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-   -   "Lincoln" film distorts history, some historians say (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=83782)

snopes 08 January 2013 09:29 PM

"Lincoln" film distorts history, some historians say
 
He used the N-word and told racist jokes. He once said African-Americans were inferior to whites. He proposed ending slavery by shipping willing slaves back to Africa.

Meet Abraham Lincoln, "The Great Emancipator" who "freed" the slaves.

That's not the version of Lincoln we get from Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln."

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/08/showbiz/slavery-pbs/

Skeptic 09 January 2013 06:05 AM

Quote:

He proposed ending slavery by shipping willing slaves back to Africa.
I would have thought that this is basically what freed slaves would have wanted. Of course, you would have the problem of it being almost impossible to identify the region that they originated from, especially after 2 or 3 generations.

ganzfeld 09 January 2013 06:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Skeptic (Post 1700917)
I would have thought that this is basically what freed slaves would have wanted.

I think lots of people thought they would, including many prominent abolitionists and former slaves. But if you think about it, why would they? They didn't speak the languages of those countries, and didn't have any real connection. They hadn't been allowed to keep even a single keepsake. There wasn't anything waiting for them there that they couldn't get as free people in the country they had known since birth. For the vast majority of African Americans it would have been as mysterious and uninviting as anyplace on the globe. By Lincoln's time almost all of the slaves had lived in the Americas for more than 3 generations because intercontinental slave trade had been illegal for many decades. There were those who did try to return and some who succeeded, the African country of Liberia being one legacy of that history.

fitz1980 09 January 2013 06:40 AM

Spielberg caring more about telling a good story than historical accuracy isn't anything new. As for Lincoln himself; I'd imagine that almost anybody who lived in the 1860s would probably come off as a horrible person to our modern sensibilities if accurately depicted.

Hummelcat 09 January 2013 10:57 AM

"Lincoln" film distorts history, some historians say
 
The specifics of this film aside, don't MOST films distort history? This film was, if I understand it correctly, presented as entertainment, not as a documentary. Thus, telling a compelling story that works in the medium of a film is more important than the details of the "truth" as accepted by today's historians. If it inspires folks to look up the real history, and discuss the validity of what is presented in the film, then it has done more than many films placed in historical context with historical characters.

Full disclosure: I haven't seen the film, so I'm just blowin' smoke here.

ETA: I just noticed that fitz1980 mentions that "Spielberg caring more about telling a good story than historical accuracy isn't anything new". I'm slow today.

A Turtle Named Mack 09 January 2013 11:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fitz1980 (Post 1700919)
Spielberg caring more about telling a good story than historical accuracy isn't anything new. As for Lincoln himself; I'd imagine that almost anybody who lived in the 1860s would probably come off as a horrible person to our modern sensibilities if accurately depicted.

By the same token, many of the things that we have some to accept and even endorse would come off to the people of that age as terribly destructive of self and society.

ganzfeld 09 January 2013 12:14 PM

I'm sure you must be right but what would be some good examples of that?

Simply Madeline 09 January 2013 12:35 PM

Women voting? Women working outside the home?

Lainie 09 January 2013 12:37 PM

Heck, black men voting.

ganzfeld 09 January 2013 12:43 PM

OK, good examples. I'm not sure that many of them would have thought of them as "terribly destructive to the self and society" so much as simply not the right way to do things. But I guess if pressed they would have said they were destructive.

Lainie 09 January 2013 12:48 PM

I don't think oppoents of women's suffrage needed to be pressed to say it would be destructive of society. I'm old enough to recall the arguments that the widespread occurrrence of women working outside the home would do just that.

ETA: In fact, some people still argue that mothers working outside the home has been destructive to society.

ganzfeld 09 January 2013 12:54 PM

Yes, I think you're right.

Lainie 09 January 2013 12:58 PM

Further, both the abolition of slavery and, later, racial integration, were once shockingly radical positions.

ETA: I hope I don't have to say this, but I think the we're right and the people before us were wrong, at least on the matters mentioned so far.

FETA: It's a case of humanity making progress, learning and growing, not of "different strokes."

Seaboe Muffinchucker 09 January 2013 02:30 PM

IMO, Spielberg was in a no-win position with regards to history. He left out Lincoln's racism, so he's getting slammed for that. If he'd included it, he'd be accused of over-emphasizing it or else of ignoring Lincoln's accomplishments.

Face it, Lincoln was human, and flawed. That isn't what most people want to see in a movie, except in small doses. They want heroes.

Seaboe

Lainie 09 January 2013 03:01 PM

Don't look to feature films for an accurate depiction of history, Lainie says. :)

dfresh 09 January 2013 03:11 PM

Lainie, I STILL say that elephants can fly if they just have the right magic feather!

mags 09 January 2013 03:17 PM

It's frightening to think that with all that, he was the most powerful politician on the slaves' side.

Imagine just how bad the worst against them were!

A Turtle Named Mack 09 January 2013 03:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ganzfeld (Post 1700957)
I'm sure you must be right but what would be some good examples of that?

income taxation, widespread secular circumcision, direct election of U.S. Senators, ready access to abortion (I doubt they would have much opinion on contraception, as the only forms available then were skin condoms, withdrawal and rhythm), obligations imposed on the states by the federal government, public sector unions (even FDR said that those were unthinkable), much of the zoning laws, fiat currency, NATO, the UN, and a substantial standing military are among the things that come to mind ona couple minutes' reflection.

A Turtle Named Mack 09 January 2013 03:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mags (Post 1701009)
It's frightening to think that with all that, he was the most powerful politician on the slaves' side.

Imagine just how bad the worst against them were!

He was the most effective, but not necessarily the most pro-black. OTOH, when Frederick Douglas was excluded by staff from the White House for the second inauguration celebration, to which he had been specifically invited, and Lincoln saw Douglas being sent away, Lincoln made a big show of bringing Douglas in, greeting him warmly and announcing to all around that there was no man's opinion he valued higher than Douglas's.

Lainie 09 January 2013 03:30 PM

Nitpick: Frederick Douglass. :-)


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