IT’S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL OUR NATIONAL STORY ON TELEVISION, EVEN IF YOU’VE GOT 13 HOURS AT YOUR DISPOSAL. THREE PEOPLE WHO DID IT EXPLAIN HOW—AND WHY.
DURING THE FALL OF 1997, our production team at WGBH-TV, Boston’s Public Broadcasting System station, began developing a television project that would capture the sweep of American history with, we hoped, real rigor and drama.
Dean Acheson (1893-1971) was an attorney and statesman who served as Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953 under President Harry Truman. A key architect of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, Acheson stressed the importance of multilateral organizations in the fight against totalitarianism. Prior to his service in the Truman Administration, Acheson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, worked at Washington law firm Covington & Burling, and served as Undersecretary of the Treasury for one year under President Franklin Roosevelt.
Stephen E. Ambrose (1936-2002) was a historian and professor who wrote on military history, presidential history, and American expansion and foreign policy. Ambrose has been praised for his biographies of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, and for helping to galvanize interest in World War II.
David W. Blight is the Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition at Yale University. Recently, Blight has written A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation, and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which won the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize.
Douglas Brinkley, a distinguished professor of history at Rice University and Contributing Editor of American Heritage, has written more than 20 books, most recently The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (Harper 2009) and The Reagan Diaries (HarperCollins 2007).
Brinkley earned his B.A from Ohio State University University in 1982, and his Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1989.
Bruce Catton (1899 – 1978) was the Founding Editor of American Heritage and arguably the most prolific and popular of all Civil War historians. He wrote an astonishing 167 articles for American Heritage, and won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1954 for A Stillness at Appomattox, his study of the final campaign of the war in Virginia.
Catton received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Gerald Ford, in 1977, the year before his death.