What's the truth about Abraham Lincoln? Was he really the man mythologized as "The Great Emancipator" and a champion of equality for African-Americans? Or was he, as some detractors say, a racist only freed the slaves as a last resort to save the Union because the North was losing the Civil War. Or still again, was he, as unrepentant rebels still describe, a traitor of Southern whites who single-handedly ruined the nation forever with the Emancipation Proclamation.
These are the divergent points-of-view of the 16th President of the United States presented in Looking for Lincoln, a DVD of the PBS Series hosted by Harvard University Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates. Among the historians weighing-in is Ebony Magazine editor Emeritus Lerone Bennett, Jr. author of Forced into Glory, a damning biography which depicts Honest Abe as a hypocrite who enslaved far more blacks than he ever freed. And at the other extreme, Gates interviews some rednecks he tracked down at a sons of the Confederacy convention who looked like they were ready to string him up if he pushed the issue.
Not surprisingly, most of the luminaries participating in the program tend to speak of Lincoln in more glowing terms. Included in this group are Pulitzer Prize-winners Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Professors David Blight, Allen Guelzo, James Horton and David Herbert.
A worthwhile bio-pic which belatedly knocks an American icon undeserving of secular sainthood off his lofty pedestal.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 120 minutes
To see a trailer for Looking for Lincoln hosted by Skip Gates, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p91V-BHfe6k