Othello in Blackface and Columbus Day: Vital Lessons (EP. 372)

Sanitized history is a lie. And lies can never lead to where we need to be as individuals, a community or a nation. That is the subject of today's 10 minute episode.
Sanitized history is a lie. Lies that lead only to indoctrination.

(N. B. With video coming in a few weeks, this space will become more and more of a summary, pointing to both the audio podcasts and the videos.)


A University of Michigan music professor is facing backlash after showing the 1965 film “Othello” with star Laurence Olivier in blackface.

President Joe Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, lending the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of native peoples.

Sanitizing, well, rewriting, history is deeply wrong and will lead nowhere but to the destructive–and intended–results.

That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.


1984 Super Bowl. 

“Professor Sheng’s actions do not align with our school’s commitment to anti-racist action, diversity, equity and inclusion,” David Gier,  dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, said last week, adding that Sheng has been reported to the Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX.”

Students who saw the film were upset that Olivier’s face was covered in black make-up as he portrayed Shakespeare’s Othello. One of Sheng’s students, Olivia Cook, told the Michigan Daily that she was “stunned.”

“’In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC in America, I was shocked that [Sheng] would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space,’ Cook said.”
Ms. Cook speaks for herself and millions of others, including the bulk of our education establishment, when she declares that: 1. Universities should be safe spaces and 2. Diversity has a limited, non-diverse definition. Ms. Cook, the education establishment and the Biden administration are taking the position that history must be sanitized in order to be safe for public consumption.

Safe spaces.

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell’s famous quote comes from his justifiably famous science fiction novel “1984.”

No one whose heart is in the right place and whose head is on even close to being on straight is afraid of the truth. 

In “1984”, the authorities were constantly inventing new lies to justify their absolute authority. 

Only those with nefarious and under-the-table agendas hide the truth. And what is happening today is far worse; more than hiding the truth, lies are being substituted wholesale for the truth. Instead of hiding part or all of the truth, entirely new and completely fabricated stories are now being held up as the truth. 

The truth about Christopher Columbus is that he was a fiercely dedicated man, who backed his heretical convictions about the world being round and not flat with everything he had. He was courageous, focused and a superb navigator, opening up the Americas to Western Civilization starting in 1492. It is also true that he was a deeply flawed human, and caused a lot of damage in his role as a governing administrator.

Columbus was a hero, and a flawed human. George Washington was another hero. And a flawed human. I am no hero, and I am flawed. And you?

The truth about the 1963 movie “Othello” is that Laurence Oilvier played the Moor Othello in blackface. Othello is one of the best known plays by the timeless and brilliant William Shakespeare. Mr. Olivier is unarguably one of the best actors of his day, and clearly the best Shakespearean actor of his day. Othello, the Moor, was meant by The Bard to be black. Over time a variety of white actors have played Othello. It was not until the 1830s that a black actor, Ira Aldridge, played the role. Nearly 100 years later, the black singer, activist and actor Paul Robeson played Othello, a role he reprised at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1959. Today we take it for granted that Othello, one of the only two major Shakespearean characters who is specifically described by the playwright as black, should be played by a black actor.

But that is what happend. And it represents how we learned, and how we progress. Sanitization provides no opportunity for learning–only indoctrination. 

Today’s Key Point: Sanitized history is a lie. And lies can never lead to where we need to be as individuals, a community or a nation. 

We all have the personal responsibility to be personally and effectively involved. And to stay involved, to continue being effective. Personally dedicated to what is good for America as a nation long term. Speaking of personal responsibility, this principle does not stand alone; the two main and interdependent principles at Revolution 2.0 are:

1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything. You can start by subscribing to these episodes, and encouraging others to subscribe with you.

As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:1.


As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you listen to podcasts.

This is Will Luden. We’ll talk again in a few days.

Will Luden
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2 Responses

  1. Bob Newell Reply

    What you have articulated so well is powerful and true. One of our problems in the current culture is the definition of truth. Apparently some believe there is no such thing as objective truth. Others use the strange phrase my truth. I think your point is that the truth is both knowable and important to know. I could not agree with you more and am reminded of what Jesus said “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
    I also appreciated your comment about being flawed. I can certainly relate to that in my own life. I am deeply flawed and constantly saying the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner”

    Thanks for what you’re doing so well you are voice of reason in a sea of lies and chaos. Your brother Bob

  2. Thom Meeks, RVA Reply

    The DVD Guides Leonard Maltin and Martin & Porter, available only in used copies, sadly, gave excellent ratings for Olivier’s film. And how sad that ‘snowflake’ is necessary descriptor these.

    Still, I saw a youtube clip of Olivier’s performance. Great actor but I was underwhelmed. Same for Orson Welles’ 1952 film. I’m thinking, what are these guys doing in blackface. Then I saw a clip of Verdi’s Otello (1986) w Placido Domingo. Bingo. And thank goodness for Netflix.


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