A Required Civil War Movie Viewing List for Donald Trump

Because he seems to think history books don't exist and statues are the only way to remember things.

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It is very sad that there are no more history books, and also that everybody's forgotten how to read. So, Donald Trump, I understand your concern about all the statues of Confederate soldiers posing as gallant heroes possibly being torn down, because clearly there will be zero way to understand what actually happened in the Civil War. The statues hold all the secrets.

Fortunately, there are a few movies that might help you, Donald, understand the extreme violence and agony of slavery and the Civil War. I know they're not as informative as unmoving statues of old white men in public parks, but maybe they'll drive the truth of our American history home for you!

You probably skipped this one in theaters, so now is as good a time as any to catch up and finally watch the critically-acclaimed saga of Solomon Northup's imprisonment and escape from an institution in which he, a human being, was treated as property. Even though he was born a free man in New York, Northup was taken to states in the south where slavery was still legal. Luckily, some people fought a war to make sure that wouldn't be the case forever. Emphasis on "some people."

Since it's already been established that there's literally no way to remember history without statues, I guess the best we can ever do is watch films based on famous works of fiction about the horror and trauma of slavery, and its aftermath. Toni Morrison's Beloved seems like a good place to start.

This one is good one for you, Mr. President, because—due to his legal battle against a group of men who were kidnapped and imprisoned as property—Martin Van Buren is a great example of a first-term POTUS on the wrong side of history. And also a great example of a first time POTUS who lost in the Supreme Court and then lost the reelection.


Did you know that black people fought in the Civil War too? No, not on the confederacy's side—if you can believe it, they actually fought on the side that was against the enslavement of them and their families. That's what this movie is about!


Ah! Yes, these people do have British accents and so, you're right, this doesn't take place in America. Very smart, sir! This one is about a mixed-race woman and the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 in England. The country wouldn't fully abolish slavery until 1833, which is bad, but not as bad as the people who led armies into battle to fight for slavery's legality in 1861.


This Lincoln guy seems pretty cool. If only there were a giant statue of him somewhere within walking distance of the place you live.

'Django Unchained'

Lots of violence on both sides, impossible to know whether the good guys are the ones who torture and murder the people they keep as slaves, or the ones who are against that.

'American History X'

When you stated that some of the torch-bearing white supremacists were "very fine people," I assume you were actually thinking of character-actor Edward Norton in his role as neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard. Edward Norton does seem like a nice guy! But since it's possible you fell asleep in a KFC-coma before the end of the movie (we all get tired!), I should let you know that Derek and his brother Danny learn that neo-Nazis are actually bad.


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Dana Schwartz

Dana Schwartz is the author of three books and the host and creator of the history podcast NOBLE BLOOD. As a journalist, she’s written for Entertainment Weekly, GQ, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, and more. She currently works as a TV writer based in Los Angeles.