Perspectives on the “Lincoln” Movie

Two of my children, my daughter-in-law, and numerous friends have attended or graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. I have become acquainted also with the work of Professor Matthew Pinsker, having mentioned him in this blog in connection with his book on the Lincoln Cottage (Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home) and his contribution to the anthology upon the occasion of Emancipation at 150 (see HERE for blog on that, along with other links).

Also, having recently commented upon seeing the Lincoln film, I would recommend a fantastic resource regarding the historical evaluation of the varied scenes. These links are a part of the “House Divided Project” of Dickinson College, which is an effort by professors, staff and students to create a wide variety of digital resources in honor of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. These are presented amid an array of teaching resources, but provide good reading for anyone.

This first link is a one-stop shopping resource of links to the comments of a wide range of historians’ reactions to the movie. These evaluations cover the spectrum, and Professor Pinsker guides the reader though the list with brief annotations. See it HERE.

Courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections

Dickinson College Class of 1865 – Courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections

Pinsker also talks through the film by chronologically walking through the scenes from beginning to end, giving a commentary on the historical basis (or lack thereof) for each. This is a great resource, and having seen the film once, I will have to study this and watch it again. Actually, it will be helpful when I can see it at home and pause while reading each section between the scenes. The list of inaccuracies and employments of artistic license is really quite extensive, yet Pinsker maintains a positive tone throughout – finishing his commentary by saying: Yet as this guide demonstrates, Kushner altered many “key moments” in this profoundly important historical story.  This guide points them out not to condemn the movie, but rather to remind students (and perhaps future filmmakers) that when you read or invoke the phrase, “Based on a true story,” that means it’s not a true story and should neither be judged –nor defended– as one.

This guide, entitled “Warning: Artists at Work” may be found HERE.  And while you are there, look around at all the other resources, as there is a lot of cool stuff. Dickinson College is the school attended by such Civil War era personalities as James Buchanan, Roger Taney, and Andrew Curtin. The student body was relatively evenly divided between North and South.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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