In my last post I said that I found the bicentennial to be something of a fizzle compared to the build-up that preceded it. Today I ran into an actual, honest-to-goodness Lincoln scholar in the library. I mentioned my impression of the bicentennial to him, and he agreed with me. I feel better now.
Tag Archives: Lincoln Bicentennial
Yesterday wasn’t what I expected. I’m a huge history buff, I used to do curatorial work in a Lincoln collection, and I teach at a college named for him. It should have been a big deal for me.
Strangely, though, it wasn’t. I woke up, taught a class, read, and went out for some seafood and a movie. It was, in truth, one of the least Lincoln-saturated days of my life. Feeling a little guilty that I didn’t celebrate with gusto, I decided to see how some of the more prominent history bloggers spent their bicentennial.
Samuel P. Wheeler was probably the busiest, heading to the Empire State for a whirlwind speaking tour. Kevin Levin indulged in snacks, games, and vintage Lincoln films. “Bah! Humbug!” muttered Dimitri Rotov at Civil War Bookshelf as he snuffed out the light on Bicentennial Eve. Successive visits by the Ghosts of Centennial Past, Bicentennial Present, and Sesquicentennial Yet to Come left him unmoved.
I think the main reason I didn’t make an effort to party hard was plain and simple burnout. The history community has been up to its armpits in Lincoln for quite a while now, getting ready for the big day that technically kicked off a whole year ago. It was like seeing a shopping mall decked out with Christmas decorations in the middle of October. By the time December 25 finally rolls around, you’re a little numb to it.
So yesterday I felt like a kid who’s finished opening his gifts on Christmas morning—all that anticipation, and then after a few frenzied seconds it’s over, and you remember that it’s back to school in a few days.
Still, as long as it meant more than the presents and decorations, it was well worth celebrating.
(Image from the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana)
“I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”
—Lincoln quoted in Francis Carpenter, The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House.
(Photo taken by Alexander Hesler in 1860, from Wikimedia Commons.)
If you want to get a look at some of the goods the Library of Congress is trotting out for the bicentennial, then check out this news story.
If you want to do something to celebrate the Lincoln bicentennial on Feb. 12 but you can’t make it to Hodgenville, Washington, or Springfield, don’t despair. If you’ll be within driving distance of the Cumberland Gap area, why not attend the special program at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum? “Let Us Praise Famous Men” is a presentation on Lincoln in films by Dr. Liz Murphy Thomas of the University of Illinois-Springfield. There will be two showings, one at 10:00 A.M. and one at 4:30 P.M.
While you’re there, you can scope out the museum’s fantastic Lincoln-Civil War collection and see the special exhibit on Lincoln in memory.
The good folks at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources sent me some information on an upcoming Lincoln event that I’m happy to pass along. It’s a symposium at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on Feb. 12th, featuring a display of some great archival material. Presenters include Joseph Glatthaar (author of an impressive study of the Army of Northern Virginia) and William Harris (who’s written a couple of really illuminating books on Lincoln’s politics). You can read the NCDCR’s press release below, but I also recommend that you swing by the event website for more details.
Abraham Lincoln Symposium
RALEIGH – Both revered and reviled, Abraham Lincoln left a legacy that remains central to American 21st century life.
In honor of his 200th birthday, the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Office of Archives and History, will present “The Lincoln Bicentennial: A Symposium” on Feb. 12 at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a reception following.
Lincoln’s political and military leadership during the Civil War and his role in ending slavery made him a giant among Presidents. C-SPAN viewers and historians alike rank Abraham Lincoln as America’s greatest President. “Out of the smoke and stench, out of the music and violent dreams of the war, Lincoln stood perhaps taller than any other of the many great heroes,” wrote North Carolina’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Carl Sandburg in “Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.”
The Abraham Lincoln Symposium will take a look at a variety of topics such as Lincoln as a political leader and as a wartime commander-in-chief. The Symposium’s all-North Carolina speaker roster of leading historians from five universities includes two winners of the coveted Lincoln Prize.
A comparison with rival Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederacy will be highlighted in the morning session. After the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the Union Army began to recruit freedmen as U.S. Colored Troops, an idea championed in 1861 by Lincoln’s friend, former slave and prominent abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which will be discussed in an afternoon session.
State Archives Exhibit
In honor of the bicentennial occasion, State Archives will exhibit several Lincoln documents from its collection; the display will be in the Museum of History. One document is from March 16, 1861, a letter sent to N.C. Governor John Ellis with the original Thirteenth Amendment, known today as the “ghost amendment” that would have denied the federal government the ability to intervene with slavery in any of the states where that condition existed.
“Lincoln doesn’t say yea, or nay, but it is clearly a part of a larger effort to try to prevent civil war. He didn’t make emancipation of the slaves a goal of the war until late 1862” says Dr. Jeffrey J. Crow, Deputy Secretary, Department of Cultural Resources. “The ghost amendment is the evil twin of the real Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery.”
Lincoln never visited North Carolina. He was not listed on the 1860 U.S. Presidential ballot in North Carolina, nor in 1864, as no Confederate State participated in the election. No North Carolina towns or counties are named for him, yet his words echo through the years and still have meaning today: “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.”
A $10 registration fee includes the closing reception. Information is available at www.ncculture.com and www.nccivilwar150.com. To register call Karen Pochala-Peck at (919) 807-7281 or (919) 807-7280.
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is a state agency dedicated to the promotion and protection of North Carolina’s arts, history and culture. It is now podcasting 24/7 with information about the Department of Cultural Resources, all available at www.ncculture.com.
(Lincoln portrait courtesy of the NCDCR.)