JACKIE ROBINSON, a film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, examines the life and times of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who, in 1947, lifted an entire race and nation on his shoulders when he crossed baseball’s color line.
This Fall, THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative. In the meantime, you can sample the upcoming documentary by watching a few short clips here on our channel or on PBS (check your local listings).
In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were arrested and later convicted of raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park. They spent between 6 and 13 years in prison before a serial rapist confessed that he alone had committed the crime, leading to their convictions being overturned.
Set against a backdrop of a decaying city beset by violence and racial tension, The Central Park Five will tell the story of that horrific crime, the rush to judgment by the police, a media clamoring for sensational stories and an outraged public, and the five lives upended by this miscarriage of justice.
THE DUST BOWL, a two-part, four-hour documentary series by Ken Burns, will air November 18 and 19, 2012, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). The film chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts, and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that for many seemed to herald the end of the world. It was the worst manmade ecological disaster in American history.
Until the arrival of European and American settlers in the late nineteenth century, the southern Plains of the United States were predominantly grasslands, seldom used for farming. Bitterly cold winters, hot summers, high winds and especially low, unreliable precipitation made it unsuitable for standard agriculture. But at the start of the 1900s, offers of cheap public land attracted farmers to the region, and in World War I, in the midst of a relatively wet period, a lucrative new wheat market opened up. Advances in gasoline-powered farm machinery made production faster and easier than ever. During the 1920s, millions of acres of grasslands across the Plains were converted into wheat fields at an unprecedented rate.
In 1930, with the Great Depression underway, wheat prices collapsed. Rather than follow the government's urging to cut back on production, desperate farmers harvested even more wheat in an effort to make up for their losses. Fields were left exposed and vulnerable to a drought, which finally hit in 1932.
Once the winds began picking up dust from the open fields, they grew into dust storms of biblical proportions. Each year the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, sweeping up millions of tons of earth, covering farms and homes across the Plains with sand, and spreading the dust across the country. Children developed often fatal "dust pneumonia," business owners unable to cope with the financial ruin committed suicide, and thousands of desperate Americans were torn from their homes and forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States has ever seen.