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Abraham Lincoln

  • Originally published 02/13/2018

    Abraham Lincoln's Secret Visits to Slaves

    William R. Black

    In the mid-1930s, the Federal Writers’ Project interviewed thousands of former slaves, some of whom claimed the president came to their plantations disguised as a beggar or a peddler, telling them they’d soon be free.

  • Originally published 05/22/2017

    What Lincoln Thought of “America First”

    Sidney Blumenthal

    Though he never traveled outside the US, Lincoln embraced an international perspective, celebrating the spread of freedom in Europe. 

  • Originally published 04/15/2015

    What makes Abraham Lincoln such a radical politician even today?

    David Bromwich

    It is sometimes said that Lincoln was dragged into the war by circumstances beyond his control. The truth is that he was aware of the imminence of war between his 1858 House Divided speech and the attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in April 1861.

  • Originally published 04/15/2015

    Cutting through the Lincoln myth

    Walter Kamphoefner

    One measure of Abraham Lincoln's towering stature, sevenscore and ten years after his death, is the way people of various ideological stripes attempt to harness Lincoln's words in support of their own positions.

  • Originally published 03/31/2015

    The Lincoln Assassination Conspiracies

    Ray Cavanaugh

    Many are acquainted with at least one good JFK assassination conspiracy, but fewer are aware of the alleged plots involving the Lincoln assassination. His murder, which took place 150 years ago this Apr. 14, prompted a number of very different conspiracy theories.

  • Originally published 03/02/2015

    How Abraham Lincoln said that black lives matter

    Martha Hodes

    As we approach the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Lincoln, we would do well to reconsider his most famous imperative: “with malice toward none; with charity for all.”

  • Originally published 04/11/2014

    Speakeasy Dollhouse

    Bruce Chadwick

    Drinking with the Booth Brothers at the Start of Prohibition: Why did John Wilkes Really Shoot Abraham Lincoln?

  • Originally published 02/17/2014

    What Would Lincoln Do?

    Richard Brookhiser

    Modern-day leaders could learn a lot from our 16th president.

  • Originally published 09/29/2013

    The State of Maryland vs. Abraham Lincoln

    David O. Stewart

    Marylanders tried to kill Lincoln in 1861, Marylander John Wilkes Booth actually killed Lincoln in 1865, and Maryland's state song STILL condemns Lincoln as a tyrant.

  • Originally published 09/24/2013

    I found real Abraham Lincoln!

    ‘Armchair historian’ disputes 2007 claim, says he’s found the actual 16th President in famed Gettysburg Address photo

  • Originally published 09/24/2013

    Memento Mori

    Lewis H. Lapham

    The death of American Exceptionalism -- and of me.

  • Originally published 08/23/2013

    Andrew Delbanco: Lincoln's Long Game

    At the time of his first inauguration, it was widely noted that President Obama was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. Those who thrilled at the election of our first black president thought his decision to swear his oath on the same Bible Lincoln had used was fitting and proper. Those who distrusted him found it excessive and vain.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Joan Walsh: Rand Paul Completely Mangles Lincoln

    Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."...[W]hen Paul took on [his social media director Jack] Hunter’s hateful writing about Abraham Lincoln [in an interview with the Huffington Post], including the odious essay “John Wilkes Booth was right,” defending Lincoln’s assassination, that he gave us a picture of his troubling views of Lincoln, which display the toned-down influence of neo-confederates.  He starts off well enough. “I’m not a fan of secession,” Paul told Fineman. “I think the things he said about John Wilkes Booth are absolutely stupid. I think Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents.”But then Paul presents a view of Lincoln that’s actually only a few degrees removed from the neo-confederate revisionist history of our 16th president as a tyrannical hypocrite who was also a racist. Here’s what he said:

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    David T. Z. Mindich: Lincoln’s Surveillance State

    David T. Z. Mindich, a professor of media studies, journalism and digital arts at Saint Michael’s College, is the author of “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News.”COLCHESTER, Vt. — BY leaking details of the National Security Agency’s data-mining program, Edward J. Snowden revealed that the government’s surveillance efforts were far more extensive than previously understood. Many commentators have deemed the government’s activities alarming and unprecedented. The N.S.A.’s program is indeed alarming — but not, from a historical perspective, unprecedented. And history suggests that we should worry less about the surveillance itself and more about when the war in whose name the surveillance is being conducted will end.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Lincoln mastered wisdom of unsent letter after Gettysburg

    Abraham Lincoln, remembered 150 years after a “decisive” battle of the U.S. Civil War, could have excelled in modern-day Washington politics, one of the pre-eminent scholars on the American president says.“He would be tech savvy, he would lose the beard, he would have some cosmetic surgery, he would make an asset of his height,” historian Harold Holzer said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “He was so smart about working with the press, getting the press to work in his behalf, giving out exclusives, and he would have mastered any medium.”As one measure of Lincoln’s political prowess, Holzer recited an often-told tale of Lincoln thinking twice before dispatching a letter upbraiding his general who defeated the enemy at the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point for the Northern victory in the Civil War. It was a precursor to the dilemma of hitting the send button on a regrettable e-mail....

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Would We Have the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments If Lincoln Had Lived? Maybe Not.

    Alan J. Singer

    Credit: Wiki Commons.In recent weeks I have conducted a series of workshops with middle school and high school social studies and English teachers grappling with incorporating new Common Core literacy standards in their classrooms. Two things I have repeatedly stressed are the importance of understanding historical context before students can successfully interpret primary source documents and the role of the historian in providing a critical analysis of text and exploring multiple interpretations or perspectives on historical events.

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    Gilder Lehrman and Dickinson College Partner for Lincoln Online Course

    David Austin Walsh

    Abraham Lincoln in 1865.With all the digital ink spilt over massive open online courses recently, it's easy to forget that while all MOOCs are online courses, not all online courses are MOOCs.Take “Understanding Lincoln,” a new online course co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute Dickinson College. The course, led by Lincoln scholar Matthew Pinsker, will offer a hybrid approach – a smaller seminar section with a hundred-student enrollment cap, direct access to Professor Pinkser and Gilder Lehrman staff, and the opportunity to interact with other students in digital forums.For-credit students will pay $450 and receive three graduate credits at Dickinson, which can be used as transfer credit at other institutions.For those interested in enrichment, a free section featuring lectures and readings will also be available, along with a certificate of completion for those who finish the course.

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Rich Lowry: Lincoln Defended

    Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. Parts of this essay are drawn from his new book Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream — and How We Can Do It Again, coming out this month from Broadside Books.Decades ago, the distinguished Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald coined the phrase “getting right with Lincoln” to describe the impulse people feel to appropriate Lincoln for their own political agendas. Anyone who has watched Barack Obama, who as a senator wrote an essay for Time magazine entitled “What I See in Lincoln’s Eyes” and swore the oath of office as president on Lincoln’s Bible, will be familiar with the phenomenon. Democrats like to claim Lincoln as, in effect, the first Big Government liberal, while Republicans tout him as the founder of their party.But the reflex identified by Donald isn’t universally felt. A portion of the Right has always hated Old Abe. It blames him for wielding dictatorial powers in an unnecessary war against the Confederacy and creating the predicate for the modern welfare state, among sundry other offenses against the constitutional order and liberty.

  • Originally published 05/15/2013

    America's First Political Dirty Trick

    Harold Holzer

    Credit: Smithsonian.Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer and the New-York Historical Society. Copyright © 2013 by the New-York Historical Society.

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    Heather Cox Richardson: How Republicans Once Championed the Federal Income Tax

    Heather Cox Richardson is a professor of history at Boston College and the president of the Historical Society. The opinions expressed are her ownThe government has the right to “demand” 99 percent of a man’s property when the nation needs it.That was the argument made by a Republican congressman in 1862 to introduce a novel idea: the federal income tax.The Civil War was then costing the Treasury $2 million a day. To pay for uniforms, guns, food, mules, wagons, bounties and burials, Congress had issued hundreds of millions of dollars of bonds and paper money. But Republicans had a horror of debt and the runaway inflation that paper currency usually caused.Taxes were the obvious answer. A conservative Republican newspaper declared: “There is not the slightest objection raised in any loyal quarter to as much taxation as may be necessary.”...

  • Originally published 04/03/2013

    Understanding Lincoln: An interview with historian Allen Guelzo

    Allen Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, where he serves as director of the Civil War Era Studies Program. He is the author of numerous books, including Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America and Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Guelzo spoke with Tom Mackaman of the World Socialist Web Site in his office at Gettysburg College on a Saturday morning in March. A large academic conference was being held that weekend at the college entitled “The Future of Civil War History.” Gettysburg, in southeastern Pennsylvania, was the location of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, and the city’s college is now one of the leading centers in the study of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.Tom Mackaman: How did you come about your interest in Lincoln and the Civil War?

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Jennifer L. Weber: Was Lincoln a Tyrant?

    Jennifer L. Weber is an associate professor at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Copperheads, about antiwar Democrats during the Civil War, and Summer’s Bloodiest Days, a children’s book about the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath. She is currently working on a book about conscription during the Civil War.When Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861, the executive branch was small and relatively limited in its power. By the time of his assassination, he had claimed more prerogatives than any president before him, and the executive branch had grown enormously.Lincoln’s critics witnessed his expanding power with alarm. They accused him of becoming a tyrant and warned that his assertions of authority under the guise of “commander in chief” threatened the viability of a constitutional democracy.Lincoln ignored his foes and kept moving. And, despite lingering discomfort with some of his actions – particularly around the issue of civil liberties – history has largely vindicated him. Why?

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Abraham Lincoln: President, Emancipator, Corporate Pitchman

    For almost a century, Lincoln Motor Company paid homage to our 16th president in name only – hoping the mere mention of the man who saved the Union and abolished slavery would somehow cast an aura of prestige and integrity over their product and resonate with potential car buyers.In December, however, the automaker began using Lincoln’s likeness in its advertising for the first time. The motor company says the move was not tied to the release of Steven Spielberg’s epic film Lincoln – even though parts of the ad for the new MKZ, in which the president’s likeness emerges dramatically from layers of fog, look as if they could’ve been pulled from the cutting room floor.Instead, the automaker told The New York Times, it’s trying to connect its vehicles to Lincoln’s “fortitude and elegant thinking” — and that the timing with the film’s release was just good luck....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Digital project focuses on Lincoln-based sermons

    A group of graduate students at Emory University specializing in digital research in the humanities have created a new website that uses digital tools to analyze and compare the text of sermons delivered after Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Their project uses various digital text tools to map geographic and thematic patterns in the collection of 57 sermons, which reside in the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library of Emory's Robert W. Woodruff Library. The scholars are calling their project "Lincoln Logarithms: Finding Meaning in Sermons" and they hope it will become a model for the next wave of research in the humanities. "The [Lincoln] sermons are something we honed in on because we think the analysis we did could be helpful to a lot of researchers," says Sarita Alami, one of three graduate fellows in the library's Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC).    "Nothing exists like this right now," says Alami of the online guide. "The sermons are a game piece for creating a guide for people who are interested in doing digital projects and don't know what tool to use or where to turn. We created an online map so that researchers can know what to try." ...

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Robert Elder: Remembering Lincoln

    Robert Elder is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts at Valparaiso University.

  • Originally published 02/28/2013

    Lincoln’s chiropodist gets star treatment at London’s Highgate Cemetery

    LONDON — He may just be a footnote to history, but Dr. Isachar Zacharie is having a posthumous mini-moment, thanks to the Hollywood-sparked surge of interest in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.Zacharie was buried in London’s famed Highgate Cemetery in 1900, but he is only being added to the cemetery guide Friday, joining such notables as communist philosopher Karl Marx, novelist George Eliot and punk pioneer Malcolm McLaren as a likely draw for visitors to the north London landmark.Zacharie’s claim to fame? He was Lincoln’s foot doctor. And a good one at that, if the president’s signed endorsement can be taken at face value....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Lincoln statue at Gettysburg set for April installation

    The long-awaited Abraham Lincoln statue will finally be installed in Gettysburg in April. Rob Lesher, executive drector of the Adams County Library System, announced Tuesday that plans are now firmly in place for the statue's installation. "It will be a very attractive gift to the borough and should be a compelling driver for tourists to visit downtown," Lesher said at a Gettysburg Public Works Committee meeting. The 7-foot-6-inch-tall statue will be placed on the steps of the library on Baltimore Street, but it won't be the only Lincoln statue in downtown Gettysburg. Another statue two blocks away on Lincoln Square also depicts the 16th president, holding his hat and gesturing toward the Wills House where he put the finishing touches on the Gettysburg Address....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Lincoln relic or just an old hat?

    ...In the wake of Dave McKinney’s stories in the Sun-Times, it has been joy to watch the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield shimmy, trying to escape the obvious conclusion: that no real evidence links the top hat they claim was worn by Lincoln to the 16th president.Yes, it is his size, and yes, it comes from the Springfield hat shop that Lincoln patronized. But to accept that as proof of anything is to believe that every 7 1/8 hat sold in Springfield back then must have belonged to Lincoln. That’s like saying that every sandal from Roman times was worn by Jesus.The library claimed, at first, the hat was given to an Illinois farmer, William Waller, during one of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates. This ran into a problem when the Sun-Times pointed out a 1958 affidavit that the hat was given to Waller “during the Civil War in Washington.” Now they had two stories, a conflict, like the three churches that each claimed to own a head of John the Baptist....

  • Originally published 02/26/2013

    Manisha Sinha: Lincoln Again

    Manisha Sinha is a professor of Afro-American studies and history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of “The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina” and the forthcoming “The Slave’s Cause: Abolition and the Origins of America’s Interracial Democracy.”The “Lincoln industry,” through which Abraham Lincoln has become the most-written about American, used to be confined to historians and other writers. But between the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 2009 and the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation in 2013, a period during which the nation’s first black President continuously paid homage to the sixteenth President, Lincoln has come to reign unchallenged in popular culture too, nowhere more so than in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln,  which was considered by many an Oscar favorite. Perhaps historical criticism has proven to be a kiss of death for the film’s chances.

  • Originally published 02/21/2013

    Lincoln artifacts appraisal released

    Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball. A guitar once owned by Eric Clapton. A model of the Starship Enterprise.These are among the items that an appraiser used in 2007 to establish the value of a collection of Lincoln documents and artifacts held by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.Appraiser Seth Kaller accepted the asking price of $23 million as the fair-market value of the collection sold by Louise Taper, a California collector, to the museum's private fundraising foundation, which is now raising money to retire the debt.Kaller, who owns a business that acquires historic artifacts in New York state, wrote in his appraisal that he accepted the museum's claim that the items are authentic and that his assignment did not include authentication....

  • Originally published 02/19/2013

    Curious Case of Lincoln Birthplace

    Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin near present-day Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809; and the curious case of his well-traveled birthplace cabin is a historical labyrinth of veneration, profit seeking, confused identity, and cross-pollination with historic relics from the Confederate States of America. Could it be that those Lincoln Logs you played with as a child were really Jeff Davis logs?...

  • Originally published 02/16/2013

    3 new Lincoln movies

     Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg’s frequent collaborator, snags himself a seat on Mr. Spielberg’s bandwagon on Sunday when he turns up as the narrator of “Killing Lincoln,” a docudrama on the National Geographic Channel. If Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” achieves greatness largely through the detailed performances of Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and others, “Killing Lincoln” also has details to recommend it — historical details, the kind of tidbits that (along with Mr. Hanks’s assured narration) can hold your attention, even though the tale is familiar. “Killing Lincoln,” based on the book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, puts its focus just where the title suggests: on the final days of Lincoln’s life and the pursuit of those behind the assassination. And yes, for anyone who can’t get enough of the 16th president, on Sunday it will be possible to arrange a Lincoln trifecta, seeing “Lincoln,” Salvador Litvak’s new film; “Saving Lincoln” (about the president’s bodyguard); and “Killing Lincoln” in a single day. Happy belated birthday, Abe.

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Alex Seitz-Wald: Would Lincoln Use Drones?

    Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter.With the nation deep in the throes of Hollywood-induced Lincoln-philia, Washington Examiner editor Mark Tapscott asked Friday what the revered president might do about one of the thorniest political questions of 2013: “Would Lincoln have droned Robert E. Lee?” His answer — an imagined conversation between Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that has the 16th president remarking “OMG” and “sheesh” — is dumb, but the question and answer are more interesting that Tapscott gives them credit.Lincoln is rightly held up as the paragon of the American presidency, so it makes sense that people would ask how he would handle a tough moral question like the use of unmanned killer drones, which has compelling arguments both for and against. WWLD? We consulted experts and the historical record to find out. The answer may surprise you.

  • Originally published 02/12/2013

    Rep. Joe Courtney gets lesson in Oscar politics in debate over ‘Lincoln’ accuracy

    Rep. Joe Courtney says he had no idea he was wading into controversy when he questioned the accuracy of a key scene in “Lincoln.”After all, he knows Washington politics, not Hollywood politics.Last week, the Connecticut Democrat called on Steven Spielberg to “correct an historical inaccuracy” in the Oscar-nominated box-office hit — a scene, at the film’s climax, suggesting that two of his state’s three representatives voted against outlawing slavery in 1865.

  • Originally published 02/12/2013

    Jon Wiener: Lincoln's Birthday Special: Management Advice from Honest Abe

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.Thanks to Steven Spielberg and his film Lincoln, we’ve been hit by a new wave of management wisdom supposedly gleaned from the film’s central character.  Business Week ran a piece titled “Career Lessons from Spielberg’s Lincoln”; the New York Times called theirs “Lincoln’s School of Management.”  Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose book on Lincoln and his cabinet, Team of Rivals, famously provided the basis for some of the movie, has been back on the “leadership advice” circuit.......[But] there are some key moments in Lincoln’s life that the management advice people have neglected.  One came in his Second Inaugural, when he declared that, if the Civil War continued “until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword”—if that happened, he said, he would conclude that "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." 

  • Originally published 02/11/2013

    The 10 Best Lincoln Moments in Film History

    Thomas Doherty

    "Lincoln does not have the phallus; he is the phallus," proclaimed the editors of Cahiers du Cinéma in 1970, in a group-written polemic on the ideological superstructure of Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), John Ford's moody paean to the salad days of the Great Emancipator. The piece is a doozy of a performance, a high-wire act exemplifying the airy delights of the high renaissance of French-accented film theory. Alternately enlightening and maddening, the essay ends on a declaration that few Americans could ever abide: that in Ford's film, Lincoln emerges finally as a figure of “monstrous dimensions.” A monster? Not Abe, never Abe -- he is our guardian angel, secular saint, and -- virtually since the birth of American cinema -- celluloid hero.

  • Originally published 02/11/2013

    Richard White: Americans Didn’t Always Yearn for Riches

    Richard White, Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University, is author, most recently, of Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America.Speaking in New Haven in 1860, Abraham Lincoln told an audience, “I am not ashamed to confess that 25 years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat-boat—just what might happen to any poor man’s son.” After his death, Lincoln’s personal trajectory from log cabin to White House emerged as the ideal American symbol. Anything was possible for those who strived.

  • Originally published 02/10/2013

    60 Minutes does Lincoln movie

    The team behind the 12-time Oscar-nominated film "Lincoln" talks about how they brought the president and his world to life. Lesley Stahl reports.

  • Originally published 02/05/2013

    Emancipation Proclamation Sesquicentennial Events Offer a Window into Current Historiography Debate

    Vanessa Varin is Assistant Editor, Web and Social Media at the American Historical Association.January 1, 2013, marked the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the general historical consensus is that slavery was at the root of the conflict, questions about the role of the proclamation in defining the Civil War and 19th century race relations continue to dominate the field. In the past few weeks, Washington, D.C., has hosted two events on the topic: A panel discussion at the National Archives (NARA), chaired by Annette Gordon-Reed and featuring James Oakes, Eric Foner, James McPherson, and Ed Ayers, and a more intimate lecture led by Foner at the Wilson Center and sponsored by the National History Center. The well-attended events were an opportunity to promote this history to the public, and a window into the current state of the debate over how we should understand the document and its centrality to the Civil War.  

  • Originally published 02/03/2013

    Lincoln museum exhibits iconic stovepipe hat amid unanswered questions of origin

    The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is re-displaying a stovepipe hat synonymous with the country’s 16th president, amid renewed speculation about its authenticity.The purported $6.5 million hat is being put on display to mark Lincoln’s 204th birthday.Questions about the origin of the iconic hat were raised last spring by the Chicago Sun-Times.The description next to the hat reads that only three of the stovepipe hats are known to exist "two silk ones from his last days of life, and this."...

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Nancy F. Koehn: Lincoln’s School of Management

    Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration.The legacy of Abraham Lincoln hangs over every American president. To free a people, to preserve the Union, “to bind up the nation’s wounds”: Lincoln’s presidency, at a moment of great moral passion in the country’s history, is a study in high-caliber leadership.In this season of all things Lincoln — when Steven Spielberg is probably counting his Oscars already — executives, entrepreneurs and other business types might consider dusting off their history books and taking a close look at what might be called the Lincoln school of management.Even before “Lincoln” the movie came along, there was a certain cult of leadership surrounding the 16th president. C.E.O.'s and lesser business lights have long sought inspiration from his life and work. But today, as President Obama embarks on a new term and business leaders struggle to keep pace with a rapidly changing global economy, the lessons of Lincoln seem as fresh as ever. They demonstrate the importance of resilience, forbearance, emotional intelligence, thoughtful listening and the consideration of all sides of an argument. They also show the value of staying true to a larger mission....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Stephen Prothero: Obama Delivers Lincoln's Third Inaugural

    Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.Equality. That's what today's inauguration was about. And we have Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to thank for it.President Obama took his oath of office on two Bibles: one used by Lincoln during his 1861 inauguration, the other the “traveling Bible” of Dr. King. And during his second inaugural address, Obama read U.S. history through the words and actions of these two men.In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln turned to Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence to argue that the United States was “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In his "I Have a Dream" speech, King argued that our national commitment to equality demanded that we emancipate ourselves from segregation as well as slavery.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Douglas L. Wilson: The Power of the Negative

    Mr. Wilson is co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College and author of "Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words." This essay is adapted from an article scheduled to appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.Now that Steven Spielberg's new film, "Lincoln," has sparked extraordinary interest in Abraham Lincoln as a behind-the-scenes persuader, it may be a good time to take a look at an aspect of his most persuasive writing. In virtually all the most memorable passages of Lincoln's writings, there is a feature that plays a critical role—namely, the rhetorical use of the negative. This is not to say that Lincoln was a naysayer or negative thinker, but rather that he demonstrated an acute understanding of the power of negation in language and was unusually adept at putting that force to use.Philosopher and literary critic Kenneth Burke argues that the negative is intimately connected to our sense of morality, if not actually responsible for it. Law, ethics and religion, he contends, are all built around the "thou-shalt-nots." This is one way of accounting for the power that the negative has in language and human affairs.

  • Originally published 12/25/2012

    Jon Wiener: 'Django Unchained' ... Quentin Tarantino’s Answer to Spielberg’s 'Lincoln'

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.Two films about American slavery in the Civil War era are currently playing in theaters.Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln begins with a black soldier reciting the Gettysburg Address.Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained begins with a black slave being recruited to kill two white murderers.In Spielberg’s film, the leading black female character is a humble seamstress in the White House whose eyes fill with tears of gratitude when Congress votes to abolish slavery.In Tarantino’s film, the leading black female character (Kerry Washington) is a defiant slave who has been branded on the face as a punishment for running away, and is forced—by Leonardo di Caprio—to work as a prostitute.In Spielberg’s film, all the black people are good.Tarantino’s film features “the biggest, nastiest ‘Uncle Tom’ ever”—played by Samuel Jackson—who is insanely loyal to his evil white master, and savage in his treatment of fellow slaves.In Spielberg’s film, old white men make history, and black people thank them for giving them their freedom.In Tarantino’s, a black gunslinger goes after the white slavemaster with homicidal vengeance....Related Links

  • Originally published 10/31/2017

    The Behavioral Science of Political Deception in the 2016 Election

    Intentional Insights

    How did Donald Trump win, when he used so many misleading statements and outright deceptions? Couldn’t people see through them? As an expert in brain science, I want to share why his followers fell for his lies and what can be done to address this situation in the future.

  • Originally published 07/27/2014

    The New Instability

    Stephanie Coontz

    OVER the past 40 years, the geography of family life has been destabilized by two powerful forces pulling in opposite directions and occasionally scraping against each other, much like tectonic plates. One is the striking progress toward equality between men and women. The other is the equally striking growth of socioeconomic inequality and insecurity.

  • Originally published 07/09/2014

    Israel and Due Process

    Liberty and Power

    The murders of the Israeli teens were atrocities, of course, but they can in no way justify, retroactively or prospectively, the systematic violence perpetrated against Palestinians that the state of Israel constitutes at its core.

  • Originally published 06/27/2014

    Surowiecki on Intellectual Piracy 

    James Surowiecki had an excellent article in the June 9 issue of the New Yorker about countries committing intellectual piracy. It includes a nice summary of how "stealing" patented ideas played a major role in the early economic development of the United States. In the process, it surveys some of the considerable historical evidence debunking the widespread myth that intellectual property is necessary for, or even makes a contribution to, economic growth.

  • Originally published 06/20/2014

    Abraham Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment

    Liberty and Power

    Most serious historical overviews of the Civil War contain at least a brief mention of the Corwin Amendment, the last-ditch compromise effort to protect slavery where it existed by enshrining it in the Constitution. They also do so tepidly and seldom acknowledge it as anything more than a historical footnote.