Public Television Series

The Robert D. Farber University Archives is pleased to make available two early public television series for in-house viewing: "Prospects of Mankind" and "The Course of our Times." Both series were produced by WGBH-TV (Boston) and offer rich and unique documentation on important individuals and events that shaped twentieth century history at home and abroad.

Selected viewing copies of each series have been provided to Brandeis University courtesy of the WGBH Archives.

During the last three years of her life, Eleanor Roosevelt hosted the innovative television series, "Prospects of Mankind" (1959-1962). Produced by National Educational Television, the forerunner of PBS, the series was recorded primarily at the Slosberg Music Center at Brandeis University. Roosevelt's ties to Brandeis were deep; she was an early member of the Board of Trustees, gave the university's first commencement speech and joined the Brandeis faculty as a visiting lecturer of international relations just weeks before the series' inception.

The concept for "Prospects of Mankind" was originated by Henry Morgenthau III, the show's executive producer and the producer of WGBH-TV, Boston's educational television station. Morgenthau would eventually become Associate Director of the Morse Communications Research Center at Brandeis University (1961), an institute for the study and analysis of communication in modern society.

Adopting a colloquium-style format, "Prospects of Mankind" provided a forum for prominent leaders and decision makers to discuss and debate important current affairs, both domestic and international. Guests on the monthly series included Ralph Bunche, John Kenneth Galbraith, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Edward R. Murrow, Bertrand Russell and Adlai Stevenson.

John F. Kennedy's first appearance on the program (January 2, 1960) proved to be historic; he had announced his candidacy for U.S. President only hours before in Washington D.C. Kennedy appeared twice more on the show, once to announce the creation of the Peace Corps (1961) and again to discuss the status of women (1962).

The first episode of "Prospects of Mankind" was recorded during the week of Eleanor Roosevelt's 75th birthday (October 1959), and the last just months before her death in November 1962. The series documents some of the most influential figures of the mid-20th century, and captures Eleanor Roosevelt's keen interest in world affairs during the last years of her life.

Shortly after becoming the new Chancellor of Brandeis University, Abram L. Sachar was invited to host an educational television series called "The Course of Our Times." Co-produced by WGBH-TV and Brandeis University, the program aired on public television from 1969 to 1971 and focused on events in contemporary world history.

The inspiration for the television series came from a course entitled, "History of the Contemporary World," which Sachar taught at Brandeis for more than ten years while President of the university. His lectures formed the basis of the weekly series and presented his perspective on contemporary history from the end of the 19th century through the early 1970s. As an historian, Sachar highlighted the interaction between individuals and events. His talks reflected the philosophy that "every new development is not new; it is not a beginning, it is a consequence."

As a survey of 20th century history, "The Course of Our Times" examined historical figures including Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi, Charles de Gaulle, Adolph Hitler, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Woodrow Wilson and Mao Zedong. Sachar believed that his personal relationships with many of these individuals enriched his interpretations of their ideas, motivations and influence on world events.

"The Course of Our Times" began as a pilot series on local public television in 1969. A great success, the weekly program went regional in 1970, then national in 1971. After five seasons and 65 episodes, "The Course of Our Times" had become a classic and was rerun on public television in 1977.