December 4, 2012, 12:45 pm
As viewers flock to see Lincoln, and reviewers rave about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, historians are raising different issues: How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? What does it leave out? The Chronicle Review asked several scholars to weigh in.
Lincoln tells the story of slavery’s demise in the United States by charting the president’s battle to secure passage of the 13th Amendment. Steven Spielberg and his screenwriter, Tony Kushner, give us a history of emancipation set primarily in the White House and Congress during the final four months of Lincoln’s life.
Gruesome scenes of war and its aftermath illustrate the larger context. Lincoln’s commitment to the constitutional abolition of slavery risks prolonging an already lengthy and bloody war. As he verbally spars with both allies and critics, he explains the legal and moral imperatives of abolition….