American Experience is a television program airing on the Public Broadcasting Service Public television stations in the United States. The program airs documentaries, many of which have won awards, about important or interesting events and people in American history. A trademark of the series is its ability to take lesser-known events in history, such as the history of Coney Island or Tupperware, and expand on the topic, showing how that event reflected larger, more important themes in American culture or society.
The series premiered on October 4, 1988, and was originally titled The American Experience, although the “The” was dropped during a later brand and image update. The show has had a presence on the Internet since 1995, and more than 100 American Experience programs are accompanied by their own websites, which have more background information on the subjects covered as well as teachers’ guides. The show is produced primarily by WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, though occasionally in the early seasons of the show, it was co-produced by other PBS stations such as WNET in New York and KCET in Los Angeles.
The documentaries are extensively researched, often taking years to complete. Some programs now considered part of the American Experience collection were produced prior to the creation of the series. Vietnam: A Television History was one of them, airing in 1983 after taking six years to assemble. Also, in 2006, American Experience rebroadcast Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, the first half of the award-winning 1986 documentary about the African American civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s.