Jimmy Smits corrects history with “Secrets of the Dead: America’s Untold Story” 

History retold, correctly. While most history textbooks depict the British settlements on the East Coast as the first European presence in what would later become the United States, they largely ignore the Spanish men and women who built a string of culturally-diverse colonies, missions and forts here, beginning two generations before Jamestown and Plymouth. Spanish-claimed “La Florida” stretched along the East Coast as far north as Nova Scotia and as far west as Texas, and contained what is still today the oldest, continuously-occupied European colony in the U.S. Did early American historians deemphasize this period due to lack of evidence or were they glossing over national differences on race and slavery?

Secrets of the Dead: America’s Untold Story will be available on DVD March 20. The program is also available for digital download.

Broadcast on PBS as the two-hour special Secrets of Spanish Florida, America’s Untold Story (narrated by Jimmy Smits) expands to four hours to trace the Spanish presence in La Florida from 1565, when the Spaniard Pedro Menéndez established St. Augustine, through 1821, when Spain formally and finally ceded the entirety of its remaining territory to the Americans. The series details the complicated history behind this part of North America–highlighting the dramatic battles for control between European powers, the diverse populations that inhabited, fled, and fought for the peninsula over 256 years and the dramatically different status of blacks and Native Americans under the Spanish.

The program follows historians, archaeologists and marine scientists as they unearth documents and artifacts previously not known to the general public, piecing together a fuller picture of the contributions of the Spanish and the multicultural society they created, and uncovering why this story never made its way into textbooks.

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