Cover art for podcast Seizing Freedom

Seizing Freedom

41 EpisodesProduced by VPMWebsite

Highlighting true stories of Black people’s fight for liberation, progress and joy from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Seizing Freedom illustrates the myriad ways Black people have sought and defined their own freedom in spite of the monumental forces at work to keep them fro… read more

41 Episodes | 2021 - 2022

Seizing Freedom: Official Trailer

January 18th, 2021


In most history classes, you learn that the Emancipation Proclamation and Union victories “freed the slaves.” But ending slavery in America required so much more than battlefield victories or even official …

Spotlight: Ambrose Headen

February 1st, 2021


Follow the incredible journey of Ambrose Headen, a man born into slavery who eventually played a pivotal role in founding one of the nation’s first …

Spotlight: Susie King Taylor

February 1st, 2021


A deeper look into the life of Susie King Taylor, who pursued her vision of freedom for herself, her family and for future generations.

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Intro: Time For A New Story

February 1st, 2021


If you’ve heard stories about Reconstruction, you’ve probably heard that it failed. And sure, some parts of Reconstruction did fail—but not because Black people didn’t claim their freedom.

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Spotlight: Cyntha Nickols

February 1st, 2021


African Americans had to go to extraordinary lengths in order to be reunited with their families after emancipation, including this grandmother’s struggle to gain custody of her grandson.

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A Powerful Black Hand

February 1st, 2021


How Black men and women fought to participate in the war against slavery, and how the Union’s decision to allow them to enlist shifted the tide of the Civil War.

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Interview: Crystal Feimster

February 4th, 2021


Interview with historian Crystal Feimster about the importance of digging into archives and disrupting the myth that the Civil War and Reconstruction are histories that belong to white men.

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A Bedrock For Freedom

February 8th, 2021


How freedom wasn't as clear-cut as wartime refugees from slavery expected, and how— despite terrible conditions in many camps—Black people's desire for self-determination kept them going.

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Interview: Abigail Cooper

February 15th, 2021


Conversation with Abigail Cooper about the communities that Black people established in Civil War refugee camps, how they celebrated their African traditions and how they had to adapt to survive in the American …

Reconstructing Family

February 22nd, 2021


How freed people sought out their kin following emancipation, and how they worked to establish new lives with their families, pushing for recognition …

Interview: Deborah Willis

March 1st, 2021


Photography professor Deborah Willis speaks with Kidada about the power of photography during the Civil War era, and the stories images can reveal to us about the lives Black people led and wanted future generations to …

A New Joy Awaiting Me

March 8th, 2021


How newly emancipated African Americans established communities and expanded their labor on their own terms to build livelihoods for themselves and their families, and how they were met with extreme repercussions from …

Interview: Rhiannon Giddens

March 15th, 2021


The Grammy-winning musician discusses her connection to the banjo, its historical ties to Africa, and how she draws inspiration from the historical archives to create her songs.

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They Can't Keep Me Out

March 22nd, 2021


Further exploring the stakes of making a living as a Black person following emancipation and how, despite violent retaliation in light of their …

Interview: Tera Hunter

March 29th, 2021


Kidada speaks with Princeton Historian Tera Hunter about how Black workers wanted to shape their working lives after the Civil War, what communal labor looked like, and what activities they found joy in.

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Truth Makes The Free Man

April 5th, 2021


Education was regarded as the "real liberation" by many African Americans following emancipation from slavery, and they were willing to go to extreme …

Interview: Hilary Green

April 12th, 2021


Conversation about family histories and education, how many of the stereotypes that have been associated with Black people in the United States came to be, why they’re simply not true, and what the pursuit of knowledge …

Equal Children Of God

April 19th, 2021


How a thirst for soul liberty and the freedom to worship as they saw fit sustained Black Americans through centuries of enslavement. And how the …

Interview: Kelly Brown Douglas

April 26th, 2021


The Reverend shares what church has meant to the Black community, both historically and currently, as well as how to find God in times of struggle and injustice.

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The Final Word On Liberty

May 3rd, 2021


The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, but African Americans knew the “freedom” of emancipation was incomplete without universal citizenship …

Interview: Kate Masur

May 10th, 2021


A discussion of the central role African Americans played in securing constitutional change for their civil and political rights during …

A Heritage Unique In The Ages

May 17th, 2021


Season finale. The "freedom generation" of African Americans who were the first to experience emancipation knew that their fight for freedom was only just beginning. Even as they were earning new rights and privileges, …

Recommended Listening: 1865

May 20th, 2021


While we work on the next season of Seizing Freedom, we think you'll enjoy listening to the podcast, 1865. In its new season, Ulysses S. Grant takes the White House, intent on rooting out corruption, crushing the KKK …

Introducing Season 2 of Seizing Freedom

January 25th, 2022


Coming February 1, 2022.

The promises of Reconstruction were left unfulfilled. The violent system of Jim Crow was being built in real time, brick by …

The Fight of the Century

February 1st, 2022


Black southerners and their allies were experiencing the brick and mortar of Jim Crow being installed in real time. Racial terror killings had been climbing, lynchings were becoming more shocking and segregation was …

Interview - Adam Serwer

February 8th, 2022


Kidada speaks with Adam Serwer, staff writer at The Atlantic who covers race, politics and justice, about the role of the Black press in America, …

On The World's Stage

February 15th, 2022


The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was an opportunity for the United States to showcase its spectacular growth and signal its arrival as a world power, …

Interview - Kinshasha Holman Conwill & Paul Gardullo

February 22nd, 2022


Kidada speaks with Kinshasha Holman Conwill, the deputy director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; as …

Walk! The Streetcar Boycotts

March 1st, 2022


With white supremacist strategies for segregated societies solidifying in towns across America’s South, Black people needed to respond in ways that …

Interview - Blair L.M. Kelley

March 8th, 2022


Kidada speaks with historian Blair L.M. Kelley about how segregation grew out of pushback against Black upward mobility, and how Richmond, VA serves …

Children of the Sun

March 15th, 2022


Many Black Americans at the end of the nineteenth century relied heavily on themselves, prioritizing self-determination and securing their collective …

Interview - Paula Austin

March 22nd, 2022


Kidada speaks with historian Paula Austin about the shift in American society to protect childhood innocence in the early 1900s, and how that concept …

Recommended Listening: Home. Made.

March 25th, 2022


Today we're sharing an episode of Home. Made., a podcast that explores the meaning of home and what it can teach us about ourselves and each other.


When Michael Atkins applied for a job as a teacher’s aid, he was …

The Land of Milk and Honey

March 29th, 2022


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several million African Americans left the South for the North and West. They wanted to raise their kids …

Interview - Jamelle Bouie

April 5th, 2022


Kidada speaks with New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie about the legacies of discriminatory housing policies in the United States and their …

Inside Harlem's Speakeasies

April 12th, 2022


Black workers were expected to take on “respectable” employment in the early twentieth century, essentially a racist dog whistle to keep them in the dirtiest, most dangerous and low-paying jobs. While some Black people …

Interview - Saeed Jones

April 19th, 2022


Kidada speaks with writer, poet and social commentator Saeed Jones about the many facets of Black masculinity, how it has been shaped and reshaped …

Dethroning Disease

April 26th, 2022


Attendees of the 1914 “Fifty Years of Negro Health Improvement in Preparation for Efficiency” conference, with speakers including Booker T. …

Interview - Julia Craven

May 3rd, 2022


Kidada speaks with health reporter Julia Craven about health and wellness for African Americans, both historically and in the context of the COVID-19 …

Reframing the Narrative?

May 10th, 2022


African Americans couldn’t seize much universal freedom as the brick-and-mortar of Jim Crow walled them off from their rights. Still, race men and …

Interview - Mariame Kaba

May 17th, 2022


Season 2 Finale. Kidada speaks with activist and organizer Mariame Kaba about the ways many of us practice abolition without realizing it, how …

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