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Stephen Foster’s interesting yet tragic life receives fascinating treatment in this episode of PBS’s American Experience. A useful companion site for the film offers a timeline, several images, and information on some of the people and events that were part of Foster’s life.
PBS also produced an American Experience episode on the Gold Rush. California’s dramatic and immediate transformation makes up a large part of the story, but perhaps more compelling is the account of the less gold-plated underside of the Gold Rush experience: the persecution of the Chinese, the impact on Native Americans, and the rise of the corporate mining interests that soon monopolized the profits.
Spike Lee takes his typically controversial look at the tradition of minstrelsy in this 2000 film. Determined to broadcast an offensive television show that will get him fired, Pierre Delacroix produces Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show. Far from a failure, however, the show is an enormous success. Plausible? Absurd? Lee makes you think about both the minstrel tradition and contemporary American culture.