Education Through Entertainment

The Day Lincoln Died - Movies and School Assemblies

Posted on Fri, Apr 15, 2011

school assemblies lincoln deathbed resized 600On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln passed away in a small room in the Peterson boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theatre in Washington where he had been shot the night before. This is fact.

On April 15, 2011 a new film opens, directed by Robert Redford, concerning the events around the trial of those accused of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. The film examines in particular the guilt or innocence of Mary Surratt, convicted as part of the plot and the first woman ever executed by the United States for treason. This, also is fact.

But the film, like so many other Hollywood films before, attempts to use moments from the past to examine issues of today. Inherit The Wind, a fine film about the Scopes “monkey” trial in Tennessee, has been shown to have dramatically twisted  facts in anabe lincoln school assemblies attempt to use those events to comment on the political climate of the fifties and the McCarthy hearings of the time. Hollywood has never shied away from playing loose with facts in order to sell a point of view or make a more dramatic story. And one can legitimately make the case that films are not meant as history but as art. All true. However, Americans are not noted for their profound love of nor accurate knowledge of history. All to often, like gullible children, we blindly accept “historical” films as factual retellings of reality and get all of our history from “art”.

I have not yet seen the new film so I cannot speak to it’s accuracy. Mr. Redford’s company claims to have been meticulous in it’s research and it’s adherence to truth. I do know there are definite “gray” areas in this piece of our history. Was Mary Surratt involved in the conspiracy or was she innocent? Did she receive a fair trial or not? The last question, in light of the debate over military trials of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is likely the real reason for this film. 

Lincoln School assemblies 2Regardless, there is another way for children to learn about our history and in particular about Abraham Lincoln. For more than twenty years we have been performing high quality education school assemblies about Mr. Lincoln. Your humble writer is one such presenter, but we employ several extremely talented gentlemen who also present the President in school assemblies all over the country. And when children learn about Mr. Lincoln and that segment of our history from one of our school assemblies, they are not only enthralled by the immediacy of the moment, but they are also receiving accurate information uncolored by “artistic”  or political viewpoints. We think that is the way to teach history. And then, when your students do see a film about Mr. Lincoln, they can say “ Why, that’s not what happened! I know what happened because Abe told me himself!”

Dates for Lincoln school assemblies are now available for 2011-2012 but are limited and the best selection will fill quickly. Today is a great time to arrange a visit for your school!

Geoff Beauchamp is the Regional Manager of Mobile Ed Productions where "Education Through Entertainment" has been the guiding principal since 1979. Mobile Ed Productions produces and markets quality educational school assembly programs in the fields of sciencehistorywritingastronomynatural sciencemathematicscharacter issues and a variety of other curriculum based areas. In addition, Mr. Beauchamp is a professional actor with 30 years of experience in film, television and on stage. He created and still performs occasionally in Mobile Ed's THE LIVING LINCOLN

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