Steven Spielberg’s epic drama about a true 1839 slave ship rebellion and the resulting Supreme Court case takes a lot of liberties with the facts—mainly to create white heroes. In the movie, John Quincy Adams (played by Anthony Hopkins) argues for the African refugees’ freedom. He did that in real life, too, but his antislavery stances were more wishy-washy than the film would suggest. The movie also left out the part when 3,000 white people paid 12 cents to stare at the Africans while they were in jail awaiting the trial that would decide their fate. Here are more presidential “facts” that just aren’t true.
Disney’s 1995 animated feature sets itself up as a story about the life of the Native American woman Amonute, nicknamed Pocahontas (which means “mischievous” or “playful.”), who supposedly brokered peace between the Powhatan tribe and English colonizers in the early 17th century. While Captain John Smith himself did spread the story that the chief’s daughter saved his life, historians still debate whether throwing herself over the captured Smith actually was an act of mercy or just part of a traditional adoption ceremony ritual that Smith didn’t understand. Regardless, he and the then-12-year-old Pocahontas weren’t romantically involved—she was captured and married John Rolfe about seven years later. Oh, and despite the movie’s friendly overtones, 90 percent of the native population died of disease and genocide, thanks to the European settlers. Not exactly Disney material.