Last night I decided to watch Lee Daniel’s The Butler on Netflix. This is a movie that we had talked about on the Freedom Tour of the south and I had been waiting for the chance to finally watch it. Overall I thought it was an excellent movie packed with emotion and history. The major issue I had with the movie was the timeline and the portrayal of some of the facts. All in all, the movie did bring me to tears and left me questioning my place in this world.
SPOILER ALERT BELOW
The movie begins with Cecil Gaines working on a plantation in 1926 with his father and mother. His mother is raped by the white plantation owner and the father is shot dead immediately following. Cecil is then trained to be a houseman, eventually running away and learning how to become a butler. Being a black butler in those times was extremely difficult because one could not react to conversation, which frequently included racist and prejudice remarks. Eventually, Cecil is called to work at The White House for the president of the United States. There, Cecil faces trials and tribulations working in a place that is supposed to advocate for equal rights. Cecil’s oldest son, Lewis, also becomes a strong activist for the Civil Rights Movement, where he participates in the lunch counter sit-in, the Freedom Riders, and the Black Panthers. In the end, Cecil is given the opportunity to conquer his troubles and win in his personal battle of discrimination.
The major historical inaccuracy I noticed was when Lewis participated in the lunch counter sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina. The movie shows Lewis as one of the first four to participate in the lunch counter sit-in along with one other male and two females. This is incorrect. The first lunch counter sit-in was composed of four young men named Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond. This was one of the major inaccuracies that troubled me in the movie.
Overall, I think the movie did an excellent job of portraying what a difficult time it was for black individuals throughout the 1900s. Having the opportunity to go down south and learn about the events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement provided me a better understanding of the movie and a stronger look into the historical background. It is important for people to see movies like Lee Daniel’s The Butler because it gives the people of the 21st century a glimpse into the country’s history. I also believe that it sheds light on the fact that even though we have come so far, there is so much more to do.