Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Spielberg's roll call called on the carpet

Spielberg's Lincoln has been endlessly discussed by historians, and I have read many articles and roundtables on the subject.  I went to see it on New Year's Eve with my father, who rarely goes to films, but was interested in going when I raised the prospect.  We both found it deeply moving, and its clear explanations of some thorny 19th century political issues made me cheer.  We saw the film in a theater in a small town in New York, because our neighboring small town in northwest Connecticut doesn't have one, and I heard a crowd of New Yorkers and Nutmeggers gasp in surprise when the vote began and a Connecticut congressman voted against the amendment. 

I will admit, I didn't know how the Connecticut delegation had voted, and I was quite willing to believe it was split, and Spielberg had included it to drive home the existence of New England racism.  Now Joe Courtney, who represents most of Eastern Connecticut in Congress is demanding an apology and a correction from Spielberg, as the congressional records show that the entire Connecticut delegation voted for the 13th amendment.  He's even provided us with a scan of the page showing the votes.  Provided this all holds up, and there's no error here, I would be interested in reading Spielberg and Kushner's explanation of the choices made to change knowable historical facts for the screenplay of the film.  What historical and artistic work were these changes meant to accomplish?  Joe Courtney, his staff, and whoever else was involved in prompting this (perhaps some historians in the state itself) may have just shown us another dimension to the historical work Mr. Everyman can do. -Erin

ETA: The Atlantic ran a piece on historical inaccuracies that included pseudonyms given to Democrats who voted against the amendment.

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