Tuesday, December 22, 2015
December 22, 2015: Wishes for the AmericanStudies Elves: Ely Parker’s Life
[For each of the last few holiday seasons, I’ve made some requests to the AmericanStudies Elves. This year, I thought I’d highlight some amazing American stories that are ripe for telling in historical fiction films, novels, TV shows, you name it. Share the stories you’d like to see told, or any other wishes for the AS Elves, ahead of a wish-full crowd-sourced weekend post!]
The 19th century Renaissance American whose biography rivals any of our most amazing fictions.
It’s true that Ely Parker has technically been on screen already in recent years—but his character in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012) had no speaking lines, and wouldn’t have been recognizable to anyone who didn’t already know about his vital role as General Grant’s aide. And as I traced at length in this post, Parker’s life story is as full, diverse, and thoroughly inspiring as any in American history. The fact that it ended in part in controversy and tragedy, tied to his role as the first Native Commissioner of Indian Affairs under none other than President Grant, only makes this that much more complex and compelling of an American story. Ain’t none of us clean, as Denzel’s character Tripp concisely puts it in Glory—and that doesn’t mean for a second that there aren’t stories and histories that can not only remind us of the messier sides, but also inspire us with their successes and achievements and legacies. I don’t know of any American story that would do all those things more fully than Ely Parker’s, so c’mon, Elves, let’s make it happen!
Next wishing tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Other wishes you’d share?