LEXINGTON — As the nation commemorates the Civil War sesquicentennial, a new documentary film explores the decades-long incubation of the tragedy that eventually claimed more than one million lives.
Chronicling the span of America’s history from the ratification of the Constitution to the Confederate forces’ attack on Fort Sumter, “Henry Clay and the Struggle for the Union” is the first documentary film ever produced about the statesman who obviated disunion and civil war for more than 40 years. The hour-long documentary, written and hosted by historian Kent Masterson Brown, was produced for public television by Witnessing History, LLC. The film premieres on Kentucky’s PBS affiliate, KET, at 10:00 p.m. Monday, with 10 additional airdates currently scheduled on the KET network.
“‘Henry Clay and the Struggle for the Union’ delves into the intricacies of our nation’s history like never before, telling the story of the man who promoted ‘honorable compromise’ for the greater good of the nation,” said Executive Producer Thomas P. Dupree Sr. “It’s a great honor to play a part in bringing this story to life.”
Period paintings, photographs and documents, footage of the Old Senate Chamber in the Nation’s capitol, and dramatic scenes portraying Henry Clay and his colleagues illustrate the story of those who sought mutual concession to quell the eruptions of conflict between slave states and free states. Nearly 20 museums and historical societies, including the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; the Library of Congress; Cincinnati Art Museum; The National Archives; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate; Filson Historical Society; and the Virginia Historical Society contributed to the documentary, with many of the pieces being captured for the first time ever on film.
“The documentary explores the impact of slavery on the westward expansion of the nation and how the conflict between North and South was, in the end, irrepressible,” said Brown, a 1971 graduate of Centre College. “History is nothing but lessons and there is much we can glean from Clay’s political career and the Compromises of 1820, 1833 and 1850.”
The program was directed by Douglas High, who collaborated with Brown on the award-winning Witnessing History films “Retreat from Gettysburg” and “Bourbon and Kentucky: A History Distilled.” Brown, a native of Lexington, has practiced law in both Lexington and Washington, D.C., for 36 years. He also is a well-respected historian, author and lecturer who has received numerous awards for his work in Civil War history and historic preservation.
High has nearly 20 years of experience in broadcast production and management and is a news anchor currently for Lexington’s ABC 36. He also proudly serves as a public affairs officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
The film was made possible due to underwriting support from Dupree Mutual Funds, the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Transylvania University, the McConnell Center for Political Leadership and Michael Rowady, Esq.
DVDs of “Henry Clay and the Struggle for the Union” are available for purchase online at www.witnessinghistoryonline.com and www.amazon.com.
For PBS Kentucky airdates, visit www.ket.org.