PBS Series Depicts American Abolitionists as Fired by Faith
Before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln had a different view on what to do with the U.S. slave population. What did he suggest to black ministers?
He invited five black ministers to the White House in the summer of 1862 and he basically said, "If it weren't for your people, we wouldn't have this war." He tried to recruit them into an effort to lead colonization. These prominent ministers would lead their people and, with the aid of the government, would take them back to Africa to Liberia or to Haiti. Everyone in the abolitionist movement was absolutely stunned by this. Once he had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he never mentioned it again.
As the country marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, what message do you hope viewers will walk away with after seeing your series?
I think it's really a testament to the power of the individual. These characters were up against overwhelming odds. In hindsight, it seems like the end of slavery was inevitable, but it was in fact about the most unlikely thing in the world. And a very small set of people set this vortex in motion, which eventually swept up the country and changed our history for the better. It really is so easy to lose sight of the fact that if you're dedicated enough and if you have a clear vision of something right and true that you can, in fact, effect change.