by Dr. Boyce Watkins
In case you’re unaware of the standard narrative of historical films that involve black people, it’s quite simple: Black people advanced in America, not because of anything “you people” actually did. Instead, it was because there was some admirable and noble white guy who saved you. He was a visionary among his peers for having the audacity to treat black people as (gasp) human beings. He also had a couple of friends just like him, featured in the film, so the white audience has characters with whom they can identify themselves.
Also featured in most historical films involving race are also those evil white people who stood in the way of progress. They tend to be so evil that Rush Limbaugh could watch the film with Sean Hannity and walk away feeling pretty good about themselves.