“One of the jobs of art is to go to the impossible places that other disciplines, like history, must avoid.” – Stephen Spielberg
Even as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln emerged as an unqualified critical and popular triumph, the historical nitpickers—myself among them, I must confess—were only hiding in the scholarly reeds, waiting to pounce on the factual (and even some interpretive) errors admittedly punctuating the hit movie. Now comes the mini-avalanche of gotcha comments, which has grown into something of an academic parlor game.
How many errors can one identify in a two-and-a-half-hour movie? How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? Of course, the answer depends on what constitutes a genuine “error.” Does all that trivia matter anyway?
As the film’s historical script consultant, I asked several scholars to weigh in….
Read Harold Holzer’s new book: Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America, an imprint of HarperCollins.