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History, Media, and Culture: African American Soldiers in the Civil War

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Social Studies +1 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

Representation in media is important.

In this Learning Lab, we will explore how the African American soldiers fighting in the Civil War are portrayed in two films: Glory (1989) and Lincoln (2012).

History X Media X Culture (HMC) is a series designed by the National Museum of African American History and Culture to teach students historical thinking skills of analysis and interpretation, and also media literacy by exploring historic and modern films about or created by African Americans.

What can we learn, and what do we learn about history from popular media? How does popular media influence our understanding of history? How does the history portrayed in popular media change from the historical account based on primary sources?

Furthermore, how are historical individuals and groups represented in popular media? How do these representations affect how we understand these historical persons and their modern-day descendants? How people are depicted on the screen influences our modern world. We must question and analyze what is said and shown in the media, and why it shown to us.

Your objectives are as follows:

1. Explore how the soldiers are represented in each film, and then compare the film’s portrayals.

2. Compare these representations to historical accounts and primary evidence.

3. Question why the changes were made in the film, and how do these changes affect our understanding of history and ourselves?

The movies contain images of the violence of war, carnage, and brief offensive languages.

The analysis questions are taken from the National Archives and Records Administration Document Analysis Worksheets, unless stated otherwise.

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NMAAHC Education

HMC: AACivilWar

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HMC: AA Civil War Objects

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HMC 4

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HMC: AACivilWar

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HMC 5

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HMC 6

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HMC: AACivilWar6

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HMC AA Civil War

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HMC: AACivilWar7

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HRC 7

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Storming Fort Wagner

National Portrait Gallery

Silver badge for Alexander Hill of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Frederick Douglass

National Portrait Gallery

Broadside for "Men of Color" Recruitment

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Come and Join Us Brothers.

National Museum of American History

Ambrotype of Qualls Tibbs, 5th Sergeant, 27th U.S.C.T., Camp Delaware, Ohio

National Museum of African American History and Culture

United States Colored Troops Flag

National Museum of American History

Army of the James Medal

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Photograph of James Brown, Civil War veteran, with a picture of Abraham Lincoln

National Museum of African American History and Culture

HMC 10

NMAAHC Education