History Question

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University of Central Florida


Class Discussion 5 - Historic Fiction Review

For this week's assignment, we will break from our usual non-fiction format and explore how fictional historical narratives are used to influence and inspire our understanding of American history.  I've curated a list of historical films below that you will be able to choose from. I am also open to students suggesting films that are not on the list, as long as it address a topic from American history between 1492 and 1865.

If you are interested in writing a review that uses a different form of popular media such as video games, stage plays, novel, or television series, I would ask that you either meet with me or send an email to discuss the media you would prefer to use for the assignment and I can advise if it is feasible. If interested in suggesting an assignment to review such as this, please speak with me either after class or over email and we can workshop ideas.

Once you have finished your piece of historical fiction, you are expected to:

Watch This First: View any one of the following media sources (or contact Dr. Morton for approval of an alternative source):

Dr. Morton's Recommended Viewing List

You will need to track down the titles on the list through your own access to streaming platforms or online resources. I also have below embedded links to several films on this list which can be accessed through the description below: 

The Good Lord Bird (2020) (Watch Episode 1) (Showtime)

The memoirs of Henry Shackleford, a slave in Kansas during the Bleeding Kansas era, are discovered in a Delaware church. Henry, nicknamed "Little Onion" for eating a particularly rancid onion, accidentally encounters abolitionist John Brown in a tavern. Brown mistakes Henry for a girl and gives him a dress to wear; Shackleford wears a dress for much of the novel. The two join together, and Henry narrates his encounters with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and the events at John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry.


Divided Loyalties (1990)

Story of Joseph Brant, chief of the Mohawks, and the events that led to the birth of Canada as a nation. During the time of the American Revolution, while Britain faces full scale insurrection in its American colonies, the great Indian empire of the Six Nations must choose between longtime British allies and the American Patriots, whose democratic ideals they share.

Dances With Wolves (1990) (Netflix)

A Civil War soldier develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle, he chooses to leave his former life behind to be with them. Having observed him, they give the name Dances With Wolves. Soon he is a welcomed member of the tribe and falls in love with a white woman who has been raised in the tribe. Tragedy results when Union soldiers arrive with designs on the land.


Little Big Man (1970) (Amazon Prime)

Chronicles the long and troubled history of Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman), a 121-year- old man whose family was killed by the Pawnee Indians when he was only 10. He’s saved by the Cheyenne (longtime enemy of the Pawnee) who raise him as one of their own tribe members. Jack comes to love and respect the Indi- ans who refer to themselves as “human beings.” Throughout the film Jack is torn between two worlds. The world of white men who are often depicted as religious hypocrites, murderous gunslingers, racist brutes and money hungry capitalists willing to do anything in order to make a buck. And the more earth conscious world of the Native Americans who are trying to survive while their own way of life, iden- tity and human dignity is being stripped from them by the U.S. Government.


Last of the Mohicans Definitive Director's Cut (1992) (Amazon Prime)

Director Michael Mann based this lushly romantic version of the James Fenimore Cooper novel more on his memory of the 1936 film version (starring Randolph Scott) than on Cooper's novel (in fact, Philip Dunne's 1936 screenplay is cited as source material for this film). Set in the 1750s during the French and Indian War, the story concerns Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), the European-born adopted son of Mohican scout Chingachgook (Russell Means). Hawkeye and his party, which also includes the Mohican Uncas (Eric Schweig), joins up with a group of Britons who have recently arrived in the Colonies. 


Turn: Washington's Spies (2014-2017) (Netflix - Watch Episode 1) 

The show covers events from 1776 to 1781, and features a farmer from Setauket, New York and his childhood friends. They form an unlikely group of spies called the Culper Ring, which eventually helps to turn the tide during the American Revolutionary War. The series begins in October 1776, shortly after British victories recapture Long Island and the Port of New York for the Crown, and leave General George Washington's army in dire straits. 


The Patriot (2000) (AMC+) 

A widowed farmer, with a brave but brutal military past, decides not to join up when the British arrive in 1776. However, when his son enlists and is later captured by the enemy, the former soldier must abandon his new-found pacifist principles in order to rescue his oldest child, and forms a regiment of Carolina patriots, whose guerrilla tactics prove pivotal to the US war effort.


Hamilton (2020) (Disney +) 

The film is edited together from three performances of Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Midtown Manhattan in June 2016 with most of the original principal Broadway cast members,  combined with a few "setup shots" recorded without an audience present.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSCKfXpAGHcLinks to an external site.

John Adams (2008) (HBOMAX (Watch Episode 1) 

Adapted from David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, this lavish seven-part miniseries chronicles the life of Founding Father John Adams, starting with the Boston Massacre of 1770 through his years as an ambassador in Europe, then his terms as vice president and president of the United States, up to his death on July 4, 1826.


1776 (1972) (Amazon Prime/Vudu/Youtube Rental) 

The nation's fathers harmonize their way through the founding of America in this musical adapted from a popular Broadway show. Colonial representatives gather in Philadelphia with the aim of establishing a set of governmental rules for the burgeoning United States. Benjamin Franklin (Howard da Silva) and John Adams (William Daniels) charge Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) with the work of writing a statement announcing the new country's emancipation from British rule.


The Book of Negroes (2015) (Amazon/Youtube Rental) (Watch Episode 1)

At the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, British authorities evacuated thousands of Loyalists of African descent to Canada. The names of free black refugees were recorded in a document labeled “The Book of Negroes,” and Canadian novelist Lawrence Hill borrowed that title. In 2015, Hill turned his award-winning novel into a six-episode miniseries with writer-director Clement Virgo. This globe-spanning story follows a woman kidnapped in Niger, enslaved in South Carolina, and evacuated to Nova Scotia; she then returns to Africa to help found Sierra Leone. The Book of Negroes thus explores personal and political liberty, war, and nation-building—but not confined to the U.S.


April Morning (1988) (Paramount+) 

This adaptation of the classic novel by Howard Feast takes place at the dawn of the American Revolution. Superstitious teenager Adam Cooper (Chad Lowe) struggles to gain the approval of his intellectual and devout Christian father, Moses (Tommy Lee Jones). When a lone rider warns the locals of approaching British troops, Adam surprises his father by joining the local militia. But Adam will have to come of age rapidly amid violence and death to survive the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n28bh8lHb_E&feature=emb_titleLinks to an external site.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Two families, abolitionist Northerners the Stonemans and Southern landowners the Camerons, intertwine in director D.W. Griffith's controversial Civil War epic. When Confederate colonel Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) is captured in battle, nurse Elsie Stoneman (Lillian Gish) petitions for his pardon. In Reconstruction-era South Carolina, Cameron founds the Ku Klux Klan, battling Elsie's congressman father (Ralph Lewis) and his African-American protégé, Silas Lynch (George Siegmann).

[CC: This is a silent movie; orchestral music plays throughout.]

The Birth of a Nation 1915 1080pLinks to an external site.The Birth of a Nation 1915 1080p

The Birth of a Nation (2016)

Nat Turner is an enslaved Baptist preacher who lives on a Virginia plantation owned by Samuel Turner. With rumors of insurrection in the air, a cleric convinces Samuel that Nate should sermonize to other slaves, thereby quelling any notions of an uprising. As Nate witnesses the horrific treatment of his fellow man, he realizes that he can no longer just stand by and preach. On Aug. 21, 1831, Turner's quest for justice and freedom leads to a violent and historic rebellion in Southampton County.


Rental Link:The Birth Of A NationLinks to an external site.The Birth Of A Nation

Glory (1989) (STARZ)

Following the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is offered command of the United States' first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. With junior officer Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), Shaw puts together a strong and proud unit, including the escaped slave Trip (Denzel Washington) and the wise gravedigger John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman). At first limited to menial manual tasks, the regiment fights to be placed in the heat of battle.


Amistad (1997) (MAXGO)

In 1839, the slave ship Amistad set sail from Cuba to America. During the long trip, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) leads the slaves in an unprecedented uprising. They are then held prisoner in Connecticut, and their release becomes the subject of heated debate. Freed slave Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) wants Cinque and the others exonerated and recruits property lawyer Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey) to help his case. Eventually, John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) also becomes an ally.


Amistad - Trailer

SWANK Link: Watch AmistadLinks to an external site.

Harriet (2020) (HBOMAX)

From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman is told.


SWANK Link: Watch HarrietLinks to an external site.

Direct Link: https://digitalcampus-swankmp-net.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/ucf298355/watch/C56B4EBDF566F255?referrer=directLinks to an external site.

Lincoln (2012) (HBOMAX)

With the nation embroiled in still another year with the high death count of Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln brings the full measure of his passion, humanity and political skill to what would become his defining legacy: to end the war and permanently abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment. Having great courage, acumen and moral fortitude, Lincoln pushes forward to compel the nation, and those in government who oppose him, to aim toward a greater good for all mankind.

Trailer:Lincoln Official Trailer #1 (2012) Steven Spielberg Movie HDLinks to an external site.Lincoln Official Trailer #1 (2012) Steven Spielberg Movie HD

SWANK Link:  Watch LincolnLinks to an external site.

Direct Link: https://digitalcampus-swankmp-net.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/ucf298355/watch/AE6E815BC80128E5?referrer=directLinks to an external site.

Free State of Jones (2016) (Netflix)

In 1863, Mississippi farmer Newt Knight serves as a medic for the Confederate Army. Opposed to slavery, Knight would rather help the wounded than fight the Union. After his nephew dies in battle, Newt returns home to Jones County to safeguard his family but is soon branded an outlaw deserter. Forced to flee, he finds refuge with a group of runaway slaves hiding out in the swamps. Forging an alliance with the slaves and other farmers, Knight leads a rebellion that would forever change history.


The Conspirator (2010) 

Following the assassination of President Lincoln, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill Lincoln, the vice president and the secretary of state. Lawyer Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) reluctantly agrees to defend the lone woman, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), who owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others met to plan their crimes. Aiken realizes that Mary may be innocent and being used as bait to capture her son, a suspect who is still at large.

Trailer: The Conspirator - Official Trailer

Underground (2016-2017) - Available on Hulu (Watch Episode 1) 

Underground follows the story of American heroes and their moving journey to freedom. With the country on the brink of Civil War, the struggle for freedom is more dangerous than ever. Underground tells the story of American heroes and their harrowing journey to freedom, with legendary Harriet Tubman blazing the trail.


Cold Mountain (2003)

In this classic story of love and devotion set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, a wounded Confederate soldier named W.P. Inman (Jude Law) deserts his unit and travels across the South, aiming to return to his young wife, Ada (Nicole Kidman), who he left behind to tend their farm. As Inman makes his perilous journey home, Ada struggles to keep their home intact with the assistance of Ruby (Renée Zellweger), a mysterious drifter sent to help her by a kindly neighbor.


AssignmentSecond: Write a 300-500 Word Review of your chosen media.

After completing your review you are expected to write TWO 100 Word responses to your classmates review, giving feedback, asking questions, and drawing connections between your selected media.

In order to receive full credit for the assignment students must in address the following questions in their posts:

If possible, how does the media connect to topics discussed in class? 

This can be as simple as an idea or a concept, or if we have already covered the subject you can draw a connection. 

Do not write: "this movie was about the Civil  War and we haven't covered this yet." 

Instead, write:  "The concept of total war introduced in this Civil War movie reminds me of our class discussion on the Spanish conquest of the Americas." 

Each media will be different in its connections and it is early in the course so this question is not as heavily emphasized. 

How historically accurate is your selected media? Describe any of the following:

Factual errors

Missed opportunities

Your own assessment on how the media portrays a particular person or event

In your opinion is this piece of media a work of “Good” or “Bad” history?

This is not a question of whether or not the subject matter is morally good or bad, but instead whether or not the adaptive decisions made were good or bad choices.

For example, you could still say the film Schindler's List is "good history" even if the film's setting is utterly horrific. 

Describe the historic context of the year that your media was made in. So if you watch a film from 1972, describe how the events of that year might have shaped the historical impressions of the people and events of the film.  

In other words, how might have the time period your chosen media was made influence the overall perspective on the topics the film addresses? 

For example, what has changed in American life between the premiere of  The Birth of Nation (1915) and The Birth of a Nation (2016) that also creates two very different narratives on the issue of slavery? 

If you select a work of popular media from the present-day or the past decade, here you can insert ongoing debates and topics in the news cycle to the content of your media.  

Explanation & Answer:
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Explanation & Answer

View attached explanation and answer. Let me know if you have any questions.


Turn: Washington’s spies
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Washington’s spies review
Historical narrative addresses the etymological and primary structure with which it
becomes feasible for individuals to coordinate the "course of time" in a sound way, hence giving
daily existence a transient casing and grid of verifiable direction. It's difficult to envision that the
destiny of the American people would rest so vigorously in the possession of a designer, an
oppressed two-fold specialist, or an adjudicator's significant other who conveyed secret messages
on her clothing line. In any case, as Broad Washington battled to win a conflict with a military
that was ce...

Really helpful material, saved me a great deal of time.


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