In one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the Civil War film Glory, Colonel Shaw, played by Matthew Broderick, orders a soldier under his command to be beaten for deserting the unit. The scene is reminiscent of films about slavery in which a white man with a whip inflicts bloody wounds on the back of a black man. Shaw later discovers that the soldier, played by Denzel Washington, deserted the regiment - the all black Massachusetts 54* - to search for a pair of shoes because the unit was ill equipped. Perhaps out of guilt, or sympathy, or to ensure military preparedness or some combination of these factors, Shaw then takes extraordinary efforts to provide shoes for his troops. Although this scene provides a powerful moment in the film and furthers the characters' development, the real Massachusetts 54* was well equipped and did not have such supply shortages (Browne & Kreiser, 2003) and flogging was banned in the Union army at that time (Nathan, 2002). Does this deviation from the historical record matter? What are the implications for teacher practices with this film and others that present engaging historical narratives, but often with dramatic licenses?
Marcus, A., & Stoddard, J. (May 2007). Tinsel town as teacher: Hollywood film in the high school history classroom. The History Teacher, 40(3), 303-330.