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Ignorance Of History Is Not Bliss

I am one of those people that believe in fate. That is not to say that our entire lives have been mapped out and that we can’t change our futures. But let’s be honest, our actions and motivations do present us with interesting paths to take. One of those paths led me to be involved in a film called Noah.

Produced by Identical Films, Noah is a feature film set in present day America where slavery was never abolished. I play a character named Martin Scott, a multimillionaire who purchases his first slave. The story that ensues is a reminder that despite the progress we have made since the abolishment of slavery in this country, there remains a need to be educated on our past to protect us from a repeat of history.

The paths I have taken in my own writing, brings us to a time when slavery was legal in this country. In First World, one of the central characters, Elisabeth Seward, is African American. Present during the administration of President Lincoln she was involved in events that motivated Lincoln to craft the Emancipation Proclamation.

I’m not sure who it was, but one of the actors on Saturday mentioned that “one person can make a difference.”  How true has it been through the history of our country where one person has had an idea, a motivation or a determination to do something great (or sadly not so great). We know this list is not limited to names such as Washington, Lincoln, Parks or King, but there are the handful of Americans that come to mind when we think of independence and civil rights.

Let’s consider for a moment just what humanity is capable of accomplishing when we unite for a greater good. On April 12, 1861 the pressure cooker of legalized slavery finally erupted into the American Civil War. While the loss of life was severe, the result was freedom for slaves and the building of one of the greatest nations this planet has ever seen. One hundred years later on April 12, 1961 Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter space and orbit the Earth. A month later in that same year, President John Kennedy dared to put an American on the Moon by the end of the decade. And in the present Charles F. Bolden is the first African American to head NASA.

Our country was far from perfect after the Civil War ended in 1865. The history of civil rights in the United States has always been an uphill battle, but a battle we are winning even though days can seem like years which can seem like decades. America is a young country and one that is sometimes scarily immature and near-sighted.

As an actor I can offer this experience from my work on the set. There was a moment during taping when a cold shudder came over me during a scene with the character Noah and slave dealer Avery (wonderfully played by Andy Jasmin and Andrew Roth respectively).

Dear God, we used to buy people.

The power of film gives us the opportunity to educate where, sorry to say this, our schools and society sometimes fail. Ignorance of history is not bliss—it’s dangerous. It scares the hell out of me when people think the American Civil War was not about slavery or that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

Although the United States has made tremendous strides over the last two centuries, we still have a long way to go. We know these truths to be self-evident because…

all men are created equal.

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