- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

‘Slavery’ debuts on PBS

Colonel Tye, Robert Smalls and Harriet Jacobs aren’t as familiar as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Betsy Ross, but they, too, are the forefathers and foremothers of America.

They also were slaves.

So were Denmark Vesey, Mum Bett, Emmanuel and Frances Driggus, and millions of other black pioneers instrumental in building a barely charted territory into one of the strongest and richest countries in the world.

Yet their stories have been largely ignored in U.S. history.

PBS attempts to change that with “Slavery and the Making of America,” a two-part series beginning tonight at 9 and concluding Feb. 16 at the same time.

“The reason we don’t know what we ought to know about them isn’t because these people haven’t been telling their stories,” says George Washington University historian James Horton, one of 25 scholars who provide an unparalleled look at slavery and the remarkable stories of individual slaves for the series.

“The diaries, the novels, the letters that we are finding now have been there for a couple hundred years. How come we didn’t find them before?” Mr. Horton asks. “Part of the reason has to do with what we thought worthy of looking for.”

Narrated by Oscar nominee Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), the unique four-hour program is told through a collage of filmed re-enactments, providing a detailed visual history of American slavery, Associated Press reports.

From the early 17th century, when English settlers in Virginia purchased Africans from Dutch traders, through the next two centuries, including the Civil War and Reconstruction, the documentary (which ends in late 1876) explores slavery as more than just an institution of evil and persecution. Instead, it shows how slavery became the central economic base for the entire country’s development — a base that was dependent on the labor and know-how of generations of black Americans.

“This is not African-American history; it’s American history. It’s the history of all of us,” notes executive producer William R. Grant, director of science, natural history and feature programs for WNET in New York, which produced the series.

Oscars stay put

The annual Academy Awards ceremony will air on ABC for six more years.

The network’s deal to televise the Oscars has been extended through 2014, Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said Monday.

“By the end of this new extension, ABC will have carried 38 consecutive Oscar telecasts and 56 of the 61 ceremonies ever televised,” Mr. Pierson told AP.

The existing deal between ABC and the academy for domestic broadcasts was due to expire in 2008. International rights are covered under a separate agreement with Buena Vista International, which runs through 2010.

From ‘Sex’ to ‘Soccer’

“Sex and the City” alumna Kristin Davis will star in “Soccer Moms,” a tentatively titled ABC drama pilot about two suburban housewives who team up as private investigators.

Miss Davis, who received an Emmy nomination for her role as the idealistic Charlotte York Goldenblatt on the hit HBO sitcom, will play one of the women, reports Reuters News Agency.

On the big screen, Miss Davis recently wrapped Robert Rodriguez’s “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D” opposite David Arquette and next appears in Disney’s remake of “The Shaggy Dog” opposite Tim Allen.

No ‘Game’ for Hewitt

It’s game over for Jennifer Love Hewitt at ABC.

The network has opted not to go forward with “In the Game,” a sitcom starring the former “Party of Five” actress.

The project centered on an up-and-coming sports producer (Miss Hewitt) who unwillingly becomes an on-camera reporter for a TV sports show, Reuters reports.

Development talks for ‘Game’ began in 2003 and were revised last year with Christine Baranski and Sara Gilbert joining Miss Hewitt and Ed O’Neill in the cast. ABC decided to pull the plug after filming the pilot.

In addition to Fox’s “Party of Five,” Miss Hewitt also starred in the short-lived spinoff “Time of Your Life.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from Web and wire reports.

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