"Lincoln" Movie Could Be Boon to Teaching Civil War
I just saw the movie Lincoln last night. Fascinating movie for portraying Lincoln as the consummate politician - and a good period piece too. I wonder if any of you are using the movie's popularity as a way of discussing the Civil War or the 13th Amendment in your classroom? Share your ideas here.
One exercise is to the judge the accuracy of the film. Some graphic sources from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania may be able to help. The image above of Lincoln's cabinet dates to 1866, making it posthumous to Lincoln. However if you click on the image, you can zoom in using our Digital Library function and see the faces of the cabinet members. Can students identify the members from the movie? Are the members shown the same as were actually on the cabinet at the end of Lincoln's life? (Time here to check out a secondary source.) What were their roles and political views about the War's progress and its goals?
Likewise, we have two images of the Lincoln family. The one below (and found at this link) is also from 1866, when hero worship may be settling in.
The artist William Bell Waugh, for example, has placed a bust of Washington right over Lincoln's shoulder. Nonetheless students can look at the background of the image for clues to the accuracy of the movie setting. Are the clothes similar? The furnishings? Students can learn how to use these visual clues to date artifacts and historical events. They may discuss how important is it to a film to get these details correct. Does it change the story if the historical context is altered?
Compare this image to another from 1865. What elements do the two images share? How are they different? Do you feel the same emotion from each? Which one matches the feel of the movie better?
Finally, take a look at an image of the death of Lincoln. There are far more people in this room than in the movie scene. Now compare it to these images. Which do you think is most accurate? Why? Can you find a list of who was there?