Civil Rights Week (The Butler, 42, Jim Crow)

This week is Civil Rights Week for the Lamb family.  Yes, I know Black History month is February, but we think it’s good to think about these issues at other times of the year too.  I’m glad our family with 2 teen boys choose a film focusing on race over The Wolverine and Elysium.

1) We saw Lee Daniel’s The Butler on Sunday night as a family.  A powerful portrayal of US history, focusing particularly the Civil Rights movement from perspective of a black butler serving in the White House.  The story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), which is loosely based on the true story of Eugene Allen who served 8 presidents.  (Allen’s story is told in The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood.)  The film is full of ironies.  LBJ (Liev Schreiber) got the Civil Rights Act passed (1965) and yet frequently used the N-word.  Reagan (Alan Rickman) helped Gaines and the black White House staff get more equitable wages, yet opposed sanctions against racist Apartheid South Africa.  The Lamb family loved this flick: 4 thumbs up.  (Technically, we have 8 thumbs, but I think each person only gets to vote with 1 thumb, so 4 is a perfect score.)

2) On Tuesday and Wednesday night we watched 42, the biopic telling the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), the first black major league baseball player.  The boys were familiar with the story from a young age, reading a children’s book, Teammates, about the relationship between Robinson and all-star short-stop Pee Wee Reece.  (I was moved to tears whenever I read it.)  The Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford, with the most bizarre facial expressions) selects Robinson to break the color barrier.  After brutal verbal racial abuse by the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies (embarrassing for us Phillies’ fans), Robinson returns to the tunnel, smashing his bat.  Rickey comes to talk, Robinson yells, “You don’t know what it’s like!”  Rickey, “No, I don’t.  You do.”  Good response.  It was great to see the Dodgers eventually stand up against the racial hatred.  I wonder what they would have done if Robinson was having a mediocre season?  Lamb family verdict: 4 thumbs up.

3) On the recommendation of my younger son Noah, who read it for AP US history, I started reading The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward.  I’ll share some thoughts this classic history of racial segregation in the next post.


  1. I am the son mentioned in the third section, and I would recommend “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” to anyone interested in our countries history or race relations. It is a short, well written and readable book on an important topic in our history. As I read it I was surprised by the things that had been forgotten over time. I read this book for school, but am glad that I did and would encourage others to do so.

  2. Ernie, enjoy. 42 is out on DVD now, The Butler will only be in cinemas for awhile.
    Noah, thanks for the recommendation, son. I’m just now getting to the bit about disenfranchisement around 1900. It makes me mad. More in the next post.

  3. It is after all also the week of the 50th Anniversary of the I have a dream speech. So perhaps not bad timing on our part. =)

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