Monday, September 25, 2023

Well Lincoln, is a Really Good Movie that Annoyed Me Just a Bit.

December 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Ent., News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( In case you’re unaware of the standard narrative of historical films that involve black people, it’s quite simple:  Black people advanced in America, not because of anything “you people” actually did.  Instead, it was because there was some admirable and noble white guy who saved you.   He was a visionary among his peers for having the audacity to treat black people as (gasp) human beings.  He also had a couple of friends just like him, featured in the film, so the white audience has characters with whom they can identify themselves.

Lincoln,” the new film burning up the theaters, fits that formula perfectly.  The movie was actually very good.  If it is historically-accurate, it shows that Lincoln did have the kind of courage necessary to do what is right instead of focusing on that which is politically convenient. For that, I respect the manLincoln-Movie-Poster immensely.

Also present in most historical films involving race are those evil white people who stood in the way of progress.  They tend to be so horrible that Rush Limbaugh could watch the film with Sean Hannity and walk away feeling pretty good about himself for not trying to kill us.  The black people?  Oh you were as helpless as stage props, relegated the role of the wink-and-nod nanny or butler whose eyes light up in admiration of the wonderful white man who rode in on a white horse to save you.   This was captured quite elegantly at the end of the film “Lincoln,” where Lincoln’s butler admired his boss’s silhouette as he dramatically walked out of the oval office.  If a line were written in for the butler, it might be something like this:  ”Dat der sho be a wonderful white man!”

While I do appreciate Lincoln’s extraordinary efforts during such a difficult time, I could not avoid the t******e-shrinking experience of watching a bunch of white guys argue over the fate of  my ancestors and (to paraphrase a scene in the film), “the fates of all of the unborn black babies in America.” (Yes, that includes myself and every black person reading this article).  The members of Congress were a bunch of rowdy, obnoxious, modestly intelligent men with questionable integrity (much like today), and I shiver at the idea that my fate lied in the hands of these selfish and myopic human beings.

With all due respect to the white superheroes of America, I grow tired of seeing my people portrayed as helpless sheep who depend on others to make us whole.   The absence of Frederick Douglass from the film argues quite clearly that the filmmakers were tempted to embrace Lincoln’s role as the patronizing savior of black people.  As much as I am willing to express my gratitude to those who stood up against the forces of evil and oppression, I am saddened by the liberal whites who often feel that we are in their eternal debt because they haven’t treated us as poorly as they could have (just watch MSNBC or Bill Maher as  modern day cases-in-point).

Douglass was every bit as brave as Lincoln, probably tougher and surely smarter, given what he had to overcome in order to become such an esteemed member of society. Chances are that if Abraham Lincoln had been born a slave, he would have died a slave, that’s just a fact.  So, while one cannot rightfully complain about the roles that were played by black people in this film, I refuse to believe that the best my people could be were maids, butlers and backup dancers in key moments of American history.

Again, the film is a good one and I recommend seeing it.  But perhaps next time, they will tell the real story.  While black people escaped the chains of physical dependence on whites in 1865, we have yet to obtain economic and psychological independence.  The next Abraham Lincoln for black America is not going to be a wise white guy with a beard and pointy hat.  Instead, he/she is going to have brown skin, a great education and an abundance of self-respect.   Black self-sufficiency is the next step in our quest for true equality, so the job is not yet done.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit




9 Responses to “Well Lincoln, is a Really Good Movie that Annoyed Me Just a Bit.”
  1. NorthernMagnolia says:

    I find myself slightly stunned, though I am well past the age of naivete…

    Why do we keep going to white-owned theaters to look at white-produced, white-distributed, white-typecast, white-scripted movies and expect that white people, being human, would ever do anything other than what humans do with their cultural productions — that is, reinforce their high opinion of themselves and their culture and propagate it for the next generation? White culture, for 2,500 years, has had no interest in portraying any other culture as having parity with them — does anybody remember how the Greeks considered every non-Greek a mere barbarian? By the way, even the word “barbarian” comes from Berber, a tribe in Northern Africa. Even back in the day, powerful Europeans oriented themselves at the top with Africans at the bottom of their cultural scale. This has been going on for at least 2,500 years; it is unlikely to change the next time a historical movie comes along.

    At some point, sensible Black people just have to stop paying money to be entertained AND upset by the descendants of Europeans doing what they’ve always done. Seriously: if we want to drop $10-15 watching people exalt their culture at the expense of ours for the sake of entertainment, and then get upset, the problem is not with white people.

  2. Steph says:

    Hollywood is incapable to showcase brilliant and strong Black men such as Frederick Douglass. This is why he was absent from Lincoln even if he was instrumental for the 13th amendment.

  3. JR says:

    The so-called emancipation proclamation was a business move…if he wanted to keep slavery in the union he would have.

  4. @ Satchel

    I totally agree with you. I talk about us creating opportunities to correct what we don’t like all the time.

    Black Unity means financial independence and happiness

  5. Patty says:

    I like your comment Satchel!

  6. SeattleGuy says:

    I saw it last weekend. Thoughts:

    0) Remember it’s entertainment
    1) I thought it was a great portrayal of behind the scenes politicking thats often played in decision making
    2) Someone would have plenty of content to do the “black” story and it’s involvement from a societal point of view and also militarily on both sides (North and South) during the period of the war
    3) The movie portrayed the moral fiber of people as the reason the abolishment was able to happen – if that is correct I don’t see how slavery lasted as long as it did here – does anyone on the site know how many times a slavery abolishment vote was brought to the table?
    4) The role of black military involvement was pivotal in winning the war

  7. Satchel says:

    @ Terrance Amen

    I have to agree with you statement “It sure is his story, because it sure isn’t ours”. The irony of the thing is, we have the talent and resources (Directors/Produces/Writers, Motown,BET,books and live theater) and yet we spend billions yearly on entertainment to have someone else tell our story, and have the nerve to complain, because they don’t tell the story right.
    It’s [y]our own fault, blame [y]ourselves.

  8. I didn’t see the movie, but based on the wiki definition, it was about the last four months of his life and how he fought for the thirteenth amendment. Unfortunately this is how we get duped into white hero worship. It’s interesting they started from this point because before the war started, our so called hero Lincoln offered the south the opportunity to keep slavery intact, as long as they stayed in the union.

    I didn’t find this out until I watched the PBS special, The Civil War. This documentary gives you the real story about this time and what really happen. So once again, our so called for fathers are still the hypocrites no one claims them to be. When someone controls your history, they can make up or say whatever they want and call it history. I t sure is his story, because it sure isn’t ours.

    Black Unity means financial independence and happiness

  9. Satchel says:

    Dr. Watson says,”I grow tired of seeing my people portrayed as helpless sheep who depend on others to make us whole”. I say That was then, but now we have Dr. Watson, Dr. Cornel West, and Travis Smiley leading the charge of the often heard, but seldom seen doing anything but criticizing the (President Obama)federal government. Maybe framing a honest portrayal of who we are is what they you need to be doing, with all the media attention you get.

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