When their pay was cut, they also could have chosen to act differently. When they were not allowed to participate in the battles, they could have acted differently. I think somewhere along the line you began to sense from these men that they feel compelled to act out their duty as soldiers for the Union. They all have different motivations as Union soldiers. They insist on participation in the fighting to protect her, to hold her together. But they had a duty that was much stronger and much more compelling than their personal comfort, their safety, their rights, or their pain, so consequently it’s a reminder to us.
Did you feel that Glory was going to be something special while you were filming it?
I was a kid, so I didn’t see the perspective on these things. I was trying to keep my head above water professionally and personally. I was told we were breaking ground, but when you haven’t seen the ground unbroken, you don’t realize the importance of what’s going on. Today I do, but not back then.
We’ve just passed another milestone in American history with the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama. In considering this historic moment in light of what you learned making Glory, what is your reaction to Obama’s election?
We seem to be progressing, the United States really accepting the full contribution of all of its citizens in fits and starts: two steps forward, one step back. Ideally it would have been wonderful after the Civil War to embrace our African-American citizens and to think what could have been built from the U.S. had African Americans not been used as scapegoats and terrorized for decades, centuries; then we would be so much further along as a people and as a the nation. It’s begrudgingly that we moved to the place we are now, but I think that this election might represent a pivotal change in the ability of this country to really embrace its immigrants.