In this 3-part mini-documentary series, we examine what the American Revolution really looked like to the people who lived through it, and explore how it was used and misused by those who came afterwards. These films delve into a variety of perspectives–from historians, activists, and public figures–on what the ideas and actions of the Revolution’s participants have to offer people today and beyond.
Supported in part by the New England Women’s Club Fund at the Boston Foundation.
Produced by RLMG for Revolutionary Spaces.
The Revolution Begins: 18th Century
In a revolution celebrated for bringing “liberty” to “the people,” the first part of our series explores which people were actually given access to this claimed “liberty for all” while others were consciously and purposefully omitted. While American colonists in the 18th century decried injustices and inequalities brought upon them by the King and Parliament, these same colonists failed to see–or chose to ignore–how their rhetoric did not extend to unlanded men, all women, and people of color, namely those of African descent and the indigenous population. Historians unpack “rights thinking” through the lens of the late-18th century, and what the potential of revolution meant to these folks on the periphery.
Who is Created Equal?: 19th Century
In the century following independence, the American Revolution was re-imagined and repurposed by different groups of people in this still-new nation. In a land that built itself on the ideas of “liberty,” the majority of Americans in the 19th century were left wondering whether those promises of equality, prosperity, and even freedom itself would ever include them. The 19th century saw many figures and groups contributing to the struggle for a more equitable society, often couched in the language in which the nation was founded.
Not There Yet: The Present
The ideals of the Revolution are, in many ways, aspirational rather than a reality, even hundreds of years later. While the struggle for equity and equality continues throughout our nation, the spirit and philosophy of the American Revolution continues to resonate both in the United States and throughout the world. The circle of “We the people” continues to evolve, and often does not linearly expand throughout history. Activists and public figures discuss how the legacy of the American Revolution frames their work and how working toward equity is an ongoing, ever-evolving and devolving process. The journey toward a more free society–a “more perfect union”–is a winding, endless road.
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