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‘Slavery by Another Name’ premieres tonight on PBS

February 13, 2012

Official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival premieres on PBS Monday, Feb. 13, at 10 p.m. PT on KQED Channel 9

by Wanda Sabir

A cynical new form of slavery was resurrected from the ashes of the Civil War and re-imposed on hundreds of thousands of African-Americans until the dawn of World War II. Armies of “free” Black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery. As it poured millions of dollars into Southern government treasuries, the new slavery also became a key instrument in the terrorization of African Americans seeking full participation in the U.S. political system. This youngster is being punished in a forced labor camp in Georgia around 1932. – Photo: John Spivak
“Slavery by Another Name” is a 90-minute documentary that challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film tells how 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.

For most Americans, this is entirely new history. “Slavery by Another Name” gives voice to the largely forgotten victims and perpetrators of forced labor and features their descendants living today.

Prisoners in Mississippi in the 1880s were forced to return to picking cotton, they work they’d performed when enslaved. – Photo courtesy “Slavery by Another Name”
Listen to an interview with director, Sam Pollard, heard Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, 6 a.m., on

Sam Pollard is an accomplished feature film and television video editor and documentary producer and director whose work spans almost 30 years. His first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton’s Blackside production “Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads.” He received an Emmy for one of his episodes in this series.

Between 1990 and 2000, Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee’s films: “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever,” “Girl 6,” “Clockers” and “Bamboozled.” Pollard and Lee also co-produced some documentary productions for the small and big screens: One, “Four Little Girls,” a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings, was nominated for an Academy Award. Pollard recently won his sixth Emmy for Best Editing on the HBO documentary “By the People: The Election of Barack Obama.”

To hear an interview with “Slavery by Another Name” author Douglas A. Blackmon, visit An interview with Blackmon by Bill Moyers when the book came out in 2008 is transcribed at “‘Slavery by Another Name’: the re-enslavement of Blacks from the Civil War to World War II.”

Channels and airdates

  • KQED Channel 9: Monday, Feb. 13, 10 p.m., and Tuesday, Feb. 14, 4 a.m.
  • KQED World: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7 a.m., and Wednesday, Feb. 15, 10 a.m.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at Visit her website at throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m., can be heard by phone at (347) 237-4610 and are archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.


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