WTVP Headlines




Friday, February 3rd, 2012


Documentary Tells Little-Known History of Forced Labor


Premiering February 13, 2012 at 8:00pm on WTVP-HD


An old photo of convicts

On February 13, 2012, PBS will air the national broadcast premiere of the searing documentary film, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, produced and directed by filmmaker Sam Pollard. SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME is a new documentary based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal senior writer Douglas A. Blackmon and narrated by acclaimed actor Laurence Fishburne, star of film, television and stage productions ranging from Othello to The Matrix to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The 90-minute film, a production of tpt National Productions (a division of Twin Cities Public Television) and written by Sheila Curran Bernard, was selected to world-premiere in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival competition to be held in Park City, Utah, January 19-29.

SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film relates that even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Tolerated by both the North and South, forced labor lasted well into the 20th century.

“The Thirteenth Amendment states that slavery was abolished, except as a punishment for a crime,” says author and co-executive producer Blackmon. “So across the South, laws were passed to criminalize everyday African-American life. It was a crime for a black man to walk beside a railroad, to speak loudly in the company of white women, to do someone’s laundry without a license, to sell cotton after dark. But the most damaging statutes were around vagrancy. If you couldn’t prove your employment at any moment, you were a criminal.”

Once convicted, African Americans were leased to coal mines, brickyards, plantations and turpentine farms and forced to work without pay. They were shackled, imprisoned and often tortured. Thousands died.

Effects of these horrifying practices resonate today. Sharon Malone (physician and wife of Attorney General Eric Holder), whose uncle fell victim to Alabama’s forced labor system, summarizes its isolating effect: “My father never talked a lot about his time growing up in the South. There was so little that I actually knew about the generations before my parents…We have been, as African Americans in this country, deprived of the ability for really connecting with our ancestors.”

Descendants of forced labor’s purveyors are not immune to these practices’ “aftershocks.” Susan Tuggle Burnore, whose great-grandfather, a farmer named John Williams, murdered eleven laborers held illegally on his farm, says that he “did it in the most horrific ways that you can imagine, that I really can’t talk about. I get so emotional. There was an attitude, a set of beliefs that said this kind of cruelty was somehow acceptable.”

“It’s a brutal topic,” said producer/director Sam Pollard. “Forced labor practices, including inmate leasing and peonage, totally circumscribed the lives of hundreds of thousands of African Americans well into the 20th century. Most Americans are totally unaware of — and shocked by — this history, which is why we found it so imperative to translate Doug’s incredible book into a film. ”

The creative principals behind SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME each have long experience in wrestling with some of the most complex and painful questions of American history.

Throughout Pollard's 30-year career, he has worked on a diverse array of feature films, documentaries and television projects, including PBS’ EYES ON THE PRIZE II: AMERICA AT THE RACIAL CROSSROADS and THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. He has worked extensively with filmmaker Spike Lee on both feature films and documentary productions, including his Academy Award-nominated Four Little Girls; Spike Lee Presents Mike Tyson; and Jim Brown All-American.

Blackmon has written extensively over the past 25 years about the American quandary of race — exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement and, repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with a troubled past. Many of his stories in The Wall Street Journal explored the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct, the American judicial system,\ and racial segregation.

An Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and the author of Documentary Storytelling, Sheila Curran Bernard’s credits for PBS include EYES ON THE PRIZE II, I’LL MAKE ME A WORLD, AMERICA’S WAR ON POVERTY and SCHOOL.





SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME is executive produced by Catherine Allan, whose films include the acclaimed feature documentary HOOP DREAMS and the Peabody Award-winning LIBERTY! THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. The film is edited by Jason Pollard, co-editor of Sing Your Song, a film about Harry Belafonte that was an Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival 2011. The original score is by composer Michael Bacon, whose score for THE KENNEDYS on PBS won an Emmy.

Major funding for SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company and the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund. Additional funding is provided by KeyBank Foundation and Merck; and by the General Mills Foundation; the Omicron Member Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Minneapolis; and Frances Wilkinson.

SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME is produced by tpt National Productions, a division of Twin Cities Public Television (tpt), the PBS affiliate for Minneapolis/St. Paul. tpt National Productions is among the primary content producers for the public television system. In addition to crafting award-winning series, documentaries and specials, tpt National Productions amplifies its reach and impact through innovative websites, educational outreach programs and community engagement initiatives. TPT productions include national Primetime Emmy Award winners BENJAMIN FRANKLIN and THE FORGETTING: A PORTRAIT OF ALZHEIMER’S; Peabody winner DEPRESSION: OUT OF THE SHADOWS and HOOP DREAMS; and Writer’s Guild Award Nominees ALEXANDER HAMILTON and DOLLEY MADISON.





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



[Back to WTVP Headlines]


blog comments powered by Disqus

HOME | Support WTVP | TV Schedule | Programming | Station EventsProduction ServicesAbout WTVP

Shop PBS | PBS.org | PBS Kids  | PBS Kids Go  | PBS Parents  | PBS Teachers

WTVP 47 · 101 State Street, Peoria, Illinois 61602-1547 (309)677-4747
WTVP & WTVP.org, Public Media for Central Illinois
© 1995-2017 Illinois Valley Public Telecommunications Corporation