From a writer's point of view, this may be a film I purchase so I can study the structure, specifically the passage of the 13th Amendment. I know a little of history, and possibly a little more about Lincoln than most because I was raised in Illinois, the "Land of Lincoln." I've been to his tomb in Springfield, taken tours of his home, been to New Salem, and even visited the newest addition, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. So, trust me - I know that the amendment passed.
|The Lincoln family at the Presidential Museum (with Marcus)|
In Spielberg's hands (and screenwriter Tony Kushner's), the passage of this amendment was thrilling. It was tense. Would they get the votes? Just when you thought they might get enough, a rumor would break out (usually true) that jeopardized everything. Could they overcome it?
If a viewer can be riveted to a historic event knowing how it ends, that's entertainment worth studying, especially for a writer.
On a personal note, this film hit me in the heart. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know my husband is African American. His father's family are from Louisiana. They were slaves, and still own part of the forty acres they were given when they were freed. His story has become part of my story, even though I am white, because we are a couple and share a son.
Watching this movie brought so much home to me. Lincoln (in the film) explains why the Emancipation Proclamation is not enough, that it will not of itself end slavery and might not even be legal. He also discussed the effect of taking away the states' rights to determine whether they could have their own slavery laws. If the federal government stepped in here, where else would they meddle?
Would slavery have ended sooner or later? I'd like to believe yes, but I'm not so certain sometimes. Much of the South's economy depended upon essentially free labor. The South did not want to give up their slaves - it was initially a term of their surrender. It took humiliating, crushing, bloody defeat to make them give up at last. If the amendment had not been passed, what would have happened after the war? What would encourage plantation owners to give slavery up?
Even after slavery ended, it took one hundred years to force everyone to let black people vote (rights were dribbled to them beginning in 1870) as well as to allow blacks to go to school with whites. The Civil War was a horror of bloodshed and personal loss. Its aftermath, in the South, was a nightmare of economic loss. I wish we could have done it all without what so many endured.
But my husband was born in 1957. Who knows what opportunities he would have had, or would have been denied, if that amendment had been delayed. When I think of how blessed I am to be able to know him, to be married to him, to have our son - well, can you blame me for tearing up a little during the movie?
Go see it. Study it, both the art, and the history.