It’s been 25 years since PBS first aired Ken Burns’ film, The Civil War. It was quite possibly the most successful documentary of all time. In many respects it was groundbreaking. It introduced the Civil War to millions of viewers who hadn’t considered the war since their school days. It made looking at period pictures while period music played compelling television, while a diverse group of commentators and the authoritative voice of David McCullough as narrator provided varied perspectives and context. It had its problems, yes. I cringe every time I hear Shelby Foote, in many ways the voice of the lost cause mythology, make another claim. The narrative is oversimplified. There are some factual errors. Nevertheless, overall it was a huge positive for historical understanding.
Mr. Burns and his team have been hard at work and have re-released the film in high definition. It will air this coming week on PBS, September 7-11, 2015, at 9PM Eastern. You can check out the website here. It’s a timely release, considering recent events surrounding confederate iconography. You can read stories on it here, here, here, and here.
As many times as I’ve seen this series, I’ll be watching again [Well, Monday night I’ll record it to watch later]. And I’ll still be cringing every time Shelby Foote talks. How about you?