Ken Burns American Stories: The Shakers

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Ken Burns American Stories: The Shakers (1984)

Directed by Ken Burns and Amy Stechler Burns

Narrated by David McCullough

When Ken Burns puts together a documentary it is guaranteed to have in-depth research behind it. From baseball to World War II he has found ways to educate his viewers with little known facts and rarely seen images. In 1984 he released this documentary on PBS that detailed the history of the people known as Shakers.

“They called themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, but because of their ecstatic dancing, the world called them Shakers. Though they were celibate, they are the most enduring religious experiment in American history. They believed in pacifism, natural health and hygiene, and for more than 200 years insisted that their followers should strive for simplicity and perfection in everything they did. The Shakers put their “hands to work and their hearts to God,” creating an exquisite legacy of fine furniture, glorious architecture and beautiful music that will remain and inspire long after the last Shaker is gone.”

The film is amazing, with images from generations of Shakers and those who knew them. There are also firsthand accounts that give insight into these peculiar people. Perhaps one of the best touches of the film are the interviews done with some of the few surviving Shakers. The Shakers contributed more to society than most people might realize, and they have left a lasting legacy in their culture, architecture, and other works. I would highly recommend this or any of the Ken Burns documentaries. I give this one 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: Not Rated

Running Time: 60 minutes


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