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tv   The Presidency Abraham Lincolns Legend  CSPAN  April 21, 2021 6:23am-7:24am EDT

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a certain kind of
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fatalism, i guess about how one's vocation arrives but in my case i was a resisted the lincoln world for until my 30s and then was asked by my father to serve as a research assistant with him on a book. he was writing on the gettysburg address. and i got hooked. he i began to read i i essentially did research on three of his chapters and read began reading widely in the critical literature and began to realize this was a subject of great interest me as well. in 1991. i had the opportunity to join my father now it recently in retirement and my brother peter
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who was an abc television producer and the three of us founded our own company to write and produce films and books on historical subjects related to this immense collection of photographs that come down to us in our family from my great-grandfather, frederick hill, missouri. i grew up knowing the old man. he lived to the ripe old age of 97. he was born the year lincoln died. so through that one man. i felt as a as a young man myself that i could reach back and almost touch the era of abraham lincoln it never seemed that far away to me. so as far distant to me as it seems to too many other people. today who think of that as ancient history, especially students that i teach to get them to get excited about the 19th century takes a little bit of work. eventually they do but it seems so ancient to them the era
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before moving picture in particular. though i have to say and i'm going to be kind of freeform today in my talk with you. i have to say that one of the the greatest compliments i received after producing lincoln in 1992 for abc was a person who came up to me and said had no idea. that film footage existed of abraham lincoln. i said what are you talking about? i said yeah, i saw it and you're in your movie. and i said no. no, this is all just using still photographs and you must have been responding to the moves of the camera across the photographs that bring a life like quality to them and they were astounded they stopped and i mean it was kind of odd that they they had this false impression, but i found it. i found it a compliment. let me tell you a little bit about here. why another lincoln book in the year 2019?
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of course the great bicentennial year of abraham lincoln's birth. so many of us who like and care about this great person have wanted to do new work on his life. somebody i estimated that in this bicentennial year. there will be at least at least a book a new book every week at least 52 new published books in the year 2009 and more in the works. eric foner recently told me he's waiting for later to publish his own large book on lincoln. he says i'm waiting for the rest of you to kill each other off. and then i'll move in. but you know how lincoln has been written about by so many people over the years so many giant minds and historians that what possibly new is there to be said about him. and of course when i began contemplating my new project, i didn't want to i decided right off that i wasn't going to do
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another biography. that's for sure. but what what new way was there into the subject? and there are several. i'm trying to reconstruct how i came to the the narrative framework for looking for lincoln. i think it came in in a variety of ways. for one in my 1992 book that i co-authored with my dad. we had ended that biography and that was a traditional biography following the years 1809 to 1865. it had a little twist in that it began in midstream it began with the with link abraham lincoln into washington and disease following his 1860 election to arrive amidst threats for his inauguration. and then it flashed back to the years of his upbringing. but it was a essentially a traditional biography richly illustrated. but at the end of it we had we
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had added something. we called the aftermath. and it was a little tantalizing look into the future how the lincoln we have come to know came to be. because historical reputations just don't come out of nowhere. they rest on the labors of many individuals who who care for that memory and preserve it and and contest it and argue it and lead it forward. and so we gave a little taste of that and i think i remembered a conversation with my dad many years ago where i said to him, you know that little aftermath you could expand that into an entire book. and so that little that conversation was in the back of my mind. i was also very lucky that my brother and i inherited from our great-grandfather and his daughter an immense library of lincoln materials, and these have been largely unused a lot of them had been in boxes for some 50 years molding and some
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boxes and we for the first time with this project decided to get them all out put them on stacks in shelves. and catalog them and make them available in digital catalogs for our own research purposes the amounted to 5,000 volumes. they came as i say many of them had not been opened since my great-grandfather was working with them. they had slips of his paper in them with his notes and interesting photographs of the it tucked away that nobody had seen for all those years. so it was one of my great privileges was to spend a good deal of the first year of the project simply getting to know that library reading through it finding out what was in there. and i was interested to see that a lot of the materials coalesced around the great year 1909, which was the centennial year of lincoln's birth and a really grand grand occasion in our national history. probably the certainly the
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largest commemorative event centered on any one individual in our country's history. now, you always have to be careful with archives around whenever you say something superlative like that. it's the greatest or the but in my opinion. no other single figure has been remembered and celebrated and commemorated to the extent that abraham lincoln was in 1909. in fact, it makes this by centennial pale in comparison virtually the whole country stopped what it was doing to pay a unified homage to the memory of lincoln schools closed every newspaper put him on the cover speeches and all the is across north and south now by this time in 1909 the south had come to embrace lincoln's memory as well as the north. and and i'll get back to talking a little bit about the centennial in a bit. but by i found that a lot of the books centered around this this period and there was a lot of
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things published at that time. i also found there were a lot of materials i do might expect from the post assassination period and then finally there were a lot of things having to do with simply primary source firsthand reminiscence accounts biography is by people who had known lincoln. collections of essays by people who had known lincoln and i came to see this it pointed me towards the idea for for the new book. would not be a biography it would be the story of the story of the story it would begin with the bullet that killed abraham lincoln and it would continue for 60 years roughly to the time of the death of lincoln's oldest son robert. in 1926 he was symbolically to me represents the end of the era of we who knew him of the first hand people who had been affected by lincoln of course a few others lived longer than
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that some young children that had had net lincoln lived on much longer, but essentially those who had known him best had passed out of the picture at that point. i mentioned robert is a kind of he's the one figure who stretches stretches through the entire book. he's a kind of. he haunts it in a way. just as he was haunted by the memory of his father. you know, he was supposed to be in the theater with his father that night he'd been invited to attend. turns out he he wasn't feeling that well. he decided to stay in the white house where his friend john hay and he hung out upstairs played some cards, you know for the rest of his life. i think he he was agonized over this decision. what how my things have gone differently if he had perhaps had been there what might he have been able to do to prevent
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this horrible murder and you know, this this kind of feeling did haunt him. he became the kind of self-appointed guardian of his father's memory and he played a very important role in that regard. some of it was excessive some of us believe that he was he could be controlling he tried to suppress. treatments of his father for example that he didn't agree with either both literary and artistic for example, he would use his own money to buy up copies of a book. he didn't like on his father and then just destroy them to get them off the market. it's a bit much. he also took charge of his father's papers after the death of his father the lincoln's papers were in some disarray in the in the white house mostly upstairs in the cabinet room, but in other places in the house, you probably know they were they were vandals or or tourists or whatever. we want to call it coming in to the white house after the
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assassination. it was looted things disappeared at that time and we owe it to robert the fact that these papers were gathered up boxed and shipped out to illinois where they could be safeguarded. ultimately to make their way into the hands of the american people at the library of congress. and if you've used the online digital access to these papers, you know, what a tremendous resource they are. robert of always hope that he would use the papers to write his own book about his father, but he didn't have it in him. he never never was able to do that. he in fact he rarely spoke publicly about his father. but he did keep them away from other would-be authors. he denied access to scholars and others who would like to have used those papers. with one exception hit his father's personal secretaries at the white house john g.
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nicollet and john hay were hired or were given access to the papers to write an official biography of abraham lincoln which when it appeared many years later was dedicated to robert. if robert was not by his father's side in the white house on the night of the murder. his mother mary todd lincoln certainly was mary todd lincoln is a very controversial and fascinating figure and she plays an important part in our book. of course, she had already suffered the loss of her beloved son willie in 1862. she was a woman of some nervous temperament, very brilliant woman in my opinion passionate woman devoted to her husband. and prone to emotional excess problematical figure we were talking about it earlier rod and i different scholars have different takes on her, but she said in an interview later in
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her life. she said that that last day april 14th. she had never seen her husband in the presidency look so happy. that the weight of the war was lifting from his shoulders that even suggested they go on a carriage ride together just the two of them very rare event for them. and they had talked about their future together what they would do after the war after the presidency. there was a sense of of relief. and he had even said to her mary we must not be as miserable as we've been between the war and the loss of willy. we've been both been very miserable. we need to we need to live. well that very same night, of course lincoln was murdered sitting beside his wife. his last words were whispered to her. and this event threw mary into darkness into catastrophic darkness that lasted really the rest of her life.
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and that story i won't go into it now and detail but is a very tragic story of how mary drifted over the years into becoming really one of the most despised figures in this country. it is so odd to me that the widow of this revered figure abraham lincoln. should have ended up so despised. she was one paper called or a mercenary prostitute. she was put on a very short lease by her the executor of her husband's estate so that david davis. and never had a briefly had her own home, but mostly forced to live in what she called hated boarding houses when the press became virulent against her. she finally fled the country with her son and lived in a kind of exile and europe. later, she was institutionalized for insanity by her son robert. when she got out and proved or
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sanity in another court of law. she broke all ties with him called him her monster of mankind son and disappeared again to the continent to live out most of the remainder of her life. the story of mary lincoln i find to be a tragic kind of counterpoint to the story of her husband and his memory as he became more and more revered. she became more and more pushed to the side and in her place interestingly a fantasy figure from the past a real girlfriend of lincoln's from his early years and rutledge. we've all heard of she was rediscovered as one of lincoln's early love and she was kind of raced up into almost a position of divine consort next to the great deity of abraham lincoln even as mary lincoln was pushed aside and anathematized a very odd story now when i show you some slides in a few minutes,
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i'll tell you more about that. another figure, of course. i didn't mention yet was the figure of william herndon played an extremely important role in the preserving of lincoln's memory. this is lincoln's law partner from from springfield, illinois for 17 years. he devoted to lincoln the year the day of the assassination one of the bleakest days in his life. he decided to go on and dedicate the rest of his days to the to research into his his great friend's life. and he launched what's been called the first great oral history project in in our history. he went out he decided to find and speak with and interview anybody and everybody he could find who had known his friend going back to childhood. so he launched this multi-year process. it's fascinating and and the great publication in recent years on this you may know of by
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friends of mine is called herdan's informants, which now makes his interview materials very accessible both in book form and online. and they're make fascinating reading and i won't go into huge detail over some of these except. let me give you one example. william herdon heard that lincoln's stepmother was still alive and she was living up in a little town in illinois called goose nest prairie. she was living in a tiny little two room log cabin. it was in some decay amazing to me again just as an aside that the mother of the president of the united states was living in a tiny little rough cabin in illinois. it just shows you the distance in time from our own period again heard it had to write his horse some distance to find the cabin. and when he got there, he did
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find sarah bush, but he was disappointed at first she seemed to be out of it seemed to have lost her memory kind of didn't recognize who he was. but eventually he got down he said on his hands and knees and looked her in the eye. and suddenly a light shown in her eyes, and she got who he was and what he was there for and all these stories started coming out about lincoln as a boy. and this is one of the richest interviews earned in god. it's really when you think of the the myth of the young lincoln reading by the firelight his books and walking to borrow books and and writing on a shingle and shaving it off and writing again all these things that we that have now part of the lore of the young abraham lincoln many of them come from her memories told to william herndon that day at gooseness prairie. wonderful to read those things. but this is an example there were ultimately there were
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hundreds of these interviews and not only written herndon would take shorthand sit there and and take good dictation, and he was very good about that. but he also would then commence in many cases a correspondence with the his interviewees written correspondence that in some cases went back and forth many times and included follow-up questions and whatnot. and and in this way he amassed a tremendous amount of information. heard and of course is also responsible for the anne rutledge story. he discovered it in his research. it's a factual story. certainly a young very important person in lincoln's early life, but he had never talked about it with mary. it was just part of his past and when he came out in lectured and said in springfield that this was the true love of lincoln's life that he'd never loved anybody else that he never loved his own wife that his heart laid buried in the grave with ann rutledge.
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of course when mary read the transcripts of that talk oh. she went she was beside herself this became her true hated enemy william herndon. and i think he went way too far. i mean, how would he know this? he claimed to know lincoln better than his wife did like mary said, well, he never mentioned her name to man ever heard her breath of that that word he certainly and she didn't deny that that ann had existed. but simply that he just didn't think about her that much during their their long marriage volatility as it was but deeply loving one more figure i'll talk about very briefly figure of frederick douglass a fascinating character that i've come to think very highly of you all know the great frederick douglass the former slaves from maryland escaped to the north became part of the abolitionist movement eventually one of the great abolitionists in our lead-up to the civil war early
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on a cry a strong of abraham lincoln. felt he was moving too slowly on the whole matter of emancipation. felt critical of about many levels. interestingly what it after the emancipation proclamation was invited to the white house and actually met abraham lincoln and had a long. talk with him one on one. and he came away from that talk a changed man. this man who hated criticized as as uncommitted to the cause of abolition. he came away saying i was wrong he is as committed as i am. he may not agree with all his tactics, but he came to believe in him in his authentic but the authenticity of his commitment to freedom for all. and you know he went on to become my there's so many things to say about frederick douglass.
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let me just say that at the assassination he too was devastated. it was a terrible day for him. mary lincoln reached out to him at that time. he'd come to think highly of her. she in some ways was more committed to the abolition cause and her husband. he was extraordinary woman in many ways, but she sent frederick douglass a gift upon his death her husband's death, and it was her husband's favorite walking stick. it's an antler-headed cane. and she said my husband loved this and he would like you to have it. and douglas that became one of his prized possessions. he took it with him wherever he went and many of his too many of his speeches and he you know, he became one of the great orators of the of the day. and he often spoke about abraham lincoln in the years ahead. he gave dozens of talks about lincoln which make very interesting reading to this day. but you sometimes would take this cane up and you're waving around and say this cane used to
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belong to abraham lincoln. and now it belongs to me. and he saw his vocation in a way to keep alive the memory of the progressive lincoln. the lincoln who of the emancipator the lincoln who was slowly but surely coming to a vision of a multi racial future for this country. and frederick douglass said i know if he had lived he would have finished that journey with us. he was at heart a progressive figure an antislavery figure. so douglas kept alive this memory of lincoln which in some ways that was a very different memory than the memory propounded by even robert lincoln who often said my father was a very conservative man and emphasized the conservatism of the lincoln legacy. so this represents one example of the kind of ways lincoln's memory was contested after his
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death. and of course the memory was very different wherever where you went if you were in the north versus the south very very different memories of who abraham lincoln had been and as scholars like david herbert donald have point taught us all there was very difference between the east coast and the western memories of lincoln as well on the east coast. he was always more revered for his statesmanship the western memory emphasized that kind of paul bunyan-like character that he was as well that self-made man of the woods who told stories and and made friends and the human lincoln and somehow our memory of him is a merger emerging between different different memories of different groups. so that i don't go on too long. let me just tell you i'm gonna now talk briefly about this period 1865 to 18 to 1926 in one new way.
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this this period in which lincoln's memory. grew and grew and grew his reputation grew higher and higher. until by 1909 the year of the centennial it had reached a kind of apex. and he had surpassed the reputation of even george, washington. as the most revered figure in our country's history. ironically this period coincided with the steadily steady decline in race relations in our country. so the decade by decade after that extraordinary experiment of the reconstruction after the civil war you see a terrible backward turn into the era of jim crow and segregation and lynching and and as if this marvelous progressive, legacy of the civil war of abraham lincoln
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was being betrayed. it was somehow being shoved to the back burger and i learned from the scholar david blight. that what was going on. was that the nation really needed it felt it came to feel it needed to heal the breach between north and south between the white north and the white south. and it came to feel it couldn't do that effectively and at the same time. address the race problem in this country and that was shoved to the back burner. in 1908 just six months before the lincoln centennial a terrible race riots broke out in the city of springfield, illinois, lincoln's hometown. a white woman named mabel hallam claimed to have been raped by a black man. so often the way riots would begin. later turned out that she was she had lied. she made it up. is trying to protect a boyfriend from another man.
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the white population of springfield a large group of them and to assemble in the african-american section of town a mob assembled. photographs show boys and men and some women amongst the mom. the people were dragged out of their houses houses were set on fire. and in one case an all an 84 year old man was dragged out of his house. and he was his throat was cut and he was pulled up on a rope and lynched and he was dangling within sight of the great statue of abraham lincoln in the middle of the city. and a voice is heard to cry out. lincoln freed you will show you where you belong. you don't hear too much about these race rides, but 2000 african-american's fled from the city of springfield during these three days. eventually the civil national guard came in to bring to bring
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peace to bring order. many of them never returned it was it was a terrible terrible time in that city's history. it's just six months later came the bicentennial. and this was you know as i said the greatest event of any of its kind. and storm center for the observations was springfield, illinois lincoln's hometown. and so they had a tremendous array of events scheduled for the day. it was ambassadors came in from overseas and it was it was a star-studded affair from morning till night, february 12th 1909 at culminated in a grand gala banquet. the only problem was that the banquet was entirely segregated? lily white affair said the chicago tribune from first to last. but the african-american community in springfield.
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revered lincoln it was they in a sense and african-american's the country that were safe guarding the legacy the memory of lincoln as emancipator even as white americans wanted to forget that aspect of his legacy. and you can trace this as well over these decades the grant in the early years after the assassination there was tremendous interest in lincoln as emancipator. and this gradually declined to the point where lincoln a savior of the union replaced that memory. african-american community in springfield said no. we want our own commemorative event and they held him. they organized their own event in the largest black church in the city. held i think a thousand people. and they had their own speeches and one of you know during the lead up to this book, i read i think hundreds of speeches that were given at the time of the lincoln bicentennial of centennial. and there was one that was given
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that night in springfield that i found the most moving of any of them all. it was by a minister by the name of james mcgee. and james mcgee got up and he said it's wrong. that we've been kept out of the great gallup banquet. we should be there. and we love lincoln as much as anybody in this city as much as anybody in this country. and furthermore african-american to cross this land need to continue to revere him and need to make pilgrimages to this city to pay homage to what he called lincoln's sacred dust. and then james mcgee looked ahead into the future. a hundred years to the year 2009 and he made a prediction. he predicted that by that year racial prejudice would have been
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banished from the land. as salem witchcraft and when i read that i felt the chills got my spine. and we all know that racial prejudice is still with us. but we also know that in this year. we have inaugurated the first african-american president of the united states. and that inauguration whatever your politics this is a matter of tremendous pride. that obama's inauguration. he said is a generation early. his father couldn't have got a cup of coffee in this town. and abraham lincoln certainly could not have predicted this outcome either. but in many ways there's an arc that connects our time. with the age of abraham lincoln and frederick douglass and all those who struggled for freedom inequality in that far gone era. what we might call the first civil rights movement. that had so much hope. and then died.
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and took many many decades. to come back again. thank you. what i'd like to do is it's all right with you is i have a few pictures to show you because i'm known for pictures. it's not just for words and these will help bring to life a little bit of what i've talked about tonight as afternoon and also and maybe a few new things. so i think i can work this button. and yes. i'll just tell you a little bit about what you're seeing this this of course you probably may recognize as famous photograph. this is a flag raising ceremony at fort sumter. of the coast of south carolina. this is where the war started the body the firing on fort sumter was the catalyzing event that began the civil war and
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here the day is april 14th. 1865. and the war in the sense is coming to an official end. that same day the photographers who were there for the ceremony went into the city of charleston and photographed. the rubble ruined city following the fires and they saw this small group of african-american kids sitting and not many others around. that same evening lincoln headed out for the theater wearing this hat. we we love this hat so much. we put it on the cover our book and it's so recognizable. it belongs to the smithsonian institute, of course. there's forged theater as it looked back then you can see 10th street. muddy 10th street and there's the box.
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there's the chair which you can still see the wonderful reproduction of it in the theater. this is a photograph of what the stage looked like at exact act 3 scene 2 that just before lincoln the murder took place. this is it was set for that scene about to begin. lincoln's body was taken as we all know and you and tourists by the thousands come and see this to this day. he was taking a cross the street looking for someplace to get away from the crowd some private placed where he could be laid. and a man who was living in a boarding house came to the door and said bring them over here. he can use my room so they went upstairs into the back of this small boarding house past two rooms into a back bedroom. very tiny room if you've been in there. and over the course of the night lincoln lay dying.
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the man in the chair next to him holding the watch is the surgeon general barnes. he's pronouncing death at 722 in the morning. this man very interesting figure was lived in the boarding house, and and he was a photographer. and he he actually as soon as lincoln's body was removed from the room. he brought his camera and set it up in the bedroom and he took a picture of the bed. very rare of view of the bad. you see the blood-soaked pillow. this spindle this wood spindle bed that lincoln had died in it was too short for his long body. you know, he had to they tried to break off the wooden spindles, but there were too hard the men in the room couldn't break the bed so he had to be laid diagonally on it.
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and this boots were left behind as soon as the almost immediately just as at the white house. souvenir hunters descended on the peterson house and began taking things and everything disappeared. basically. i mean the anything movable his boots the blood-soaked pillows the the bandages on the floor people started actually tearing offices of wallpaper. they've even evidence to people took splinters from the floor just to have some momento of what they already recognized to be one of the extraordinary moments in american history and many of these things disappeared for about a generation and then began coming up for sale. this was edwin stanton secretary of war took charge of the manhunt for for the assassins and also of the public information that was released. you can see this picture the
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treasury building with the black bands morning bands. you can see the flag at half mast. this is easter sunday. weird that the assassination took place on good friday and two days later churches all across the country had to had to think about the meaning of the assassination on easter day. you know happened to coincide with passover and and we chronicle how rabbis also dealt with the huge event of this martyrdom the beginning of the apathy what we call the apotheosis of lincoln the his rise in mythology. he began to be compared to moses. you remember moses died before he ever entered the promised land? martin luther king evoked that in one of his last speeches i may not get there with you. lincoln may not get to the promised land of the post-war era, but he'd taken the people
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to the to the edge and had been able to glimpse into it from from mount pisgah. and christian preachers compared him to christ himself to the the idea that that as christ died for the sins of the world on good friday jesus as lincoln had died on good friday for the sins of his nation. and you remember his second and older address referred to the sins of the nation. that's that the war in a sense was punishment for a crime. that had been committed by both north and south. because the north was complicit in the institution of slavery and had profited from that trade. both sides had to bear the brunt of the punishment. there was a deep theological aspect to lincoln's political rhetoric. and the country picked up on this in this aftermath period he
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became referred to as the nation's savior just as washington was its its father? lincoln became known as its savior, you know william seward had been attacked that same night. i'm sure you all in an audience such as this you all know the story of how the secretary of state was also on the tack list that booth in his co-conspirators were going to take out he was a band named payne had come into his his house and attacked him with a knife. he could it would have certainly killed him. had he not been wearing a metal brace around his face that had was setting a broken jaw from an earlier carriage accident. he was slashed very badly. and he was unconscious for much of the period after this. on easter sunday, he was awake and was wheel to a window where he could look out and saw a half-mast flag such as this one. then he guessed that lincoln had
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been killed. when he asked the question and doris kearns goodwin likes to tell this story if you've heard her. he asked the question is lincoln dead. they said how did you know he said? he would have been the first one to visit me. if he were still alive. very hurt we for years. we thought that seward never was photographed on front full frontal. in order to hide the scars of the wound during the course of research for this book. we found this one picture and you can you do see some of the scars on the left side of his face. lincoln's funeral train back to springfield he was taken back there alongside with his son. willie who is disinterred from a washington tomb and was taken back to be buried with his father. this grand train lincoln funeral train that almost recreated his inaugural journey east of four
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years early adding a few different cities. taking the body back. slowly so that the american people could mourn and come out and see funeral after funeral and city after city and stand by the railroad lines and see the train go by almost in slow motion. each city competing who had the grander hearse to receive him with this is philadelphia. that's that's broad street. on the way to independence hall where that funeral took place and this is obviously new york city that city hall in new york where a huge ceremony took place. and finally after a week's travel back to springfield. this is lincoln's home decorated for the funeral. that's his his horse old. bob was brought out of retirement and allowed to give in the honor of leading the to the graveyard.
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people lined up to pay their respects mary lincoln stayed at home in back in washington. she was too devastated to attend the funeral. interestingly, let me go back once these people the town the city fathers in springfield had a different idea of what to do with lincoln. they wanted to see him buried in a big tomb in the center of the city. they had they made their own plans for this even though mary lincoln had said it was his wish and hers that he'd be buried in a beautiful rural cemetery there that they had chosen. it came down to a bad fight between them and letters and telegrams going back and forth. robert was trying to negotiate for them. and finally mary had to threaten them. she said if you persist in disobeying my wishes, i'll have him brought back to washington and he'll be buried here in this crypt underneath the capitol building which had been originally built to house the remains of george, washington.
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never used for such as such. and they backed off and said, okay, they would perceive with a memorial to their own without the body in the city. this is a wonderful piece of art that came in the same period showing lincoln. coming up into the heavens to be greeted by father, washington. this is again the idea of the apotheosis of lincoln here's a group of t. this is a group of teachers. this is interesting to me because it represents a new phenomenon, which is the idea of taking pilgrimages to the historical sites associated with abraham lincoln and this this occurred this very first summer after the assassination a group of teachers from indiana who sought out lincoln's one of lincoln's cabins there and posed in front of it. this became a tremendous new
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swelling interest to the american public to fight to go to seek out the places where lincoln had been his home in springfield his cabins the white house itself towards theater etc and in a sense to commune with the memory of lincoln. one of the earliest biographers of abraham lincoln was this woman very little thought of or heard about phoebe and hannaford one of the she was actually one of the nation's first unitarian ministers and wrote an interesting biography of lincoln that came out that very same year. that's william herndon. and that's the house where he found the stepmother sarah bush and worried conducted her interview. there she is. it earned in the course. he not only he went on to produce with a partner a very important three volume early biography of lincoln's early year pre-presidential life that is of influence to this day.
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herndon's lincoln, that's frederick douglass as he looked about the time of lincoln's assassination. of course he went on to because there's the stick i told you about that. he you can still see in his in the national park home in anacostia the frederick douglass home. he went on to become one of the grand old men of the republic. he deserves a wonderful lecture of his own. mary became drifted from one sad stage of her life to another she a times. he became very involved with but was known as spiritualism. she came to believe that she could contact her beloved lost who were waiting for her in heaven and they were photographers such as this one who were willing to take advantage of that. that deep belief and hope and produced for her this image, which she believed was real that he had captured the image of her ghostly husband. tenderly behind her.
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i'd like to know what she paid him for this. and there's robert about the time he had his mother institutionalized. that's the last image of mary. and here we see some of the the i mentioned that african americans kept alive the emancipationist legacy of abraham lincoln and what one of the ways they did so was in honoring the emancipation day itself. which became largely a black observation rather ignored by white america? i love this picture of this woman on her writing desk. you can see a painting of lincoln. and here's some of the scenes from the lincoln the the springfield race rise of 1908. this is william donegan. the 84 year man who was lynched. as i i don't think i mentioned to you. do i say that he turned out to
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have been abraham lincoln's boot maker. and and friend here's what was the country was becoming more and more preoccupied with which was the healing the breach between north and south. this is a reunion at gettysburg. they're reenacting pickett's charge. the confederates instead of getting to the top of the ridge and being mowed down instead they would get up and have handshaking ceremonies. and there's a extreme important part of our history healing this breach and it's not not to be to be ridiculed in any way it's if it was extremely important. my only problem is that why could not have gone on and at the same time the healing of the racial breach? something that theodore roosevelt wanted he wished it were possible. he tried to make it possible in many ways, but the country didn't want it.
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even at the the amazing dedication of the lincoln memorial they decide there would be no talk about or emancipation or race. was an inappropriate theme it was all going to be about national unity north and south and if you visit the memorial see the that symbolism in the in the architecture itself. that entered the entwined symbols of north and south lincoln as the savior of the union there. there's even behind the scenes correspondence where the organizer said we want nothing about slavery or emancipation or race. this is only rubbing salt in the old wounds. robert lincoln actually came out of hiding. this is his last public event. you can see him being escorted escorted up the steps for this event. he had weirdly been on hand for the assassination not only of his father but of two other presidents garfield and then
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mckinley and he came to think he was a jinx wherever he he stayed away when presidents invited him to things. he said he don't want me. but there were two presidents on the stand on this day and he came out. and just four years later he died and this was his. little funeral in manchester vermont first funeral there when you think of the millions who came out for his father. and then just a tiny handful by his wishes for his own very private ceremony. and finally, i wanted to show you my great-grandfather, frederick hill, missouri and his daughter dorothy coonhart. it's taking about 1905. and there he is as i remember him in his upstairs study in new york city. where we my father would take me as a boy of 12 to see him and i would be the object of his kindly interest.
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this is one of his fines his historically he saved 15,000 matthew brady glass negatives from destruction. including this famous view which went on to become the image on the lincoln penny. and there's my father phil coonhardt jr. with one of his great friends. gordon parks right at the end of his life my father died in the year 2006 did not get to see this project come to fruition, but was a big fan of it and i wish you were here and we dedicated our book to him. and why don't you start and then then you'd be second sir. okay, go ahead. i'd just like to ask you what's being done in terms of application of modern technology digitalization of the images as are they being enhanced are there being as more information being pulled out of them? are you talking about our collection in particular? well, i don't i don't know about
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the more information. i do i fascinated when we do find new information in old pictures that have has been neglected. i mean, we this very year somebody a researcher discovered. what is probably abraham lincoln writing on a horse at the gettysburg ceremonies. it had been in a glass plate and and never seen before because nobody had looked with a such a close eye in the crowd now that albeit the figure is seen from behind. but it's writing a horse and it is wearing a top hat and there are people saluting that figure and and it's it to me. there's some mysteries about it. there's it's odd that that this figure. that the attention of most in the crowd is on the deus. and yet this figure is writing and the opposite direction. i don't quite i can't quite pinpoint when that would have been in the days ceremony. so i'm i still stay somewhat neutral on that identification
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though. i think it's very interesting a generation ago famous researcher here the national archives josephine cobb, who is a great friend of our families did discover the image of abraham lincoln actually in the midst of delivering his gettysburg address in one of those same crowd shots and that enlargement you can you can clearly see him looking down at his manuscript in the midst of that ceremony. that was one of the great finds in terms of digitization. we have a collection of about 80,000 images and we are in the process of getting high resolution digit digitized versions of all of them. they it's been in a private collection all these years, but we're now gifting it to the to the deserve coonhardt foundation. it is going to be fully available to use and we'll see what happens there. thank you. yes, i wanted to ask you about lincoln's birthday, which was celebrated as a state holiday in
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some states like by native, california. i was surprised to learn it was not celebrated in all states. so i was wondering whether you have looked into that and whether the subsequent substitution of president's day had anything to do with an attempt to make lincoln more acceptable to the south. that's a great question. i wish i had a pre thought out answer to it, which i don't but i but you're absolutely correct. the lincoln centennial was actually a kind of a grassroots movement. there was no it was not a top-down remembrance and and state by state was how that birthday was remembered and it was only later that it became a nationally a national observance. i think it's interesting that after the assassination. there was a a kind of struggle to determine whether the assassination date. the death date april 15th 1865
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versus the birth date february 12 would be the better day for a big lincoln commemorative event and and they kind of went back and forth for a while. ultimately the death date receded and the birth date. probably partly because it was so close in time to washington and also to increasingly to frederick douglass as well in later in the 20th century. i'm a little vague on my answer, but i do i you are absolutely correct that the states did differ in terms of their commemorative events the south obviously in the beginning was had no interested at all and in celebrating lincoln's life, he was largely hated throughout the south after the war he was seen as the one who had brought all this suffering and pain on them and and yet you did see people who respected him robert e lee
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certainly did and others. but it took that in a sense almost a whole generation turning over in the south before a new generation wanted. to rethink the past and and become part of the whole country again and and began to see things about lincoln that weren't as bad as they had heard. you know that he had he had southern roots of his own is what as his wife did. that he that he had a kind that you know that that malice toward none that sense of forgiveness at the of the war. on that another might not have had. certainly some of the the more radical republicans of the day one adventance and wanted to harsher justice and lincoln without giving up the backbone without giving up the the commitment to the absolute commitment to the end of slavery. lincoln wanted to see healing through this country. we were never going to go backward into the into the old era.
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slavery that was for sure. but he wanted to see healing and this this made him a more attractive figure i think in the south and his reputation began to spread and i do believe by 1909 hit his memory was honored in many states the south not all certainly in kentucky his his own home state a major observance at which theodore roosevelt attended. and which i found was the most interracial. event that i could find in in the whole year. this was a there were numerous african-american's present including on the speaker stand and there and theodore roosevelt himself. lifted up lincoln's legacy as emancipator alongside that of national savior. and it was it a little of possibility there. of what might have been if we could followed that vision and then it didn't it didn't wasn't to be.
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yes, ma'am. we take one one more. i don't i i didn't bring a wrist watch. so i'm sorry i if i went over. this will be the last question. still vacant there are people here that know better than i have. i've actually never toured it first-hand i would like to but it is still there. it's never never been used as a burial site and i don't know if the public is ever allowed in is it is that the case? yes, you can go see that i should do that. but clinton we should come back. i have my son clinton with me here today. we should do that sometime. um the last words of lincoln
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again, it's it's always dangerous to say the last of the first or the greatest, but what we what we think maybe his last words were were turning to wife and saying well, he put his arm around her at one point. and his wife looked at him and said what will mrs. harris think of you? of us, you know. with your arm around me. and he said looked at her and said she won't think a thing. thank you very much.
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