WARNING SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT, IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE AND PLAN TO, STOP READING NOW!!!!!
I went to see Lincoln with my family today. I will say that it’s probably one of the better movies that I’ve seen in the recent years. I will also say that once I started watching the movie, I felt sucked in, which tells me that it was a pretty good movie.
However, it certainly wasn’t perfect.
When we all went to the movie, it was packed, so we ended up sitting close to the front of the theater, which I HATE. However, once the movie started I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. The acting was great, the costumes, the scenery and there were many moving speeches throughout the movie.
It was good.
However, for a movie that had Black people as such a central part of the movie, there wasn’t much focus on Black people and the role we played in our own emancipation. I wish they had mentioned Frederick Douglass or Sojourner Truth, both of whom met with Lincoln to discuss emancipation, or any of the many other notable Black people who played a role in emancipation.
They did have William Slade, the messenger in the treasury department/official steward of white house, and Elizabeth Keckley in the movie, but you don’t really learn all that much about her life…except that she was an ex-slave and her son was killed in Battle, fighting for the Union.
I found that, although it was a VERY well-done movie and I enjoyed it, it was sanitized to appeal to white audiences. The actual horror of slavery really wasn’t touched on.
They don’t mention how Elizabeth Keckley was sexually abused and beaten by her former slave master, they didn’t mention the horror of families being ripped apart or the mutilation of slaves or any of that…and I’m willing to be that the average white audience wouldn’t be able to connect the fact that the light-skinned Blacks in the movie were supposed to be mulattoes, most likely, products of the mixing between slave master and slave.
We, as Black people would get this, but I am willing to bet that the average white moviegoer will not be able to make the connection. Another sanitized scene was when the Lincoln character makes a comment about not wanting slavery in South America or something, but slavery was already in South America and had been before it started in the US and in Brazil, it didn’t end until 1889. They do show pictures of some slaves who have been whipped…but that was it really.
An interesting thing happened, in one scene they showed Thaddeus Stevens with his Black woman in bed and the audience GASPED. I was sitting at the bottom of the theater and I could hear people gasping from my seat.
Was it that shocking that a white man at that time would have had a Black lover or mistress. In reality ,Thaddeus Stevens in all likelihood had a relationship with his quadroon housekeeper, who is portrayed by S. Epatha Merkerson.
It also gives a bit of a sanitized version of the end of slavery. The reality is after slavery and the reconstruction, the South did everything that they could to keep slavery alive in a virtual state. They instituted the peonage system, which basically forced Blacks into involuntary servitude for charges of alleged vagrancy and other false charges. This system of peonage was not removed until Roosevelt in the 1940s.
But overall, I thought it was quite well-done, even though they sanitized and sugar-coated it for the white audience. I liked it MUCH MUCH better than The Help. I thought it was far closer to being accurate than The Help or any of the other White savior movies they show.
So, I would recommend it, but I would also recommend reading up on the Civil war or watching a documentary and reading slave narratives. Maybe checking out Elizabeth Keckley’s autobiography 30 Years a Slave, 4 Years in the White house would be a start.
I think as a movie, it was very well done, but from a historical perspective…of course it wasn’t perfect.