Written by Erick Allon, CNN
The Story of Man is an ongoing documentary series by historian and curator Aya de Leon , revealing the history and story of humanity. The ongoing series began in 2016 with “The Story of Islam,” and followed with “The Story of Christianity.” To date, the episodes have explored the link between Nazism and Fascism, and have recently explored the rise of Fascism in Italy, and the anti-Semitic Germany. The new installment “The Souvenir Part II” explores the significance of the Civil War to the nation’s psyche and individual identity.
As America moves toward the 220th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, de Leon sets out to flesh out the narrative surrounding the clash between the North and South that ultimately changed the very identity of the United States. “The men and women who fought in the Civil War represent more than anyone what made America great — and made it fall,” says de Leon.
The story of the Civil War ultimately gives humans an identity; a beautiful and difficult but strangely singular set of specifics that contain the DNA of every human. “I think that what I am attempting to do is something very simple: to show as best as I can the kind of vision, the kind of narrative, that exists inside human beings when we confront a conflict like the Civil War.”
“Everyone who lived through the Civil War and was alive when it happened has a story to tell,” says de Leon.
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As the series wears on, the trajectory of America’s Civil War becomes more and more, well, pure fiction. As one of the show’s programmers, and president of the Black Box, a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of African culture and art, Anthony Arthur (C&N Alliance Ltd.) is intrigued by this concept. As the series unfolds, and as de Leon’s narrative becomes more and more fanciful, the truth begins to fade away.
In an extraordinary connection, de Leon has managed to place Arthur’s last book, “African Ancestry and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” into the hands of the man whose work it was designed to describe. “Aya’s going to play with the historical facts,” says Arthur. “This is, by her own admission, the most magic she has ever created.”