Remember Harvey Leroy “Lee” Atwater?

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We should all remember Harvey Leroy “Lee” Atwater, the original Machiavellian Prince of American Politics. We should all remember his tactics as well as his later rejection of those same politics.

Before there was a Republican Karl Rove and a Democratic James Carville, there was the original Boogieman, Lee Atwater. In the summer of 2008, a movie is being released with that name and will examine the life and influence of Lee Atwater on US politics.

He was the founding father of the Attack Ads, the Negative Ads, and the general Smear and Slime based political campaign.

At the age of 39, he was at the top of the game, having led Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr both to victory. By the age of 40, he was dead from a brain tumor. He had it all, and just as suddenly lost it all.

This the arrogant Lee Atwater.

And this is the more humble version.

lee atwater sick with tumor in bed

It was not until he was in the death throws that Lee Atwater had a epiphany.

In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

There are lessons here for all of us to learn from…

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PBS Presents “Prince Among Slaves”: The True Story of An African Prince Enslaved In The American South

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On Monday, February 4, 2008 at 10:00 PM (check local listings), the National Black Programming Consortium will present on PBS, Prince Among Slaves, a one-hour documentary film on the inspiring story of an African prince who survived 40 years of enslavement in America before finally regaining his freedom and becoming one of the most famous men of his day.

Winner of the Best Documentary at the 2007 American Black Film Festival, this true story is told through feature-film styled reenactments directed by Andrea Kalin and Emmy® Award-winner, Bill Duke, through contemporary artworks, archival letters and diaries, as well as through on-camera interviews with distinguished scholars and experts. Artfully narrated by actor and hip-hop Mos Def, Prince Among Slaves is based on Dr. Terry Alford’s biography of the same name.

Prince Among Slaves tells the compelling true story of Abdul-Rahman, an African Muslim Prince who was captured in 1788 and sold into slavery in the American South. He endured the horrific Middle Passage, and ended up the “property” of a poor and nearly illiterate planter named Thomas Foster from Natchez Mississippi. He remained enslaved for 40 years before finally regaining his freedom under dramatic circumstances, becoming one of the most famous men of his day, and returning back to Africa with his royal status acknowledged. The film ends with a family reunion between Abdul-Rahman’s African and American descendents in Natchez, Mississippi.

The documentary film is supported by a comprehensive Web site (www.princeamongslaves.tv) that includes in-depth information about the life of Abdul-Rahman and details about local film screenings happening across the United States in advance of the PBS broadcast premiere. The Web site, which launched earlier this fall highlights special behind-the-scenes interviews with narrator, Mos Def and reenactment director, Bill Duke. The site will also feature profiles on prominent individuals who played a role in the developments throughout Abdul-Rahman’s life, backgrounds on the actors and executives involved with the production, and special introductory clips about the film.

Prince Among Slaves is a production of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) in association with Spark Media Inc. and Duke Media. Major funding for the film was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The film was executive produced by UPF’s Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer. It was produced, directed and written by Andrea Kalin co-produced by Raki Jones.

About Unity Productions Foundation (Longer video)

Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is a non-profit educational foundation working to promote peace and understanding through the media. Its mission is to create documentaries, feature films and educational products that contribute to ending the clash of civilizations. UPF’s first project, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, aired nationally on PBS on December 18, 2002 and was awarded a 2004 Cine Award for Best Professional Documentary in its category. Its recent Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain has won several awards, including Best Documentary at the 2007 ITVA Peer awards and Goldie Awards.