PODCAST

Seizing Freedom

VPM

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.

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Seizing Freedom: Official Trailer
Jan 18 2021
Seizing Freedom: Official Trailer
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 Reconstruction.  On Seizing Freedom, you’ll hear stories of freedom taking and freedom making directly from the people who did both. Using stories selected from diaries, newspapers, letters, and speeches, we’ll take you straight to the sources of lived experience. Through them, you’ll hear voices from American history that have been muted time and time again.  Support the show:
Seizing Freedom: Official Trailer
Jan 18 2021
Seizing Freedom: Official Trailer
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 Reconstruction.  On Seizing Freedom, you’ll hear stories of freedom taking and freedom making directly from the people who did both. Using stories selected from diaries, newspapers, letters, and speeches, we’ll take you straight to the sources of lived experience. Through them, you’ll hear voices from American history that have been muted time and time again.  Support the show:
Spotlight: Cyntha Nickols
Feb 1 2021
Spotlight: Cyntha Nickols
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:
Spotlight: Ambrose Headen
Feb 1 2021
Spotlight: Ambrose Headen
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:
Intro: Time For A New Story
Feb 1 2021
Intro: Time For A New Story
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:
Spotlight: Susie King Taylor
Feb 1 2021
Spotlight: Susie King Taylor
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:
A Powerful Black Hand
Feb 1 2021
A Powerful Black Hand
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:
Interview: Crystal Feimster
Feb 4 2021
Interview: Crystal Feimster
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:
A Bedrock For Freedom
Feb 8 2021
A Bedrock For Freedom
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:
Interview: Abigail Cooper
Feb 15 2021
Interview: Abigail Cooper
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:
Reconstructing Family
Feb 22 2021
Reconstructing Family
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:
Interview: Deborah Willis
Mar 1 2021
Interview: Deborah Willis
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:
A New Joy Awaiting Me
Mar 8 2021
A New Joy Awaiting Me
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:
Interview: Rhiannon Giddens
Mar 15 2021
Interview: Rhiannon Giddens
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. Support the show:
They Can't Keep Me Out
Mar 22 2021
They Can't Keep Me Out
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:
Interview: Tera Hunter
Mar 29 2021
Interview: Tera Hunter
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:
Truth Makes The Free Man
Apr 5 2021
Truth Makes The Free Man
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:
Interview: Hilary Green
Apr 12 2021
Interview: Hilary Green
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:
Equal Children Of God
Apr 19 2021
Equal Children Of God
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:
Interview: Kelly Brown Douglas
Apr 26 2021
Interview: Kelly Brown Douglas
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:
The Final Word On Liberty
May 3 2021
The Final Word On Liberty
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: