The Good Lord Bird is a timely reminder that Americans aren’t usually fans of progress



At a time when American politicians and media personalities speak glibly of patriotism and freedom, it’s easy to forget that very few people who dedicated themselves to advancing those causes have ever been particularly popular — at least before they’re dead. “Most folks never heard of John Brown,” The Good Lord Bird’s opening narration begins, introducing us to one such unpopular subject. “If they have, they know he was hung for being a traitor, stirring up all kinds of trouble, and starting the Civil War.” The new Showtime series, based on the James McBride novel of the same name, wants to fill in some of those gaps. Every episode begins the same, with these words on-screen: All of this is true. Most of it happened.

Much like the…

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