Seizing Freedom

Seizing Freedom

Highlighting true stories of Black people’s fight for liberation, progress and joy from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Seizing Freedom illustrates the myriad ways Black people have sought and defined their own freedom in spite of the monumental forces at work to keep them from it.

Episodes

January 18, 2021 2 min

Launching February 1, 2021. In most history classes, you learn that the Emancipation Proclamation and Union victories “freed the slaves.” But ending slavery in America required so much more than battlefield victories or even official declarations. Black people battled for their own freedom, taking incredible risks for a country that had actively denied their right to it. After the Civil War, they made freedom real by organizing for...

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A deeper look into the life of Susie King Taylor, who pursued her vision of freedom for herself, her family and for future generations.


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February 1, 2021 9 min

Follow the incredible journey of Ambrose Headen, a man born into slavery who eventually played a pivotal role in founding one of the nation’s first Black colleges.


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February 1, 2021 11 min

African Americans had to go to extraordinary lengths in order to be reunited with their families after emancipation, including this grandmother’s struggle to gain custody of her grandson.

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February 1, 2021 8 min

If you’ve heard stories about Reconstruction, you’ve probably heard that it failed. And sure, some parts of Reconstruction did fail—but not because Black people didn’t claim their freedom.

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February 1, 2021 58 min

How Black men and women fought to participate in the war against slavery, and how the Union’s decision to allow them to enlist shifted the tide of the Civil War.

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February 4, 2021 27 min

Interview with historian Crystal Feimster about the importance of digging into archives and disrupting the myth that the Civil War and Reconstruction are histories that belong to white men.


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February 8, 2021 50 min

How freedom wasn't as clear-cut as wartime refugees from slavery expected, and how— despite terrible conditions in many camps—Black people's desire for self-determination kept them going.


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February 15, 2021 31 min

Conversation with Abigail Cooper about the communities that Black people established in Civil War refugee camps, how they celebrated their African traditions and how they had to adapt to survive in the American patriarchy.


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February 22, 2021 55 min

How freed people sought out their kin following emancipation, and how they worked to establish new lives with their families, pushing for recognition in the eyes of the law.


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March 1, 2021 32 min

Photography professor Deborah Willis speaks with Kidada about the power of photography during the Civil War era, and the stories images can reveal to us about the lives Black people led and wanted future generations to understand.


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March 8, 2021 57 min

How newly emancipated African Americans established communities and expanded their labor on their own terms to build livelihoods for themselves and their families, and how they were met with extreme repercussions from whites through the introduction of Black Codes.


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March 15, 2021 42 min

The Grammy-winning musician discusses her connection to the banjo, its historical ties to Africa, and how she draws inspiration from the historical archives to create her songs.


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March 22, 2021 58 min

Further exploring the stakes of making a living as a Black person following emancipation and how, despite violent retaliation in light of their successes, African Americans never lost sight of what made Black life worth living. 


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March 29, 2021 37 min

Kidada speaks with Princeton Historian Tera Hunter about how Black workers wanted to shape their working lives after the Civil War, what communal labor looked like, and what activities they found joy in.


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April 5, 2021 62 min

Education was regarded as the "real liberation" by many African Americans following emancipation from slavery, and they were willing to go to extreme lengths to secure literacy for themselves and their kin.


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April 12, 2021 50 min

Conversation about family histories and education, how many of the stereotypes that have been associated with Black people in the United States came to be, why they’re simply not true, and what the pursuit of knowledge meant and looked like to African Americans during and after Reconstruction.


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April 19, 2021 65 min

How a thirst for soul liberty and the freedom to worship as they saw fit sustained Black Americans through centuries of enslavement. And how the sustenance they found in religious community emboldened them to fight for—and demand—concrete social and political change. 


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April 26, 2021 42 min

The Reverend shares what church has meant to the Black community, both historically and currently, as well as how to find God in times of struggle and injustice.


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May 3, 2021 54 min

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, but African Americans knew the “freedom” of emancipation was incomplete without universal citizenship and rights protected by law. Learn how their insistence on having a full stake in American freedom helped transform federal policy and codify the rhetoric of “liberty” into law.


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