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Photo: ‘Lincoln: Divided We Stand’
‘Lincoln: Divided We Stand,’ is a documentary, originally released by CNN that takes a six-part look into Lincoln’s four-year presidency from 1861 to 1865. Despite his tragic and infamous murder at the hands of John Wilkes Booth, he lived an eventful life peppered with many political accomplishments. This docuseries features a round-about perspective on Lincoln’s life and political hallmarks, beyond what his legacy as a sympathizer of the Civil Rights Movement and their efforts to create legal change.
Produced by Nancy Glass and Jon Hirsch, the series compiles a list of interviews from experts, authentic pictures from the 1800s, and reenactments from professional actors to paint a picture of who Lincoln was behind the tall hat and tragic murder. The narrator Sterling K. Brown shows not just Lincoln’s ambition as a politician but the secrets and antiquities that many don’t know about his anti-slavery policy, like his lack of abolitionist ideals early on in his career.
Opening Episodes of ‘Lincoln: Divided We Stand’
The first episodes open with an inside look into Lincoln in his early years, starting from his birth in Kentucky in 1809. We understand the implications of his poor and rough childhood that he spent in Illinois, seeing it was far from the picturesque lifestyle we’d imagined for the president. His mother had died at a young age and his father had abandoned the children, leaving his sister to take care of the both of them.
But, his resolve remains strong and his intelligence drives him to a career in law and an unspecified term he spent in Congress as a Whig party member, a strong federal government. And as his legacy precedes, we see his path to anti-slavery policies and their roots in his bad relationship with his father. The tyranny of Thomas Lincoln and his forceful laboring of his son on the family farm stands as a theme regarding the latter’s hatred for slavery.
Despite this all, we are granted an inside look into the complexities of his later relationship with the abolitionist movement and how he wasn’t the saint history has painted him as. His loyalties lay with keeping slavery from spreading to newer territories but not completely eradicating them or even allowing the currently enslaved individuals freedom. One of his earlier policies even suggested that the enslaved Black individuals band together and create a sovereign nation just for themselves.
Authentic and Uncensored Look Into Lincoln and His Presidency
Similar to the Washington miniseries, which was featured on the same channel, ‘Lincoln: Divided We Stand,’ does a good job of using a variety of mediums to tell a full, untainted story about one of the most important historical figures in our nation. The interspersing of reenactments between the interviews creates a smooth juxtaposition of facts and sources and an emotional window into his soul and thoughts.
The producers worked immensely hard to maintain their noble cause of combating the idea that Lincoln was a heroic freer of slaves. He may have been one of the hallmark presidents of our nation and ultimately banned slavery, but his humanity is what we are left grasping onto through the riveting script and perspective the show takes from Episode 1. Lincoln was chock-full of good and bad points, faults, and viewpoints that were far from perfect and in fact mostly surprising to many audiences. But the beauty of his story is the grey area in his life and political career, the mistakes that defined a part of his politics too.
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The Context of Lincoln and His Life Before and After Politics
While this documentary isn’t the first or last to take this edge, the success and credit lie within the fact that the producers allowed Black historians and filmmakers to offer their commentary throughout the series. They offer a needed perspective into Lincoln, his life, and his supposed accomplishments, especially regarding slavery.
The breakdown of the environment he lived in and the Civil Rights movements that were occurring around his presidency also offered fresh contextual details into his views on slavery. He didn’t believe Black individuals and white were equal but we break down whether this correlated to a president who was actually racist and a fraud or someone who was a product of the society around him. Diversifying the cast of experts and producers on the film is exactly what was needed and without it, the documentary would have lost a chunk of credibility and success.
‘Lincoln: Divided We Stand,’ Thrives In Grey Area
The producers also decided to ditch all propriety and reverence when discussing the first decade of Lincoln’s life. They talk about his childhood in all its gritty, painful details, his term in Congress and the termination of it when Zachary Taylor refused to give him a position on the Cabinet. It allowed for a raw and authentic experience for audiences that many other docuseries lack.
By the last episode, Lincoln ends up being painted a bit more controversial and multi-layered than we’ve all been lead to believe but it humanizes and edifies him in all the best ways. We are reminded to never look at history through rose-tinted glasses or a single perspective that fits our individual narratives. History looks different around the world, for different people, and it’s our moral responsibility to educate ourselves about every outlook, to ask questions, and look for the grey area rather than rely on the black and white ones we’ve been taught.
The current six episodes comprise all of season 1 but the show is expected to be renewed for a second season. While it’s impossible to guess the contents of future episodes to come, fans and history buffs can enjoy this season and the poignant story of Abraham Lincoln that it tells. You can find the intelligent series on Sling TV, HBO Max, or cable television!
By Mireille Karadanaian
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Mireille Karadanaian is an entertainment journalist, whose passion for reviewing upcoming TV shows and movies has existed since a young age. She writes reviews and feature entertainment stories for The Hollywood Insider’s inclusive and authentic platform, contributing to the important stories being told in media today. Mireille loves discussing the impact today’s media is making on younger generations who emulate what they see on screen and the Internet, a double-edged sword. Her stories often include the importance of creating content that inspires inclusion, positivity, and productive messages to all audiences and generations. Mireille’s love of covering TV shows, movies, and exciting questions that are being asked in the media world is seen in her writing and her ability to not just report facts but also tell a story.