Glory: History vs. Hollywood • Movie’s importance to America today • Glory viewed from several angles: • Entertainment • Art • Propaganda • History • Conclusions Famous lithograph of Ft. Wagner Siege in July 1863
Importance of Glory for America • 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry fought against notions of racial inferiority • 54th was most famous and significant of all 166 black regiments in the Civil War • Black soldiers formed a “liberating army” that defeated Confederacy, destroyed slavery, and dispelled stereotypes • But, segregated units reflected America • Movie reminds Americans of past injustice
Glory as Entertainment • Compare with recent blockbusters • Opened in December 1989 to much acclaim • Academy Award nominations followed • Civil War reenactors brought vitality and authenticity • Lots of tickets sold! Denzel Washington as Trip
Glory as Art • Pauline Kael, The New Yorker: “a good film on a great subject” • Vincent Canby, New York Times: “first serious American movie about the Civil War to be made in years” • James McPherson, Princeton: “the most powerful and historically accurate film ever made”
Glory as Propaganda • Propaganda: spreading ideas or information to persuade people, can be a form of education and enlightenment • Denzel Washington said Glory was “good for the country” • Director Edward Zwick aimed to convince Americans about contested freedom • Lance Morrow in Time connected Glory to contemporary African-American issues
Glory as History • Edward Zwick sought accuracy, but “Hollywood History” often falls short • Picking nits • Most of 54th were Northern blacks, not slaves • Frederick Douglass made older and silent • Scenes in movie never took place (i.e., fiction) • Assault on Ft. Wagner in wrong direction • Insufficient context and conclusions • No real black people shown in 54th!
A Real Hero: William Carney • First African-American to win Congressional Medal of Honor after 3 wounds at Ft. Wagner Siege • Fought, wounded, and discharged without a single cent of pay from U.S. • Carney’s legend and leadership grew after Civil War in New Bedford, MA “The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground,” Sgt. William H. Carney
Conclusions . . . • How do we assess a fictionalized Hollywood movie as a source of history? • What do we learn about African-American history from Glory? • Consider James McPherson’s thoughts … The “Shaw Memorial,” Boston, dedicated May 1897