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Originally published Sunday, February 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM


A lifetime of slavery, a legacy of freedom

"Prince Among Slaves" tells the true, little-known story of an African prince who survived 40 years of enslavement in America before regaining...

The Associated Press

TV lookout

"Prince Among Slaves" tells the true, little-known story of an African prince who survived 40 years of enslavement in America before regaining his freedom and returning to his homeland.

Four years in the making, the film sheds light on the shameful institution of slavery through the ordeal of Abdul Rahman, a young African general who had been slated to rule Futa Jallon in West Africa, a prosperous nation larger than the Thirteen Colonies. Instead, he was captured in 1788 and sold into slavery in Mississippi.

A man of dignity, intellect and unwavering faith as a devout Muslim, he served on a single plantation in Natchez for four decades before negotiating his freedom with the U.S. State Department and President John Quincy Adams in 1828. By then his story was well-known, and he was perhaps the most famous African American in the U.S.

In 1829, he returned to Africa, sailing comfortably on a passenger ship compliments of the U.S. government. He died a few months later at age 67.

The film ends with a present-day reunion of several dozen descendants of the prince, from Africa as well as Mississippi, gathering on the grounds of that Natchez plantation where he spent so much of his life.

Says Artemus Gaye, seventh-generation grandson of Abdul Rahman, their family's "history did not begin in slavery, but in freedom."

"Prince Among Slaves" is narrated by actor-musician Mos Def, with stirring re-enactment scenes as well as commentary from numerous voices including K. Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at Princeton University; Islamic scholars Hamza Yusuf Hanson and Zaid Shakir; and Terry Alford, whose 1977 historical biography inspired the film.

The documentary, part of PBS' tribute to Black History Month, airs at 10 p.m. Monday on KCTS.

Other shows to look out for:

A "super" week begins at 8 a.m. Sunday on Fox with a look ahead at the day's Super Bowl as well as Super Tuesday's 22 state presidential primaries. A one-hour "Fox News Sunday" is followed by a two-hour block of political and sports coverage anchored by Fox News' Shepard Smith from Super Bowl Central — Glendale, Ariz. Smith will be joined by co-hosts Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly as they examine the candidates and issues.

The broadcast also explores the social and cultural impact of the Super Bowl, with a behind-the-scenes look as the action gets under way. In addition, Fox Business Network's Alexis Glick previews Super Bowl commercials and the economics behind the biggest sporting event of the year, while Fox News correspondents Carl Cameron and Major Garrett provide updates from the campaign trail.


"Grand Central": It's not just an awe-inspiring structure, an engineering marvel and an indispensable resource. Grand Central Terminal was also a response to a human tragedy and a greedy railroad's disregard for public safety. On the morning of Jan. 8, 1902, a southbound commuter train traveling through a smoky, congested tunnel in New York City's Grand Central Depot slammed into the rear of another train, instantly killing 15 people and injuring dozens. The tragedy (and resulting public outcry) ultimately gave rise to one of America's greatest technological and artistic triumphs. But the trip was anything but smooth. A new film, "Grand Central," takes viewers on this journey, providing history and a tribute to this transportation landmark. The "American Experience" film airs at 9 p.m. Monday on KCTS.

"Ready to Watch": Beginning Monday, Sundance Channel pays homage to the sartorial with "Ready to Watch," a six-night festival of fashion-oriented programs airing in conjunction with New York's Fashion Week. A highlight: the U.S. television premiere of "Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton," which penetrates the world of 44-year-old designer Marc Jacobs. The documentary follows him from New York to Tokyo to Paris as he executes two Spring 2007 ready-to-wear collections — one for his own eponymous American label, and the other for the venerable French luxury house Louis Vuitton. Filmmaker Loic Prigent, who has chronicled the workings of haute couture in the series "Signe Chanel" (also airing during "Ready to Watch"), was granted unprecedented access to Jacobs' workrooms in New York and Paris. The result is a witty, colorful portrait of a maverick designer. It airs at 8 p.m. Monday.

"Escape to Chimp Eden": For nine painful years, a chimp named Cozi knew life only from within a 4-by-4-foot cage. Now free, he's learning to climb trees ... from a human. This is only one of the thriving residents of Jane Goodall Institute's Chimpanzee Eden, a sort of halfway house for chimpanzees rescued from the horrors of human captivity. Set in the heart of the Mpumalanga region of South Africa, the sanctuary's rescue director is Eugene Cussons, who aims to give these chimps a life approximating what they would have had in the wild. A new series on Animal Planet, "Escape to Chimp Eden" spotlights his efforts at both rescue and rehabilitation. It premieres at 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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