The African Americans Many River to Cross Episode 2 Essay Example

Paper Type:  Movie review
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1242 Words
Date:  2022-11-20


'The African American Many River to cross: The cotton Economy and Slavery, Episode 2' is a historical film written by Henry Louis Gates, recorded and broadcasted by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to give a history and overview of how cotton farming facilitated the second largest forced migration and slavery in the history of America. From the film, one can emphatically state that cotton farming was one of the significant factors that intensified slavery and forced labor in the United States of America.

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According to the film, the points of view were that cotton became so desirable in the 1790s that the farmland and value of all other American old crops like tobacco dropped significantly. The textile industry in Britain exploded creating an increase in international demand for cotton clothing. As a result, more cotton plantations were established, and this raised the need for slaves since they were the fuel behind cotton planting and processing. Stakeholders such as plantation owners in the south, banks, and marketers in the north, textile industries in Great Britain and shipping merchants were among the groups that were purported to have benefited from the cotton economy. Because of these beneficiaries and their urge to increase their gains, there was an increased demand for slaves in the Deeper South to meet the required workforce in the plantations, and as a result, forced migration of slaves from the upper south was initiated. Slavery increased, and the slaves became a commodity with high demand than ever before in the Deep South. More than a million slaves were moved to the Deep South to provide the much-needed labor in the cotton plantation which was at that time rapidly establishing. The cotton economy changed the United States, and the fertile land in the Deep South from Georgia to Texas became extraordinarily valuable.

From the analysis of the film, there were many inferences made as far as the cotton economy and slavery is concerned. The American oldest crops farmlands were depleting, and their values were dropping because of the high development of the textile industry and cotton farming. The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney was solely a driver for the global economic machine which was propelled and driven by slaves. The value of land in the Deep South rose due to increased demand to establish a cotton plantation. The establishment of the cotton plantations was temporarily hindered by the Native Americans who by then were settled on the lands; this, however, did not last for long as the population was soon replaced with slave plantations through the Indian removal policy. The more money the planters made from cotton, the more cotton they wanted to grow and as a result slaves in the upper south became more valuable commodities in the Deep South and thus intensified the slave trade. There are parts that the filmmakers have added up to drive home the point of view of the film to the audience. They could not have known from the available evidence the full list of who was to get the share or instead benefit from the cotton farming. They included everybody, for instance, the banks, textile industries, and ship merchants. The filmmakers also added that the Native Americans occupied the Deep South temporarily before being displaced through the Indian removal policy. There is however not enough evidence in the film to justify the presence of the Native Americans in the deep south before the establishment of the cotton plantations.

The film used various techniques to drive home the point of view of the filmmakers. For instance, the over-the-shoulder track-in shot technique was used when Steven Deyle narrated about how difficult it was for an individual to produce and process one ton of cotton and who would benefit from it the production. Another camera technique that was used in the film is the zoom shots method. This was used when the narrator explained how enormous international demand for cotton clothing had grown to show various samples of cotton clothing that were the final products of processed cotton in the textile industries. In the film, a variety of photos are shown and zoomed smoothly to grab the attention of the audience and to emphasize the type of cotton clothing that were in demand. The technique was also used to showing how the Native Americans lived in the Deep South and when narrating how they were removed using the Indian policy removal. Panning shot technique was also used when gates were explaining how the more money made by cotton planter motivated them to grow more cotton. Animation crane shot was also used to show the large tract of the cotton plantation that was part of the many plantations that existed and operated by slaves in the past.

To persuade the audience to the films' point of view, there was evidence used by the filmmakers from various sources. The film incorporated different historical images and videos gathered from archives showing how the slaves operated in the cotton plantations, how they were treated and how they were transferred from one location to the other. The film also incorporated live video recording of historians giving their views and statements on the factors influencing the growth of slavery in the United States of America during the cotton economy. Their recorded pieces of evidence are gathered from an intensive study of the history of slavery by use of all the materials that were at their disposal especially during their research. In the film, a live aerial view video recording of a large cotton plantation is done to emphasize the reality of how huge the plantations were.

The relevant information known to many about slavery in the United States of America is that chattel slavery was common and was practiced by many. The enslaved people were treated as personal property and was bought and sold as commodities. Women slaves were important since slavery was imposed on their children at birth and this would see the owner have their number of slaves increased. The enslaved experienced forced labor which was against their will and they were punished by whipping, beating, mutilation, shackling and imprisonment. Sexual abuse was also common. The leading causes of punishment were due to disobeying the masters, perceived infractions, and overseers need to assert dominance. All the above information about slavery is relevant and in support of the history portrayed by the film as far as the film is concerned. There are many relevant issues such as treating slaves as commodities, punishing them by shackling and imposing forced labor on them as evidence in the story presented in the film.


In overall, the historical arguments portrayed by the film represent arguably accurate information about the history of slavery in the United States of America. The film incorporated some historians and information used to write the story was gathered from various sources to ensure the accuracy of information. Many historians argue the same way as the film when it comes to the effects of increased cotton farming and the establishment of cotton plantations in the united state of America which saw more than a million of African Americans slaved carried into the Deep South making the second most massive forced migration in the history of America.


Public Broadcasting Service. [The Cotton Economy and Slavery, Episode 2]. (2013, October 29). African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross [Video file]. Retrieved from

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