Lincoln Movie Review


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.

Elizabeth Keckley
Elizabeth Keckley

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.

Lydia Hamilton Smith, Housekeeper/ Mistress of Thaddeus Stevens
Lydia Hamilton Smith, Housekeeper/ Mistress of Thaddeus Stevens

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.

13 thoughts on “Lincoln Movie Review”

  1. The movie was about a man (Lincoln) with slavery as a backdrop, it was not about the civil war, Reconstruction etc. It was only about the mecahnics of getting the 13th amendment passed. It also didn’t mention that Lincoln actually was in favor of sending blacks back to Africa because that is not what the movie was intended to be about.


  2. The movie was about a man (Lincoln) with slavery as a backdrop, it was not about the civil war, Reconstruction etc. It was only about the mechanics of getting the 13th amendment passed. It also didn’t mention that Lincoln actually was in favor of sending blacks back to Africa because that is not what the movie was intended to be about.


  3. I’ll admit, my opinion of the movie is a lot harsher than yours. I think a movie about the real man- the one who wasn’t a complete saint and was an actual human being with moral blindness in areas- would have been ten times more interesting than the sanitized version we got. The script of this just irritated me endlessly.

    Still, it has all those Spielberg touches that are hard not to enjoy, and it’s impossible not to love Daniel Day Lewis in anything he does. So I came away not really hating it as much as I expected to. 😛


  4. I thought the motion picture “Lincoln” was very good. It would be very hard to compress so much historical fact into a two hour flick. It has helped me to soften my stance of decades of bitterness of racism. The fact remains that without the help of morally and ethically driven whites, today’s America would be substantially different. While Congressman Thaddeus Stevens relationship with Lydia Smith was a humorous revelation at the end of the movie, it clearly demonstrates that the integration process of Americans in an early period of our history had begun. As a victim of racism, our myopic view overlooks what happened to sympathetic whites who were brutally murdered, lynched, and tortured for the cause of integration.
    True, racism and all its atrocities occurred after the Civil War and actually to this day, but the motion picture “Lincoln” illustrated how the difficult process of legislative “log rolling” was required to get the 13th Amendment (Abolition of Slavery) through the House of Representatives. The portrayal of Congressman Stevens “back pedaling” on all his political positions to get the 13th Amendment passed at any cost to his reputation impressive. At any cost to reputation and prestige, 38 U.S. Senators and 119 House Representatives had the vision to pass the Amendment to abolish slavery. With a Republican majority in Congress and the deprivation of the rights of the States in rebellion, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and created the Freedman’s Bureau to help fugitives and victims of slavery to receive assistance in food, shelter, land, and collective bargaining with plantation owners.
    In the first Lincoln-Douglas debate (1858), Lincoln vehemently denied that Blacks should have any rights politically or otherwise. That racial mixing was abhorrent and unacceptable. Was this just a political “sound bite” to become President at any cost? There will be some who will myopically view the Lincoln-Douglas Debates as gospel that Lincoln was a racist. There is an old Chinese Proverb that says “The tongue is deceiving, the action of the hand is the meaning of the man.” In Lincoln’s first 100 days in office, he proactively engaged in the passage of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution which was more commonly known as “Corwin Amendment.” The Fugitive Act which prohibited Northern States to return run away Slaves to Southern Plantation Owners. These two actions probably helped to precipitate the rebellion of the Southern States. In 1864, the Executive Order for the Emancipation of Proclamation of all slaves be freed in those States in Rebellion. On a side note, was the Proclamation made because of a military necessity to break the war stalemate because of man power shortage? Maybe, but the fact remains that the Proclamation was instituted in lieu of impressment of Blacks for military duty which could have been easily done without the Emancipation for Proclamation. Several Black military regiments served with distinction even though they could carry their regimental and State colors into battle, they still could not carry the Stars and Stripes. The Civil War proved that in the endgame each man bleeds red regardless of the color of their skin.
    While many of may still not be happy of the progress of Civil Rights, we can be grateful to those in hour history who have made life a little better for all of us who are people of Color. We must not profess reverse racism. If we want to see stereotypical racism today, we need only observe how we Americans badly mistreat Americans of Middle Eastern descent with Islamic traditions or Central Asians with Zeke traditions. Yes life is a bitch, can’t we just all get along, if not for ourselves, but for our children?


  5. Just saw the movie, and am wondering where you saw the movie. I live in Miami and no one gasped at the scene of Stevens and his black lover, and it was a full movie theater. As a matter of fact, I thought it was awesome and was quite touched by this scene, and I am white. I do agree with you that it would have been appropriate to include the black historical figures; however, I really don’t think this was purposely done. I did leave the theater thanking God for President Lincoln because I can’t even imagine how things would be now if it weren’t for him.


  6. An odd review considering the picture is about the last 3 months of Lincoln’s life and his accomplishment of pushing the 13th amendment through the House of Representatives.


    1. I do not recall the exact line you are trying to reference about ” Another sanitized scene was when the Lincoln character makes a comment about not wanting slavery in South America or something.”, but I HIGHLY, HIGHLY DOUBT there was anything about South America mentioned. Most likely it was a comment about why Lincoln wasn’t happy with a allowing slavery to remain in southern states and making it illegal in the newly forming western states. At one time, privately, Lincoln expressed his ‘dislike’ for slavery, but in public stressed that he didn’t want to abolish it, but only stop it from spreading.


  7. Excellent movie reviews and social commentary here!

    Our points of view are always formed by our experiences and ability to empathize with the other guy. Much of that ability to empathize requires us to dig into the cultures and attitudes of the people who played a part in the story. One does need to take that into consideration as we view the people of this time in a less judgmental way and consider that their individual ignorance of beliefs we take for granted today may be colored by our own ignorance of their point of view.

    Lincoln’s genius was so broad that he constantly astounds the scholars who study and revere him. He still surprises us 150 years later. His ability to write and speak with a brevity that cuts to the core of us all will continue to inspire ten thousand years from now!

    This movie is a glimpse of that genius.


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