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