NEW YORK — From the time it aired nearly 30 years ago, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary has been a popular sensation and subject of debate.

The 11-hour, nine-part series premiered in September 1990 and became one of PBS’ most widely seen educational programs, with some 40 million taking in at least part of the original broadcast. “The Civil War” helped make Burns, in his mid-30s at the time, the rare documentary maker recognizable to the general public.

But the film’s legacy is again under discussion question after controversial remarks by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.