Sunshine Clemons, Black Lives Matter Springfield
Kevin J. Wood, Abraham Lincoln by Kevin Wood and Association of Lincoln Presenters
Graham Peck, director, and Nathan Peck, director (2020)
A screening of the documentary film will be followed by a roundtable discussion with the filmmakers and a BLM activist interviewed in the film.
The film highlights the contested character of contemporary public understandings of history in order to promote shared understanding. To do so, it seeks to portray sympathetically the differing perspectives of those filmed; it does not draw a conclusion about who is right. But the film is not anodyne. It provides critical contextual information about antebellum political history by interweaving excerpts from TV footage of Graham Peck and from the Pecks’ conversations with each other and the film’s subjects. The interplay of different perspectives builds a more interesting story and encourages viewers to draw their own conclusions about the historical roles of Lincoln and Douglas. For instance, Douglas’ racial attitudes and toleration of slavery are balanced against his unyielding Unionism after the firing on Sumter. But the film also recognizes that historical monuments mediate between the past and present in a different way than do historians. Consequently, decisions to maintain or remove a statute cannot be made only by reference to the historical record; the meaning of monuments are litigated in the present. For Clemons, Douglas’ history is too checkered to be celebrated in the state capitol, which she called the “people’s house.” Her position carried political weight. Shortly after the Pecks finished production, the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives had the statue removed from the grounds of the capitol without public discussion. It was a telling political coda to a controversy rooted in contemporary politics. Influenced by these circumstances, the film seeks to intervene in contemporary debates over history by using art to broaden perspectives, deepen historical understanding, and open dialogue. In the film Q&A, the filmmakers and Clemons will discuss these issues and others raised by the audience.