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Coming in Winter 2015

November 19, 2014 in History

November 19, 2014 11:45 a.m.

In January and February, 2015, American Experience is premiering five new documentaries. “More than ever before,” said Executive Producer Mark Samels, “this season’s films reflect on times when American was dealing with many of the iddues that we find ourselves facing today – murky wars with no simple way out, institutionalized racism, and terrifying contagions that arouse public panic and fear.” Watch this synopsis with Mark’s commentary, and check out descriptions below.

Ripley: Believe It or Not
January 6, 9/8c
Robert LeRoy Ripley rose to fame during the Great Depression, transforming himself from a skinny, bucktoothed boy into an entertainer who mesmerized the nation with a razzle-dazzle blend of homespun Americana, colorful exotica, and freakish oddities. Over three decades, his “Believe It or Not!” franchise grew into an entertainment empire, expanding from newspapers to every form of “new media” in the 20th century: radio, film, and ultimately, television. At the center of it all was Ripley, whose obsession with the odd and keen eye for the curious made him one of the richest men in the country. Americans not only loved his bizarre fare, but were fascinated by the man himself, and the eccentric, globetrotting playboy became an unlikely national celebrity.

Klansville U.S.A.
January 13, 9/8c
As the civil rights movement grew in the 1960s, the long-dormant Ku Klux Klan reemerged with a vengeance. That the Klan would rise up once again wasn’t surprising, but where the reincarnation took place was. North Carolina, long seen as the most progressive southern state, saw a boom in Klan membership under the leadership of Bob Jones, the most successful Grand Dragon in the country. In just three years, he grew the North Carolina Klan from a handful of friends to some 10,000 members – more than the Klans of all other southern states combined. In the process, Jones helped give the Tarheel State a new nickname: “Klansville, U.S.A.”

January 20, 9/8c (2 hours)
By the time he died in 1931, Thomas Alva Edison was one of the most famous men in the world, and the name “Edison” was virtually synonymous with invention. The holder of more patents than any other inventor in history, Edison had been lauded during his lifetime for the invention of sound recording, motion pictures, and electric light, and would be remembered as the genius who created the modern world. Edison explores the complex alchemy …read more


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