Spanning the eight decades between the end of the Civil War and the start of U.S. involvement in World War II, Sam Pollard’s well-made and sobering docu “Slavery by Another Name” illustrates the little-known fact that the involuntary servitude of African-Americans continued long past the Emancipation Proclamation. Based on the like-titled book by Douglas Blackmon, who appears among the many talking heads here, Pollard’s pic incorporates handsomely produced re-enactments that add only marginally to the film’s impact. Powerful if prosaic docu airs Feb. 13 on PBS and merits a long life on the educational circuit thereafter.
Featuring interviews with the descendants of forced laborers and their white overlords, the film lays bare what scholar Adam Green calls a “fiendishly rational” system of violent oppression. Following the passage of the 13th Amendment and the attendant anxiety of former slave-owners in the Deep South, laws were designed to entrap and convict newly freed blacks and return them to servitude. Dramatic re-enactments, with actors in the roles of de facto slaves, are based on original documents discovered by Blackmon in the course of his Pulitzer-winning work. Tech credits are pro.