American Masters "The Polio Crusade"

American Masters "The Polio Crusade"

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 10:00pm - 11:00pm

Credit: March of Dimes

It was the largest public health experiment in American history — a crusade that eradicated polio, one of the 20th-century’s most dreaded diseases.

In the summer of 1950, fear gripped the residents of Wytheville, Virginia. Movie theaters shut down, baseball games were cancelled, 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 10.

American Masters "The Polio Crusade" airs Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV. The program 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 the dreaded disease. Based in part on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Polio: An American Story by David Oshinsky, The Polio Crusade, filmmaker Sarah Colt (Geronimo, RFK), features interviews with historians, scientists, polio survivors, and the only surviving scientist from the core research team that developed the Salk vaccine, Julius Youngner.