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Jefferson Davis: An American President (2008)

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3 June 2008 (USA)  »

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Although a good history lesson should not strive to only vilify a character, it also shouldn't be an apologist for him--and because of this, this is a flawed documentary.
22 October 2013 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

I was excited to see this documentary about Jefferson Davis--mostly because although he was a hugely important character in American history, oddly, he's a real cypher. Most history books say little about him and very few people could tell you anything about him other than, perhaps, he was the president of the Confederacy. And, while the production values were very nice, I felt uneasy as I watched it because so many of the people interviewed seemed to have a slobbering love affair with the man. In other words, instead of focusing on the facts, sometimes the show allowed these experts to GUESS about the character of the man when there really was no evidence to support these theories. In particular, the show featured several people either telling anecdotal stories about how 'good he was towards his slaves'--though the validity of these stories over 150 years later is dubious at best. And, on the other hand, others said that because David never wrote that he'd raped or otherwise mistreated his slaves, it somehow proves he treated this slaves well!!! First, what slave owner would put in writing that he's having sex with his slaves (we sure know Thomas Jefferson didn't but the DNA proved he did)?! Second, he owned people AND was THE figurehead of a racist ideal by being the president of the Confederate States of America! So WHY spend so much time saying that he PROBABLY was swell towards his own slaves?! Overall, I found myself turning my brain off during much of the rest of the film, though I noticed a few other times that the narration or interviews seemed more interested in rehabilitating Davis' image than being objective (providing good AND bad about the man). My advice is keep looking--perhaps there's a better documentary on the man out there somewhere. It looks good but it seems to lack academic rigor and objectivity.


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