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The Butler (2013): Complete Movie Guide with Historical References

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Grade 9, 10, 11, 12





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About This Product

Forest Whitaker stars as Cecil Gaines, a fictional character inspired by Eugene Allen. Cecil grows up in the racially segregated South and witnesses his father's murder by a white plantation owner. He later finds work as a domestic servant in a hotel, where he hones his skills as a butler. Cecil's exceptional work ethic and dedication catch the attention of a White House representative, who offers him a job as a butler in the White House. Cecil accepts the position, and over the years, he becomes a trusted and respected member of the White House staff, serving various presidents.

As Cecil carries out his duties, the film depicts the tumultuous events and social changes taking place in America. From the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War to the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cecil observes and is indirectly affected by the shifting political and social landscape. "The Butler" also delves into Cecil's personal life, particularly his relationship with his wife, Gloria, played by Oprah Winfrey, and their two sons. Cecil's dedication to his work often comes at the cost of his relationships, causing strain within his family. Throughout the film, Cecil struggles with his role as a passive observer to the racial inequality and injustice surrounding him. As the civil rights movement gains momentum, his eldest son, Louis, played by David Oyelowo, becomes an activist, causing tension and ideological clashes between them. "The Butler" combines fictional elements with historical events, featuring an ensemble cast that includes notable actors portraying various U.S. presidents, such as Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan.

The film aims to highlight the experiences of African-Americans during a transformative period in American history, emphasizing the personal journey of Cecil Gaines and the impact of his service in the White House. It touches on themes of race, identity, family, and the struggle for civil rights. "The Butler" serves as a poignant exploration of the African-American experience through the eyes of a butler who witnesses firsthand the complexities of power, politics, and social change in America.

These 25 teacher-generated questions are designed to help students focus in on key information during this powerful movie. I have also included 4 historical reference points (short excerpts to help give students a historical reference point for the parts of the movie). Ready to print and use! Comes with a completed answer key!

The movie is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Resource Tags

The Butler Movie Guide History US History Video Guide the butler movie guide questions

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