Lincoln: the man, the movie, the rest of us

President Abraham Lincoln
The recent release of Steven Spielberg's movie  Lincoln, has engendered renewed interest in the 16th President of the United States and the issues of slavery and race and the ongoing impact of the Civil War on our civic life today. The film is based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and its focus is the drama surrounding adoption of The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and its subsequent grouping with related amendments that became known as The Reconstruction Amendments.

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley
The film brings to light major players (e.g. Thad Stevens) and minor characters (e.g. Charles Sumner), highlighting the geographic, socioeconomic, and racial tensions in the country. Two people central to this drama are Mary Todd Lincoln and her companion Elizabeth Keckley (a link to Keckley's book can be found here) and their importance/influence in Lincoln's life.

A reading of three speeches over a four year period highlights the nature of these divisions and elucidates Lincoln's clear and profound thinking vs the contorted thought process of those opposed to acknowledging the common and equal humanity of all people: Alexander Stephens's Cornerstone Speech; Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

Here are some more links to websites which offer information and ideas for exploration in various contexts: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and information from the White House archives.

Lincoln the movie
Historical dramas can be excellent teaching tools and a jumping off point for further reading and conversation. To continue exploring this topic with others who have seen the movie, visit LincolnMovie on Facebook.

A great number of novels have been written about the Civil War, not all of equal quality and value. Four choices to set people thinking are: Black Flower by Howard Bahr; March by Geraldine Brooks; The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara ; and Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks. A work of non-fiction sure to raise questions is America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation by David Goldfield. Any of these books may be purchased through this link here and will benefit.

And finally, for a stunning collection of photographs of African Americans who fought in the Civil War (below), see a story about Ronald Coddington's book African American Faces of the Civil War, An Album at  this link here.
John & Isaiah Owens of the 60th U.S.Colored Infantry


  1. One of our readers just shared this comment on Facebook about this post:

    Wow, thank you so much. I would add to that list of Civil War books Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara, Andersonville by Mackinlay Kantor, The River and the Wilderness by Don Robertson, This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton, and Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (folks who like the movie should read the novel). Just drove up I-95 through Virginia. Love driving through those battle areas and meditating on what happened there.

    Lots of great additional suggestions here: thanks!

  2. I have been reading some of the comments about the movie "Lincoln" on Facebook, many of which express some disappointment as to Mr. Spielberg's limited acknowledgement of Frederick Douglass, as well as other prominent black abolitionists. However, I have never been one to give my opinion until I have had the opportunity to investigate the facts for myself, therefore, I will reserve further comment until I have actually "seen" the movie.

  3. Let us know your opinions once you have seen the movie! Thanks

  4. Life is tricky. As human beings, we have hopes and dreams, fears and failings, allies and antagonists. We need help dealing with all that, and help is available in form of movies.


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