Abraham Lincoln, revered in American history and cinema, most notably in the film "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day-Lewis, is the subject of a revealing new perspective in the docuseries "Amend: The Fight for America." Hosted by Will Smith and executive produced alongside Larry Wilmore, the Netflix series offers a critical examination of U.S. history, focusing on the Constitution's 14th Amendment.
Lincoln's Complex Legacy
The series confronts hard truths about Lincoln's attitudes toward Black Americans, raising pivotal questions about American identity and equality. "Amend" highlights Lincoln's complex legacy, often oversimplified in traditional narratives.
1. Union Over Emancipation: Lincoln's primary objective during his presidency was to preserve the Union rather than ending slavery. As noted by historian Christopher Bonner in "Amend," Lincoln would have preserved the Union without freeing slaves if possible. Will Smith interprets Lincoln's willingness to sacrifice Black Americans' interests to regain the South.
2. Racial Equality Views: Lincoln's stance on racial equality was problematic. In a meeting with African-American leaders in 1861, he emphasized their inequality, as recounted by Pedro Pascal in "Amend." Lincoln's comments, as Smith reacts in the series, reveal a discomforting attitude.
3. Civil War Blame: Lincoln controversially suggested that the presence of Black Americans in the U.S. was a cause of the Civil War, deflecting from the core issue of slavery.
4. Relocation Plans: Lincoln considered relocating freed Black Americans to Central America, a move critiqued in "Amend" as an attempt to sidestep racial equality in the U.S.
5. Emancipation Proclamation Motives: The series argues that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed primarily to bolster the Union army, a strategic move rather than a purely moral decision. Frederick Douglass's influence was crucial, as he convinced Lincoln that Black Americans were indispensable in the war effort, pushing for their legal equality and citizenship.
"Amend: The Fight for America" thus paints a more nuanced picture of Lincoln, challenging the conventional view of his presidency and legacy. It underscores the importance of understanding historical figures in their entirety, acknowledging their contributions while also critically examining their flaws and the complexities of their decisions.