[Marxism] A Black commentator on Spielberg's "Lincoln"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 2 16:02:10 MST 2012

Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ missing contributions by Blacks
November 29, 2012 Filed under OPINION Posted by admin

“‘Negro History’ is the missing segment of world history.”
Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson was right when he essentially said that Black history 
is the missing pages of world history. Never was such so true than in 
the movie, “Lincoln.”

While I, as a “weekend historian,” was impressed by Daniel Day Lewis’ 
portrayal of the 16th president of the United States, my knowledge of 
history begged questions: Why were Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, 
and Harriet Tubman not portrayed or mentioned? Why was the ancient 
Egyptian mathematical formula attributed to the Greek mathematician, Euclid?

Holes in movie

The movie, “Lincoln,’’ is politically presidential, yet porous on people 
who influenced the end of the American Civil War. The holes in the 
Steven Spielberg’s epic film are rooted in Hollywood’s tendency to omit 
key historical personalities and events from biopics. History reminds us 
that Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth all played 
significant roles in the American Civil War, and thus in the decisions 
of President Lincoln.

For example, in the summer of 1863, Douglass was invited to the White 
House and introduced to President Lincoln by Secretary of State William 
Henry Seward and Senator Samuel Pomeroy (Kan.).

According to David Blight’s “Race and Reunion: Civil War in America 
Memory,’’ Douglass, said, “I told him I was assisting to raise Colored 
troops to enlist in the Union Army but was troubled that the United 
States government would not treat them fairly in three ways.

“First, Colored troops ought to receive the same wages as those paid to 
White soldiers. Second, Colored soldiers ought to receive the same 
protection when taken prisoner. Third, when Colored soldiers perform 
great and uncommon service on the battlefield they should be rewarded by 
distinction and promotion as White soldiers are rewarded.’’

Renowned abolitionist

In October 1864, Sojourner Truth was invited to the White House to meet 
with President Lincoln. Following her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at a 
women’s convention in 1853, she was a renowned abolitionist. The meeting 
of Truth and President Lincoln at the White House is documented in Berry 
Horton’s famous painting depicting the president showing Truth his Bible.

Another omission of the movie Lincoln involves Harriet Tubman. Her many 
trips delivering enslaved Black people from bondage to freedom provided 
her with knowledge of the terrain of the Confederate states. As such, 
Tubman contributed mightily to Union strategy in the Civil War. 
According to Benjamin Brawley’s “Harriet Tubman,’’ President Lincoln 
listened to the ideas of Harriet Tubman. And yet, neither of these 
significant Black historical figures was portrayed or even mentioned in 
the movie.

At one critical point in the movie Lincoln justifies his position on 
passing the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which 
would outlaw slavery on the basis that “all men are created equal…” 
cited the Greek mathematician Euclid’s theorem that “things equal to the 
same are equal to one another.”

Reinsert Black history

What was omitted in the movie is that Euclid did not originate the 
theorem: A Black Egyptian mathematicians at the Library of Alexandria, 
Egypt trained him in 300 B.C.

When people erroneously condemn “Black History” as a separatists 
scholarly pursuit, we need to look no further than movies made by Steven 
Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, and other Hollywood directors who—consciously 
or unconsciously—omit the contributions of Black people to world history 
and, thus, give un-earned credit to White scholars as the progenitors of 
higher thought.

We must re-insert Black history in the pages of world history.

Gary L. Flowers is executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership 
Forum, Inc. He can be reached at glflowers at blackleadershipforum.org.

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