Lincoln’s Dilemma is a four-episode documentary series that debuted on Apple+ on February 18, 2022. Narrated by Jeffrey Wright, it provides insights from journalists, educators, and scholars, as well as rare archival materials that share a more nuanced look into the life of the Great Emancipator.
The series is 21st-century scrutiny of a complicated man who was the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865, called Abraham Lincoln. This latest project is eye-opening and is layered with thought-provoking moral complexities.
The four episodes are based on the award-winning historian David S. Reynolds’ non-fiction book ‘Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times.’ The plotline is focused on President Lincoln’s emancipation of the enslaved people. It includes experienced and youthful African American historians that provide the truth and shine a light on the struggles of their people.
The viewers can think about issues that society rarely talks about. For instance, the subject of Lincoln’s documented views of caring more about the Union than ending slavery. Or his detailed plan on the subject of Colonialism. Did he believe that even as the victor, the white majority race could live peacefully with the once enslaved?
It reveals the clashes and protests over a controversial Lincoln statue. The first episode begins in 1861, with Lincoln boarding a train for Washington, D.C. We see his close friends and family wishing him farewell along with telling him to be cautious as he had been seen as an antislavery candidate before winning the 1860 election.
According to the executive director, Christy Coleman, the purpose of the series is, “Lincoln is moved to understanding and belief in what the nation could and should be despite his own prejudices and concerns when he starts. He is wise enough to know that he has them, and wise enough to know that his nation needs to move beyond them.”
It’s impossible to watch either series without recognizing parallels between America’s Civil War-era fractures and where we are now. The show puts a fine point on this by bookending its four hours with scenes from last year’s January 6 insurrection at the beginning, the removal of Confederate monuments in recent years, and the construction of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922 as a symbol of unity.
Jacqueline Olive and Barak Goodman direct this series. We see Bill Camp as Abraham Lincoln and Leslie Odom Jr. in the role of Frederick Douglass, the leader in the abolitionist movement.
The show is worth watching as it presents a more comprehensive view of the Black experience during the Civil War as part of its narrower focus on Lincoln’s presidency and the war instead of expressly profiling the man.