Post-Civil War America on the Big Screen

April 13, 2011
Audrey Stokes Associate Product Manager, Education
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Common Sense News

Robert Redford and the American Film Company are bringing the Civil War back to theaters with The Conspirator, which opens on April 15th. The film focuses on President Lincoln’s assassination and the tumultuous trial that followed.

Here’s a description from the producers:

“It is April 1865, and the United States is in a state of turmoil. General Lee’s Confederate Army has just surrendered, and the President has just been shot. In the hours and days after Lincoln’s assassination, the truth is revealed: his murder was orchestrated by a group of Confederate sympathizers who conspired to not only kill the president but simultaneously the Vice President and the Secretary of State as well. As the entire country reels from the shock, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with the crime.  Against the backdrop of post-Civil War Washington, Frederick Aiken, a newly-minted lawyer and Union war-hero, reluctantly agrees to defend Mary Surratt, the only woman accused. Through the unique journey of Surratt and Aiken, audiences see first-hand the ever changing allegiances of a country divided, the insidious impact that fear can have on a struggling nation, and the nuances of political and legal frameworks that are evolving, but sound.”

The American Film Company has produced a free educational resource guide for classroom and community educators, full of cross-curricular lessons, extension activities, and discussion prompts, to engage students in thinking about the film. They’re also encouraging teachers to take their classes to the film, and are offering group discounts to make that possible.

The film is rated PG-13. Since Common Sense hasn’t rated it yet, we can’t recommend it for kids or teens, but we do encourage you to check it out and see if you think it would be useful in your classroom.

Tell us: How do you use feature films in your classroom?

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