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- February 2013
On Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in the Faculty Dining Room, join us for a panel discussion entitled “Spielberg’s Lincoln: Fact or Fiction?” Moderated by Wagner College history professor Rita Reynolds, the panel will include English professor Steve Thomas and history majors Erin Pentz and Anthony Trombetta. Dinner will be served during the discussion, courtesy of the college's Center for Intercultural Advancement.
The panel will discuss Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film, “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln. The screenplay, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) is based, in part, on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” The film covers the last 4 months of Lincoln’s life, focusing on his efforts in January 1865 to persuade the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment.
Widely praised (as in A.O. Scott’s review for the New York Times), “Lincoln” has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including director, motion picture, adapted screenplay, leading male actor and male and female supporting actors.
Not everyone agrees, however, about Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” For instance, Kate Masur, a Northwestern University history professor, wrote an opinion essay for the New York Times in November, commenting on the passive black characters in “Lincoln.”
“It’s disappointing that in a movie devoted to explaining the abolition of slavery in the United States,” Masur writes, “African-American characters do almost nothing but passively wait for white men to liberate them.”
Wagner College panelists will have some questions of their own for the makers of "Lincoln," such as:
- When Lincoln was first elected, he believed freed slaves should be sent back to Africa, not integrated into American society. When, and why, did Lincoln change his mind?
- Frederick Douglass, himself an escaped slave and a leader of the abolitionist movement, made several visits to Lincoln in the White House during the Civil War and the campaign for the 13th Amendment, yet even his name is not mentioned in Spielberg's film. Why?
This panel discussion is co-sponsored by the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society and the History Department.