I don’t like Abraham Lincoln. Working in Springfield, Illinois, that’s not an especially popular viewpoint to hold. Yet it is working in Springfield, Illinois, that has really led me to that conclusion. It’s almost impossible to escape the shadow of Honest Abe here. Bronze statues sit prominently in downtown; all sorts of programs and buildings at my university bear Lincoln’s name. His face even peers out from every license plate in the state. It’s a historical cult of personality that can feel alienating to a revolutionary specialist.
Happy Mother’s Day! Go call your Mom, then come back and take a look at our weekly round-up.
First, in honor of the holiday, one above-the-fold link: Heather Cox Richardson, writing at the Historical Society blog, looks at the origins of Mother’s Day. Hint: it’s not about “people be[ing] nice to their mothers.”
We begin this week with topography and geography, both literal and figurative. Continue reading
First, we have two fascinating filmed conversations. At the Graduate Center at CUNY, James Oakes talks to Sean Wilentz about his new book, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865. And at the New-York Historical Society, Harold Holzer speaks with Tony Kushner on the subject of Lincoln (and, of course, Lincoln).
Next, we take a look into slavery at Jefferson’s university. In an article in University of Virginia Magazine and a blogpost for Encyclopedia Virginia, Brendan Wolfe contextualizes a recent archaeological discovery.
In the Washington Post, meanwhile, J. Freedom du Lac reports on Colonial Williamsburg’s difficulty recruiting slave interpreters. And how did 19th-century African American portray their own emancipations? Good interviews Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer about their photographic history.
Good morning, and welcome to another edition of The Week in Early American History. Lots going on this week, so let’s get straight to the links.
The final episode of The Abolitionists aired this week on PBS. The entire three-hour documentary is now available online here (Part 3 begins at the 1:40 mark). A full transcript is also available. Kenneth Owen and Jonathan Wilson previously discussed the first two episodes for The Junto. Today, we discuss the final hour.
We’ve been fairly hard on The Abolitionists thus far, so I’m happy to say I thought the final chapter of the film is the strongest, both historiographically and dramatically. This episode reflects recent scholarship on slave rebellions, and on John Brown in particular, by meditating in a fairly sophisticated way on the uses and languages of violence.
As has been widely reported, on Monday President Obama swore on a stack of bibles to uphold the Constitution. On one hand, maybe doubling-up on the sacred iconography will reassure those on the right who doubt the President’s sincerity, but the primary purpose was to honor two periods of American history simultaneously. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and the bibles were direct material links to those eras: one was the bible on which Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, and the other belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
United in this one event, they are very different books. The Lincoln bible has, for all intents and purposes, never been used. Continue reading
Happy New Year! We took last week off while so many of us were in New Orleans for AHA, so the set of links covers just a bit more than the past seven days. From here on we should be back to our regular schedule every Sunday morning.
We can’t let 2013 begin without marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which Abraham Lincoln issued on January 1, 1863.
Harold Holzer describes the anxiety many Americans felt on that day as they waited for confirmation of the act. Allen Guelzo weighs Lincoln’s legal options. Annette Gordon-Reed discusses the document’s significance. Eric Foner discusses what it did–and did not do. Continue reading