The BEST episodes written by Geoffrey C. Ward

The Common Cause (1939-1944)
star
10.00
28 votes

#1 - The Common Cause (1939-1944)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Season 1 - Episode 6

FDR shatters the third-term tradition, struggles to prepare a reluctant country to enter World War II and, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, helps set the course toward Allied victory. Meanwhile, Eleanor struggles to keep New Deal reforms alive in wartime and travels the Pacific to comfort wounded servicemen.

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The Rising Road (1933-1939)
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10.00
28 votes

#2 - The Rising Road (1933-1939)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Season 1 - Episode 5

FDR brings the same optimism and energy to the White House that his cousin Theodore displayed. Aimed at ending the Depression, his sweeping New Deal restores the people’s self-confidence and transforms the relationship between them and their government. Eleanor rejects the traditional role of first lady, becomes her husband’s liberal conscience and a sometimes controversial political force.

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Get Action (1858-1901)
star
10.00
28 votes

#3 - Get Action (1858-1901)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Season 1 - Episode 1

A frail, asthmatic young Theodore Roosevelt transforms himself into a champion of the strenuous life, loses one great love and finds another, leads men into battle and then rises like a rocket to become the youngest president in American history at 42. Meanwhile, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, brought up as the pampered only child of adoring parents, follows his older cousin’s career with fascination.

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The Storm (1920-1933)
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10.00
28 votes

#4 - The Storm (1920-1933)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Season 1 - Episode 4

Franklin Roosevelt runs for vice president in 1920 and seems assured of a still brighter future until polio devastates him. He spends seven years struggling without success to walk again, while Eleanor builds her own personal and political life of. FDR returns to politics in 1928 and acts with such vigor during the first years of the Great Depression that the Democrats nominate him for president.

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In the Arena (1901-1910)
star
10.00
28 votes

#5 - In the Arena (1901-1910)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Season 1 - Episode 2

Murder brings Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency, but in the seven years that follow, he transforms the office and makes himself perhaps the best-loved of all presidents, battling corporate greed, preserving American wilderness, carrying the message of American might around the world. FDR weds Eleanor Roosevelt, and jumps at the chance to run for the New York state senate.

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A Strong and Active Faith (1944-1962)
star
10.00
28 votes

#6 - A Strong and Active Faith (1944-1962)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Season 1 - Episode 7

Frail and failing but determined to see the war through to victory, FDR wins re-election and begins planning for a peaceful postwar world, but a cerebral hemorrhage kills him at 63. After her husband’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt proves herself a shrewd politician and a skilled negotiator in her own right, as well as a champion of civil rights, civil liberties and the United Nations.

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Nixon (3): The Fall
star
9.50
2 votes

#7 - Nixon (3): The Fall

American Experience - Season 3 - Episode 4

Chronicle of the 37th President - from his earliest ambitions to his innovative foreign policy and paranoia of perceived rivals.

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The Gift: 1917-1924
star
9.33
49 votes

#8 - The Gift: 1917-1924

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 2

How can one explain the genius of a Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington? Blessed with skill and talent far exceeding their peers, one can only define what they possess as a gift from the gods. These early portraits are imperative, because both figures have been so canonized that it is easy to forget the significance of their gifts.

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War Is All Hell (1865)
star
9.18
119 votes

#9 - War Is All Hell (1865)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 8

The episode begins with William Tecumseh Sherman's brilliant march to the sea, which brings the war to the heart of Georgia and the Carolinas and spells the end of the Confederacy. In March, following Lincoln's second inauguration, first Petersburg and then Richmond finally fall to Grant's army. Lee's tattered Army of Northern Virginia flees westward towards a tiny crossroads town called Appomattox Court House. There the dramatic and deeply moving surrender of Lee to Grant takes place. The episode ends in Washington where John Wilkes Booth begins to dream of vengeance for the South.

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The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865)
star
9.18
113 votes

#10 - The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 9

This extraordinary final episode of The Civil War begins in the bittersweet aftermath of Lee's surrender and then goes on to narrate the horrendous events of five days later when, on April 14, Lincoln is assassinated. After chronicling Lincoln's poignant funeral, the series recounts the final days of the war, the capture of John Wilkes Booth and the fates of the Civil War's major protagonists. The episode then considers the consequences and meaning of a war that transformed the country from a collection of states to the nation we are today.

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The Adventure: 1956-1960
star
9.17
12 votes

#11 - The Adventure: 1956-1960

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 9

Critics who had believed that Charlie Parker was "too much" musically, could not have welcomed the arrival of Ornette Coleman. Coleman and John Coltrane would edge jazz toward even more freedom, eventually dropping all traditional structures. While these artists alienated many listeners, Miles Davis would record the most popular jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue.

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Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided (1): Ambition
star
9.00
1 votes

#12 - Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided (1): Ambition

American Experience - Season 13 - Episode 7

The story of the Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln's childhoods and their courtship is told.

The Fire of Life (1910-1919)
star
9.00
28 votes

#13 - The Fire of Life (1910-1919)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History - Season 1 - Episode 3

Theodore Roosevelt leads a Progressive crusade that splits his own party, campaigns for American entry into World War I — and pays a terrible personal price. Franklin masters wartime Washington as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, while Eleanor finds personal salvation in war work. Her discovery of Franklin’s romance with another woman transforms their marriage into a largely political partnership.

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Valley of the Shadow of Death (1864)
star
8.94
134 votes

#14 - Valley of the Shadow of Death (1864)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 6

Episode six begins with a biographical comparison of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee and then chronicles the extraordinary series of battles that pitted the two generals against each other from the wilderness to Petersburg in Virginia. In 30 days, the two armies lose more men than both sides have lost in three years of war. With Grant and Lee finally deadlocked at Petersburg, we visit the ghastly hospitals north and south and follow General Sherman's Atlanta campaign through the mountains of north Georgia. As the horrendous casualty lists increase, Lincoln's chances for re-election begin to dim, and with them the possibility of Union victory.

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Dedicated to Chaos: 1940-1945
star
8.93
15 votes

#15 - Dedicated to Chaos: 1940-1945

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 7

"Dedicated to Chaos" finds jazz musicians teetering on the brink of the modern era, fighting against the straightjacket of clichéd, big band arrangements. The revolution started at Minton’s Playhouse, a rundown club where musicians like Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Christian jammed on Monday nights. When they hooked up with a young saxophone player from Kansas City named Charlie Parker, the bop insurgency had arrived.

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The Homeless, The Tempest-Tossed (1942–)
star
8.82
17 votes

#16 - The Homeless, The Tempest-Tossed (1942–)

The U.S. and the Holocaust - Season 1 - Episode 3

A group of government officials supports rescue operations; the public sees for the first time the scale of the Holocaust as Allies liberate German camps.

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Risk: 1945-1955
star
8.80
15 votes

#17 - Risk: 1945-1955

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 8

The bop revolution’s influence would spread to other musicians, but unlike swing, it would never become a popular music. The rapid-fire solos and complicated chord structures made bop a musician’s music, unfit for dancing. Indeed, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s music even alienated established musicians like Armstrong. "Risk" provides an in-depth biography of the bright, brief life of Parker, and includes interviews with his former wife.

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A Masterpiece by Midnight: 1960 to the Present
star
8.77
13 votes

#18 - A Masterpiece by Midnight: 1960 to the Present

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 10

Obviously Ken Burns knows that he can’t fit the last thirty-nine years of jazz history onto two hours of video tape, so from the outset, that shouldn’t be expected. There’s an excellent biography of John Coltrane, and footage of Miles Davis’ wonderful mid-‘60s quintet. There is also a nice, small section on the magnificent Charles Mingus.

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Forever Free (1862)
star
8.77
154 votes

#19 - Forever Free (1862)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 3

This episode charts the dramatic events that led to Lincoln's decision to set the slaves free. Convinced by July 1862 that emancipation was now morally and militarily crucial to the future of the Union, Lincoln must wait for a victory to issue his proclamation. But as the year wears on there are no Union victories to be had, thanks to the brilliance of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The episode comes to a climax in September 1862 with Lee's invasion of Maryland. On the banks of Antietam Creek, the bloodiest day of the war takes place, followed shortly by the brightest: the emancipation of the slaves.

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Simply Murder (1863)
star
8.69
144 votes

#20 - Simply Murder (1863)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 4

The nightmarish Union disaster at Fredericksburg comes to two climaxes that spring: at Chancellorsville in May, where Lee wins his most brilliant victory but loses Stonewall Jackson; and at Vicksburg, where Grant's attempts to take the city by siege are stopped. During the episode we learn of fierce Northern opposition to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the miseries of regimental life and the increasing desperation of the Confederate homefront. As the episode ends, Lee decides to invade the North again to draw Grant's forces away from Vicksburg.

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Most Hallowed Ground (1864)
star
8.69
124 votes

#21 - Most Hallowed Ground (1864)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 7

The episode begins with the presidential election of 1864 that sets Abraham Lincoln against his old commanding general, George McClellan. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of the Union itself: with Grant and Sherman stalled at Petersburg and Atlanta, opinion in the North has turned strongly against the war. But 11th-hour victories at Mobile Bay, Atlanta, and the Shenandoah Valley tilt the election to Lincoln and the Confederacy's last hope for independence dies. In an ironic twist, poignantly typical of the Civil War, Lee's Arlington mansion is turned into a Union military hospital and the estate becomes Arlington National Cemetery, the Union's most hallowed ground.

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Swing: The Velocity of Celebration - 1937-1939
star
8.69
13 votes

#22 - Swing: The Velocity of Celebration - 1937-1939

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 6

Swing would be reacquainted with its blues roots by way of Kansas City, when Count Basie and the Barons of Rhythm brought their hot sound to the Big Apple. Basie would also give Billie Holiday her first break, offering her a chance to travel, perform, drink, and gamble with the rest of the band. Another young singer named Ella Fitzgerald would get her start in Chick Webb’s band at the Savoy Ballroom, and then be named top female vocalist—over Billy Holiday—by Down Beat in 1937.

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The Universe of Battle (1863)
star
8.63
147 votes

#23 - The Universe of Battle (1863)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 5

This episode opens with a dramatic account of the turning point of war: the Battle of Gettysburg, the greatest ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. For three days 150,000 men will fight to the death in the Pennsylvania countryside, culminating in Pickett's legendary charge. This extended episode then goes on to chronicle the fall of Vicksburg, the New York draft riots, the first use of black troops, and the western battles at Chickamauga, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The episode closes with the dedication of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg in November, where Abraham Lincoln struggles to put into words what is happening to his people.

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The True Welcome: 1929-1934
star
8.54
13 votes

#24 - The True Welcome: 1929-1934

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 4

"The True Welcome" continues many of the stories begun in Episode 3, following several troubling years for Louis Armstrong (who was arrested for marijuana possession), Duke Ellington’s growth as a composer, and Benny Goodman discovering gold in Fletcher Henderson’s arrangements. "The True Welcome" also has a nice section on rich kid John Hammond, Sr. who would become one of jazz’ biggest promoters

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The Weight of Memory (March 1973-Onward)
star
8.50
280 votes

#25 - The Weight of Memory (March 1973-Onward)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 10

Saigon falls and the war ends. Americans and Vietnamese from all sides search for reconciliation.

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Yearning to Breathe Free (1938–1942)
star
8.32
25 votes

#26 - Yearning to Breathe Free (1938–1942)

The U.S. and the Holocaust - Season 1 - Episode 2

As World War II begins, Americans unite in their disapproval of Nazi brutality and work to help refugees escape; Germany invades the Soviet Union and secretly begins the mass murder of European Jews.

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The Golden Door (Beginnings–1938)
star
8.28
39 votes

#27 - The Golden Door (Beginnings–1938)

The U.S. and the Holocaust - Season 1 - Episode 1

Congress reverses open borders; Hitler and the Nazis begin their persecution of German Jews, causing many to seek refuge; President Franklin D. Roosevelt is concerned but unable to coordinate a response to the crisis.

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The Cause (1861)
star
8.27
301 votes

#28 - The Cause (1861)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 1

Beginning with a searing indictment of slavery, this first episode dramatically evokes the causes of the war, from the Cotton Kingdom of the South to the northern abolitionists who opposed it. Here are the burning questions of Union and States' rights, John Brown at Harper's Ferry, the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the firing on Fort Sumter and the jubilant rush to arms on both sides. Along the way the series' major figures are introduced: Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and a host of lesser-known but equally vivid characters. The episode comes to a climax with the disastrous Union defeat at Manassas, Virginia, where both sides now learn it is to be a very long war.

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A Disrespectful Loyalty (May 1970-March 1973)
star
8.23
303 votes

#29 - A Disrespectful Loyalty (May 1970-March 1973)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 9

South Vietnam fights on its own as Nixon and Kissinger find a way out for America. The POWs return.

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A Nation of Hypocrites
star
8.21
171 votes

#30 - A Nation of Hypocrites

Prohibition - Season 1 - Episode 3

Conclusion. The factors that led to the end of prohibition are detailed, as the criminalization of alcohol feeds large profits into the coffers of criminal organizations and turns such gangsters as Al Capone into celebrities. Wealthy Pauline Sabin encourages the repeal of the 18th Amendment; and brings together women from all classes who support her position. The 21st Amendment, which repeals the 18th, is adopted after FDR's 1932 election and by late 1933 people can again legally buy drinks.

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The History of the World (April 1969-May 1970)
star
8.15
317 votes

#31 - The History of the World (April 1969-May 1970)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 8

Nixon withdraws troops but when he sends forces into Cambodia the antiwar movement reignites.

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Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)
star
8.13
357 votes

#32 - Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 6

Shaken by the Tet Offensive, assassinations and unrest, America seems to be coming apart.

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A Very Bloody Affair (1862)
star
8.09
243 votes

#33 - A Very Bloody Affair (1862)

The Civil War - Season 1 - Episode 2

1862 saw the birth of modern warfare and the transformation of Lincoln's war to preserve the Union into a war to emancipate the slaves. Episode Two begins with the political infighting that threatened to swamp Lincoln's administration and then follows Union General George McClellan's ill-fated campaign on the Virginia Peninsula, where his huge army meets a smaller but infinitely more resourceful Confederate force. During this episode we witness the battle of ironclad ships, partake of camp life, and watch slavery begin to crumble. We meet Ulysses S. Grant, whose exploits come to a bloody climax at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. The episode ends with rumors of Europe's readiness to recognize the Confederacy.

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The Veneer of Civilization (June 1968-May 1969)
star
8.09
338 votes

#34 - The Veneer of Civilization (June 1968-May 1969)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 7

After chaos roils the Democratic Convention, Nixon, promising peace, narrowly wins the presidency.

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The River Styx (January 1964 – December 1965)
star
8.06
436 votes

#35 - The River Styx (January 1964 – December 1965)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 3

With South Vietnam in chaos, hardliners in Hanoi seize the initiative and send combat troops to the South, accelerating the insurgency. Fearing Saigon's collapse, President Johnson escalates America's military commitment, authorizing sustained bombing of the North and deploying ground troops in the South.

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Resolve (January 1966-June 1967)
star
8.04
392 votes

#36 - Resolve (January 1966-June 1967)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 4

US soldiers discover Vietnam is unlike their fathers’ war, while the antiwar movement grows.

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A Nation of Drunkards
star
8.04
191 votes

#37 - A Nation of Drunkards

Prohibition - Season 1 - Episode 1

The start of the temperance movement in the 19th century under the stewardship of such leaders as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard and Carry Nation; and the Anti-Saloon League, which pushed for a constitutional amendment that would ban the sale and manufacture of alcohol.

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The Kennedys (2)
star
8.00
2 votes

#38 - The Kennedys (2)

American Experience - Season 5 - Episode 2

For the three Kennedy sons (John, Robert, Ted) it was the story of triumph followed by tragedy. Their political careers from 1961-80 are detailed in this episode.

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Swing: Pure Pleasure - 1935-1937
star
8.00
11 votes

#39 - Swing: Pure Pleasure - 1935-1937

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 5

1935 was the year that swing became the most popular music in the country and that the king of swing, Benny Goodman, became a matinee idol. Americans, stifled by the Depression, seemed determined to dance their troubles away. "Swing: Pure Pleasure" follows the continuing careers of Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Armstrong, and the discovery of Billy Holiday.

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Our Language: 1924 -1929
star
8.00
18 votes

#40 - Our Language: 1924 -1929

Jazz - Season 1 - Episode 3

Colorful characters like the tragic Bix Beiderbecke, powerhouse Bessie Smith, and the braggart Jelly Roll Morton, make the study of jazz fascinating. Perhaps most touching in this episode is the extended portrait of the troubled, white cornet player, Bix Beiderbecke, whose family disapproved of his chosen profession, and who would never be allowed to record with greats like Louis Armstrong due to segregation in the music business.

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Nixon (1): The Quest
star
8.00
2 votes

#41 - Nixon (1): The Quest

American Experience - Season 3 - Episode 2

Chronicle of the 37th President - from his earliest ambitions to his innovative foreign policy and paranoia of perceived rivals.

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A Nation of Scofflaws
star
7.90
178 votes

#42 - A Nation of Scofflaws

Prohibition - Season 1 - Episode 2

Part 2 of 3 examines the problems that the Volstead Act and prohibition caused, including a possible increase in alcoholism due to women frequenting the illicit speakeasies that replaced male-only saloons; adulterated liquor that poisons some drinkers; and civil-rights violations by overzealous federal agents anxious to make arrests. Despite the public's growing opposition to the ban, few politicians dare to speak against it due to the political might of the Anti-Saloon League.

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Riding the Tiger (1961-1963)
star
7.89
509 votes

#43 - Riding the Tiger (1961-1963)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 2

As a communist insurgency gains strength, JFK wrestles with American involvement in South Vietnam.

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Déjà Vu (1858-1961)
star
7.85
738 votes

#44 - Déjà Vu (1858-1961)

The Vietnam War (2017) - Season 1 - Episode 1

After nearly a century of French colonial rule, Vietnam emerges independent, but divided.

The Kennedys (1)
star
7.67
3 votes

#45 - The Kennedys (1)

American Experience - Season 5 - Episode 1

The life of Kennedy patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy is the subject of this episode.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided (5): The Frightful War
star
7.00
1 votes

#46 - Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided (5): The Frightful War

American Experience - Season 13 - Episode 11

While criticism of Abraham Lincoln increases during the Civil War, Mary Lincoln plunges into debt.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided (2): We Are Elected
star
0.00
0 votes

#47 - Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided (2): We Are Elected

American Experience - Season 13 - Episode 8

Sheds light on the Lincoln marriage during Abraham's time in Congress and his run for president.

Nixon (2): Triumph
star
0.00
0 votes

#48 - Nixon (2): Triumph

American Experience - Season 3 - Episode 3

Chronicle of the 37th President - from his earliest ambitions to his innovative foreign policy and paranoia of perceived rivals.

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T.R.: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt (3): The Good Fight
star
0.00
0 votes

#49 - T.R.: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt (3): The Good Fight

American Experience - Season 9 - Episode 3

The colorful life of Teddy Roosevelt, from frail youth to larger-than-life persona.

T.R.: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt (2): The Bully Pulpit
star
0.00
0 votes

#50 - T.R.: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt (2): The Bully Pulpit

American Experience - Season 9 - Episode 2

The colorful life of Teddy Roosevelt, from frail youth to larger-than-life persona.