I enjoyed this film greatly as a window into the African American experience during the Civil War and Reconstruction. While Death and the Civil War film focused more on the soldier and family perspective, Many Rivers to Cross detailed the unique experience of the newly emancipated slaves. It was fascinating to see how the quality of life of the freed slaves was highly dependent on the political climate each year. For example, when the former slaves were given “40 acres and a mule” yet they had it taken away approximately a year later when Andrew Johnson became president. The ups and downs of the fight of the African American community is highlighted carefully within this film. It was interesting and slightly horrifying to see the graphic images of the lynchings that took place in America around the time of the end of the Reconstruction. While it became possible for blacks to vote and own property, they were forced to segregate themselves and limit their own successes in order to keep a low profile and appease the whites. Amazingly, former slaves soon obtained positions in government. I find it incredible that only a few years after the civil war, so much progress had been made towards equality and yet taken away so fast.
This film was a striking depiction of the civil war. It was shocking to visualize the photography of the dead soldiers along with hearing the complicated story. The description of the experiences of the family along with the graphic images of death in this film were very impactful to me as a viewer. It was plain to see how death was revolutionized in the way that it was handled as a result of the civil war. There was previously no federal hospitals, ambulance corps, system for transportation of the dead, identification, or burial procedures. The soldiers just did what they could to honor their fellow soldiers that had fallen. It was shocking to see the sheer numbers of casualties and deaths as a result of this war. In addition, it was incredible to see people coming together to honor the dead soldiers and give them a proper death. I was surprised to find out that it was common practice during the civil war to dig up bodies from their graves and try to identify and reinter them. I think that a sense of patriotism and personal responsibility of all, including the federal government, to care for the dead respectfully and to do right by them and their families arose during this time. Memorial Day was established because their were so many dead that needed to be honored and to this day Americans still celebrate Memorial Day in honor of those that have fought for our freedom and liberty.