Funding provided by CN Railway, Rogers Cable Network, Canada Media Fund, and Rogers Documentary Fund. Additional support from David W. Pretty, Vernon Achber & Phil Lind, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With participation of Rogers Broadcasting, Ltd., Ontario Media Development Corporation and The Government of Canada-Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit Program. Executive Producers are John Grant (WNED) and Gordon Henderson (90th Parallel Productions). Director, producer and writer for the film is Laine Drewery. The role of William Still is played by actor Dion Johnstone. Executive in Charge of Production for WNED is David Rotterman. Executive in Charge of Production for Rogers Broadcasting Limited is Alain Strati.

 

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About WNED:
WNED-TV is a leading producer of single-topic documentary programming for national broadcast on PBS including “The War of 1812,” “Chautauqua: An American Narrative,” “Elbert Hubbard: An American Original,” “The Adirondacks,” “Niagara Falls,” “The Marines,” “Window to the Sea,” “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo” and “America’s Houses of Worship. More information on WNED and its programs and services is available at www.wned.org.

About 90th Parallel Productions:
90th Parallel Productions is based in Southern Ontario and specializes in history, science and current affairs documentary production. Its founder Gordon Henderson was a senior producer in the epic documentary series Canada: A People's History.

 

 

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For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of Programming, at (309) 495-0591 or linda.miller@wtvp.org

 


 

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