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HomeVideoChapter 1 | The Polio Crusade | American Experience | PBS

Chapter 1 | The Polio Crusade | American Experience | PBS

The story of the polio crusade pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The medical breakthrough saved countless lives and had a pervasive impact on American philanthropy that continues to be felt today.

Learn more about THE POLIO CRUSADE, including where to watch the documentary: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/polio/

In the summer of 1950 fear gripped the residents of Wytheville, Virginia. Movie theaters shut down, baseball games were canceled and panicky parents kept their children indoors — anything to keep them safe from an invisible invader. Outsiders sped through town with their windows rolled up and bandanas covering their faces. The ones who couldn’t escape the perpetrator were left paralyzed, and some died in the wake of the devastating and contagious virus. Polio had struck in Wytheville. The town was in the midst of a full-blown epidemic. That year alone, more than 33,000 Americans fell victim — half of them under the age of ten.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents The Polio Crusade, a one-hour documentary from filmmaker Sarah Colt (Geronimo, RFK) that interweaves the personal accounts of polio survivors with the story of an ardent crusader who tirelessly fought on their behalf while scientists raced to eradicate this dreaded disease. Based in part on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Polio: An American Story by David Oshinsky, The Polio Crusade features interviews with historians, scientists, polio survivors, and the only surviving scientist from the core research team that developed the Salk vaccine, Julius Youngner.