Four Historians Take On 'The Butler's' Racist Depiction of Reagan

Image: Four Historians Take On 'The Butler's' Racist Depiction of Reagan Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan in a scene from "The Butler".

Friday, 30 Aug 2013 01:23 PM

By Courtney Coren

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
Four Ronald Reagan historians have slammed the portrayal of former President Reagan in the movie "The Butler," saying that the 40th president's "attitudes toward race" as shown in the movie are inaccurate.
 
They begin the article, "What 'The Butler' gets wrong about Ronald Reagan and race," published in The Washington Post, by recounting instances in Reagan's life when he decried racism and took a stand for the African-American community.

Latest: The Real Ronald Reagan Revealed in This Movie
 
While serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild, for example, "Ronald Reagan called upon the entertainment industry to provide greater employment for black actors." That position was controversial at the time.
 
When giving his infamous "evil empire" speech in March 1983 against the Soviet Union, Reagan also attacked the "the resurgence of some hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice" in America.
 
These examples came after the historians recount the time when young Reagan brought two African American football teammates home from college to spend the night with his family.
 
That is hardly the "sense" of Reagan that one gets from the Lee Daniels film the historians explain.
 
The four historians, who have more than a dozen Reagan biographies between them, are Stephen F. Hayward, whose books include "The Age of Reagan"; Paul Kengor, author of 2007's "The Crusader"; Craig Shirley, who wrote last year's "Rendezvous With Destiny" and the 2005 book "Reagan's Revolution"; and Kiron K. Skinner who has compiled several books on Reagan's life including "Reagan's Path to Victory."
 
They say they are concerned "by the movie's portrayal of Reagan's attitudes toward race."
 
"We are especially concerned because many Americans readily accept Hollywood depictions of history as factual," they add.
 
"The Butler" is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, an African American who worked as a butler in the White House under eight presidents and resigned during Reagan's tenure. Allen's character is named Cecil Gaines in the movie.
 
The quartet of historians are mainly concerned about two instances they say are inaccurately portrayed in the movie, which has topped the box office ratings for the past two weeks.
 
The first is when Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker, is given a personal invitation to attend a state dinner, but he is seen feeling very uncomfortable because "he feels he's being used as a political tool, a prop, a token African American."
 
It is not long after this that he resigns from his position at the White House because of "supposed humiliation" at the event.

Urgent: Should U.S. Strike Syria? Vote Here
 
However, the Religion News Service said Allen "was especially fond of the Reagans," and a fellow member of Allen's church said that the butler "often talked about how nice they were to him." The historians point out while it is true that Allen left his position during the Reagan presidency, but it was on good terms and "he received a 'sweet note' from the president and a hug from the first lady."
 
The other instance takes place when Reagan promises to "veto any sanctions against South Africa." The Republican congresswoman meeting with him pleads with him over the matter saying that it is right thing to do and congressional Republicans are in agreement. The supposed reason for Reagan's refusal to support sanctions against the racist government is that he is "apparently unsympathetic to black suffering."
 
"While accurate in depicting Reagan's opposition to sanctions against South Africa, 'The Butler' does not explain why he opposed them," the historians write. "Reagan saw sanctions as harmful to the poorest of South Africans: millions of blacks living in dire poverty. He also feared that the apartheid regime could be replaced by a Marxist government allied with the Soviet Union and Cuba and that communism would spread throughout the continent.
 
"South African blacks were denied rights under apartheid, but communism would mean no freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, conscience, emigration, travel or even property for anyone," the historians explain.
 
"Moreover, in communist nations such as Cambodia and Ethiopia, people had been slaughtered and starved on mass scales . . . He didn't want South Africa to undergo the same catastrophe," they add.
 
They explain that Reagan had a policy of "constructive engagement" in which he was trying to keep South Africa in the anti-Soviet category "while encouraging the country toward black-majority rule."
 
They cite a speech he gave to the United Nations on September 24, 1984, in which he said that it was "a moral imperative that South Africa's racial policies evolve peacefully but decisively toward . . . justice, liberty, and human dignity."
 
The historians explain that one of Reagan's "successes was the Angola Namibia agreement, which led to the withdrawal of the white South African regime from Namibia and paved the way for that nation's independence."

Latest: The Real Ronald Reagan Revealed in This Movie
 
"The Butler," they argue, does not address any of these complexities.
 
It is not the first time that Reagan is unfairly portrayed as a racist, they say, but the historical record paints a different picture. Films like ''The Butler" can be a good place to address our racial past, but not if they are filled with inaccuracies.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Ralph Peters: 'Psychological Problem' Makes Obama Indecisive

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 22:57 PM

President Barack Obama isn't making decisions on major world events because he isn't capable of doing so, retired Lt. Co . . .

Republicans Call For Swift Action Against ISIS

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 21:28 PM

Republican lawmakers sounded a clarion call for quick, decisive action against Islamic State (ISIS) militants after the  . . .

ISIS Apologizes - for Releasing Beheading Video too Soon

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 22:40 PM

Islamic State (ISIS) militants apologized after releasing a gruesome video that purports to show the beheading of Americ . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved