"Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters" on History Channel

Southern history buffs should definitely check out Institute friend Judy Richardson's documentary "Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters," which will premiere on the History Channel tomorrow, May 26, from 8-10 p.m. The film offers a look into the world of slave policing -- "enforced by militia, armed community slave patrols, paid slave catchers, and federal law" -- as well as the ingenuity of slave resistance.

As the film's press release points out, the documentary gives vivid stories that debunk the idea that African Americans passively suffered oppression:

While the stories show the brutality of the slave system, they also reveal another, often-overlooked side of the history -- the strength and ingenuity of the enslaved. As historian Peter Wood observes, "Would they [the enslaved] go willingly into a situation of perpetual racial servitude? No way!"

In the South, we portray slave hunters and their bloodhounds, who sometimes lost against the intelligence and fight-to-the-death courage of the enslaved. And in the North, we show slave catchers who were sometimes blocked by an organized - and armed -- black community. Historian James O. Horton comments: "Boston is not a safe place for slave catchers to operate... Blacks - and sometimes whites - formed as groups to protect fugitives."

Even in the South, plantations were like pressure cookers. Sometimes they exploded into full-scale rebellions -- like the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina or the 1831 rebellion led by Nat Turner in Virginia.

However ... the main problem for slave owners was not rebellion, but runaways. Historian Loren Schweninger notes, "A minimum number of slaves per year that ran away was 50,000 and probably many more... It was almost routine." Most ran simply to be reunited with family members who'd been sold away.

Judy, whose activism started with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, is a Senior Producer at Northern Light Productions. Definitely worth seeing.