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Lincoln, Lies and Black Folk

Special to Informer From Final Call | , Nnpa | 12/11/2012, 2:25 p.m.

A Viewer's Guide to Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln & the American Civil War'

When Steven Spielberg's Lincoln opened recentlyu, many flocked to see this Hollywood version of one of the nation's most tumultuous times--the American Civil War. The film purports to recount the last months of the life of Abraham Lincoln as he lobbied to achieve the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which is said to have ended legal slavery in America--at least on paper.

Spielberg is the master of American propaganda, and there is no one since the notorious director D.W. Griffith who has more successfully exported to the world a utopian vision of America as a Caucasian paradise. And while his White characters--from Jaws to ET to Amistad--show a range of virtues, his Black characters have been limited to cardboard portrayals of simplistic and racially cliched stereotypes.

This is the inescapable context with which one must approach Spielberg's Lincoln, a film that is no more accurate in its depiction of a critical period in history than George Bush was about the so-called weapons-of-mass-destruction lie that brought a world of nations to endless war.

First, let us take a couple of paragraphs to dispose of some well-entrenched historical myths. No war in the 6,600-year history of the White man has ever been fought for the benefit of Blacks--never has happened and never will. If the North fought to "free the slaves," then why did the war start with the slaveholding South attacking the Union at Fort Sumter? Should it not have been the reverse? The Civil War was fought between two sets of White people to see which one would benefit most from the multitude of products America derived from Black slave labor. Southerners realized that the engines of the American economy--cotton and slaves--were in their territory. They resented that the big banks in the North were making most of the profits from their plantations. They decided to end that one-sided relationship and SEPARATE from America. Abraham Lincoln knew that America would collapse without Southern slavery and reluctantly fought the war to maintain the UNION of North and South--and, most important, to keep the slavery wealth flowing from South to North.

No one fought to free Black people, and, indeed, before a single shot was fired both sides agreed to the Crittenden Resolution, which made it clear that the war would not target what they called "established institutions," namely, Black slavery.

Allan Pinkerton, President Abraham Lincoln, and Major General John A. McClernand at the battle-field of Antietam, October, 1862. Photo: Library of Congress

Contrary to popular belief, Lincoln's famous Emancipation Proclamation did not "free" a single Black person from chattel slavery--not one. When it looked like the Union was losing the war, Lincoln "freed" slaves in the South so that they could fight against their masters. In that same document he made sure that slavery was not disturbed where it existed in the North!

Here are a few more points:

* While still engaged in the war, Union General Benjamin F. Butler placed his troops at the disposal of the governor of Maryland to repress a rumored slave insurrection.