Frederick Douglass: Pathway from Slavery to Freedom -- Part of the Young American Heroes Series
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Jamie Hector, best known for playing Marlo Stanfield on the HBO series The Wire, and a leading player on NBC’s Heroes, stars as Frederick Douglass in an original half-hour historical drama shot entirely in Connecticut. Douglass was a slave who escaped to freedom and became one of our nation’s most influential abolitionists.
Frederick Douglass: Pathway From Slavery to Freedom premieres on Saturday, February 7 at 10:30 a.m. on CPTV (repeats Sunday, February 8 at 6:30 p.m.; Monday, February 9 at 10:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, February 10 at 4:30 p.m.). The first in a new series called Young American Heroes, it tells the fascinating story of the young Frederick Douglass and his escape from the horrors of slavery at the age of 20.
The state of Connecticut is another star of the show. Filming was completed in May 2008 at a number of Connecticut locations that stand in for the Maryland plantation on which Frederick Douglass was born in the early 1800s, the home in Baltimore where he worked as a house slave as a young boy, and the train he boarded to make his escape north.
Scenes were shot on board the Mystic Whaler off the coast of Bridgeport, at Mystic Seaport, the Essex Steam Train, the Denison Homestead in Mystic, Warrup’s Farm in Redding, and the streets of South Norwalk (transformed into New York City circa 1830), Roton Middle School in Norwalk, as well as on the soundstage at Palace Digital Studios in South Norwalk.
The show also stars Hamden middle school student Kendall Jones as the eight-year-old Frederick and Norwalk elementary school student Malik Goethe as the six-year-old Frederick.
Featured actors are Farmington resident Charly Alvarez; Milford resident Mary Ann Wasil Nilan; Westport residents Marion Mason, Ryder Chasen and Colleen Murphy; Norwalk’s Teresa Teed; and Danbury’s John Halas. Most of the extras and production crew are also Connecticut residents.
The show was edited by Palace Digital Studios at its South Norwalk television/film studio, and was directed by South Norwalk’s Chris Campbell. Campbell is managing partner for Young American Heroes and owner/creative director of Palace Production Center in South Norwalk. Executive Producers are Chris Campbell and Tim Smith, a resident of Rowayton, who also wrote the script.
Both the TV program and an accompanying website (www.youngamericanheroes.com) are based on Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Written by Himself, and use Douglass’s own words to tell his story.
The TV show and website are just two elements of a larger Young American Heroes multi-platform content project, which is the brainchild of Campbell and Smith and is being partially funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. After the film on Douglass, the producers plan four more programs on other “young heroes,” and eventually up to 52 programs for the series. In addition to the half-hour television shows, Young American Heroes is producing a classroom DVD, retail DVD, and a graphic novel based on each of the TV shows; a student 2.0 website with games and links to historical archives, and a teacher website.
Palace Production Center and Docere Palace Studios, both award-winning Connecticut media companies, have teamed with leading Web developer eduweb.com, Connecticut Public Television, Fairfield University Graduate School of Education, and an advisory board of leading historians from Yale, Princeton and other universities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to create this breakthrough multi-platform educational project.
Young American Heroes is one of only seven projects to win a prestigious grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American History & Civics Initiative specifically to develop break-through ways of teaching history and civics to middle school students. This CPB Initiative drew over 80 entries from leading public television stations and production companies. Young American Heroes’s winning formula is to tell compelling stories by taking an innovative peer approach—using primary documents and diaries about ordinary kids—real kids—doing extraordinary things during seminal moments in American history. It is one of many productions taking advantage of the Connecticut Tax Credits, which are attracting film projects to the state.
In addition to producing the TV show and website, Docere Palace has created a five-day Frederick Douglass classroom curriculum designed around key choice points in his young life and using critical scenes from the TV show in a digital storytelling activity that requires students to review primary documents online at the Young American Heroes website. The curriculum was field tested last June in social studies classes at three Connecticut middle schools: Tomlinson Middle School in Fairfield, West Side Middle School in Waterbury, and Scofield Magnet Middle School in Stamford.
As a lead up to filming the TV show, a Young American Heroes website invited middle schoolteachers and their students to give their creative input and suggestions on the television script, locations, casting and help in designing the activities and content of the 2.0 student website as it was being built.
Premieres Saturday, February 7 at 10:30 a.m. on CPTV (repeats Sunday, February 8 at 6:30 p.m.; Monday, February 9 at 10:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, February 10 at 4:30 p.m.)
CPTV is a media service of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN, www.cpbn.org). It is a locally and nationally recognized producer and presenter of quality public television programming, including UConn Women's Basketball, original documentaries and educational programming. CPTV has built a reputation as a leader in children’s programming, including playing an historic role in bringing Barney & Friends™, Bob the Builder™ and Thomas & Friends™ to public television. The station offers 11.5 hours of positive, nurturing children’s programs each weekday, reaching 50,000 to 70,000 households daily. The Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network also includes WNPR, an affiliate of National Public Radio, Public Radio International and American Public Media. WNPR serves over 200,000 listeners in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island with news and information. Its award-winning local programming includes The Faith Middleton Show and Front and Center with Ray Hardman. Overall, the network brings a broad spectrum of public affairs, entertainment, sports and educational programming to viewers, listeners and readers. For more information, visit www.cptv.org and / or www.wnpr.org.