MALS Student Wins Emmy

November 30, 2006
Hour one: three of the first eleven slaves arrive in Dutch New Amsterdam, 1626

Hour one: three of the first eleven slaves arrive in Dutch New Amsterdam, 1626. Jeremy Lock Thirteen/WNET New York

"Seeds of Destruction," the third episode in the PBS series Slavery and the Making of America, won the "Outstanding Historical Programming—Long Format" category at the 27th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards this fall. And the Emmy went to producer Dante J. James, who is currently a student in Duke's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

Despite his student status, James, fifty-four, is hardly a novice when it comes to documentary film. He has several independent films to his credit and served as executive producer for the PBS series This Far By Faith in 2003. This fall, as an artist-in-residence at Duke, he's teaching an undergraduate documentary-film course at the Center for Documentary Studies.

Slavery and the Making of America

Maria Sandamela Thirteen/WNET New York

The four-part Slavery series, narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, debuted on PBS in February 2005. The documentary melds individual slave narratives and modern historical scholarship to tell the "story of slavery from the point of view of the enslaved, which is a very different and a very new interpretation of that terrible institution," James says. Among the scholars James and his colleagues interviewed was Peter Wood, a Duke history professor.

The award-winning episode focuses on a period beginning in the early 1800s. It examines the increasing divisiveness of the slavery issue among Americans and the rise of abolitionist sentiments among both blacks and whites.

James' next PBS film, tentatively titled Harlem in Paris, is a documentary exploring the history and evolution of jazz in Paris from 1918 to the 1950s. "We will use music as a window to the history," he says, "as opposed to the history being a window to the music."