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.


January 18, 2021 2 mins
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 equality and justice during...
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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. Support the show:
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February 1, 2021 8 mins
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. Support the show:
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February 1, 2021 11 mins
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. Support the show:
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February 1, 2021 9 mins
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. Support the show:
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February 1, 2021 60 mins
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. Support the show:
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February 4, 2021 29 mins
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. Support the show:
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February 8, 2021 52 mins
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. Support the show:
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February 15, 2021 33 mins
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. Support the show:
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February 22, 2021 57 mins
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. Support the show:
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March 1, 2021 34 mins
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. Support the show:
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March 8, 2021 59 mins
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. Support the show:
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March 22, 2021 60 mins
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.  Support the show:
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March 29, 2021 39 mins
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. Support the show:
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April 5, 2021 64 mins
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. Support the show:
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April 12, 2021 52 mins
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. Support the show:
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April 19, 2021 67 mins
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.  Support the show:
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April 26, 2021 44 mins
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. Support the show:
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May 3, 2021 56 mins
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. Support the show:
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May 10, 2021 49 mins
A discussion of the central role African Americans played in securing constitutional change for their civil and political rights during Reconstruction, as well as the long-lasting impacts of their efforts in the first civil rights movement.  Support the show:
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