Sterling K. Brown became involved with the CNN Original Series “Lincoln: Divided We Stand,” in part, to learn more about the man who served as America’s 16th president.
“I was just trying to get more information. He’s always been a fascinating character to me,” he told CNN. “He’s probably more quoted than any other president by other presidents.”
The “This Is Us” star narrates the six-part series, which “takes a holistic approach to the remarkable and unexpected story of Abraham Lincoln by delving into his complicated inner world, seamlessly interweaving his tragic personal life with his history making political career.”
Brown said he discovered that Lincoln’s position against slavery was more “nuanced” than he realized.
“He wasn’t always a strict abolitionist,” the actor said. “The most fascinating thing is that he was very much into the idea that once Blacks in America were free, that there should be some sort of colonization plan to get them to a land where they could be safe and not be in competition with their White counterparts for labor. So while his heart was in the right place, he still did not believe in the peaceful coexistence of Black and Whites.”
Brown has also signed on to be part of “Amend: The Fight for America,” a Netflix docuseries hosted by Will Smith about the 14th Amendment’s promise of “liberty and equal protection for all persons.”
Brown said his heart breaks over America’s ongoing struggles with racism and inequality, even as he has been moved by the global support for Black Lives Matter.
“I see sort of a global recognition of like, this is something that is untenable. This is something that your country should be embarrassed by the same way in the ’60s, with the civil rights movement, you were embarrassed,” he said. “The same way with Lincoln, when other countries like Spain, France and Great Britain had already abolished slavery and we were still continuing with the institution. It’s like, well, how much embarrassment do you need to [feel] to catch up with the rest of society given that you espouse to be the greatest land in the world?”
He has also been deeply touched by his work with Survivorship Today, which highlights the stories of cancer survivors.
It’s a personal project for Brown, who lost a beloved uncle to cancer in 2004. He said he draws strength from the interviews he conducts with the survivors.
They are the people, he said, that remind him to be grateful when he “whines about whatever sort of BS is transpiring in my life.”
“I get a chance to talk to people who are really struggling to find what their new normal is and to forge a path for themselves, recognizing that what their life once was, is no longer,” he said. “And that their lives can be something of value and it can be something that is fruitful and of use, but it is going to be fundamentally different than what it was before.”