Did you really read Morning Mail? ‘Lincoln’ screening, cake, and a Q&A with Vorenberg

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In today’s edition of Morning Mail, we received a very exciting “SAVE THE DATE” to attend a screening of DreamWorks’ Lincoln and a Q&A with Professor Michael Vorenberg—whose book Final Freedom is believed to be a “principal source” for the film—in celebration of Lincoln’s birthday and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Taking place on March 1st at 5:30 p.m., this event will be the most epic party of the semester: a movie, cake, and a chance to engage with a rockstar historian about said movie’s content and factuality? Psh, we’ll see you there. Tickets are required (get one here).

Oh, and just in case you weren’t convinced, there’s also this:

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Professors who do cool things: Michael Vorenberg, the unsung hero of ‘Lincoln’?

In an article on The New Republic website, Timothy Noah suggested that Brown University superhero history professor Michael Vorenberg and his book, Final Freedom, were likely the “principal source” for the Oscar-nominated Lincoln. Vorenberg’s book is widely regarded as the most comprehensive account of the passage of the 13th Amendment, which is the main focus of the film.

Noah also expressed dismay that Lincoln‘s screenwriter, Tony Kushner, and the film’s producers had not publicly recognized Vorenberg’s contribution. Lincoln’s promotional materials and final credits state that the film is based “in part” on Team of Rivals, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who also served as a historical advisor to Kushner. The problem, according to Noah, is that Goodwin’s book provides only a brief description of the most important historical events in the film—in particular, the legislative battles surrounding the 13th Amendment.

Vorenberg’s Final Freedom, which was a finalist for the 2002 Lincoln Prize, has been commended by many historians for demonstrating the crucial role of 13th Amendment in the abolition of slavery. Both scholarly works and popular narratives had often given the Emancipation Proclamation the principal role, though the wartime measure affected only those Confederate territories in active rebellion and outside of Union military control. It was the 13th Amendment—which, as the film shows, was from far from a foregone conclusionthat formally abolished slavery in all of the United States. (Yes, like almost everyone else at this school, I took Vorenberg’s blockbuster “Civil War and Reconstruction.”) Continue Reading


All (Lincoln) questions will be answered

How many of you know Professor Michael Vorenberg? A member of Brown’s history department since 1999, Vorenberg has been a standout with his beloved courses on the Old South, Civil War, and Reconstruction. As an esteemed scholar of legal history, Professor Vorenberg has persistently blown minds with his legal interpretations of our overly sanitized national past. Yet while his classes are consistent hits (including his new US history survey “American Exceptionalism”), his knowledge is more vast than even his course canon would suggest—enter his Facebook Ask-Me-Anything.

Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, which has begun its national run this week, is a meticulously crafted historical biopic about Lincoln’s latter days between the end of the Civil War and his assassination. Full of intrigue, this film would naturally raise questions about artistic license and inquiries into the nearly impossible story of “what really happened.”

Alas, Vorenberg will be taking ANY questions regarding the film, the Emancipation Proclamation, and President Lincoln in general. Use Facebook comments, tweets to @BrownUniversity and e-mails to media_relations@brown.edu to ask and he will answer them during the coming weeks.