Embracing Lincoln in the South

lincolnflashLooks like Abraham Lincoln is getting more attention in the “Confederate South” during his bicentennial than both Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee combined.  Well, before you run for the hills complaining about revisionism remember that Lincoln had strong ties to the South that extended beyond the Civil War.  In a recent interview on C-SPAN, Michael Burlingame went as far as to suggest that in important respects Lincoln was a southerner through his extended family, which moved from Virginia as well as his early years growing up in Kentucky.  Once again, we would do well to go back and dispense with tired and ill-informed generalizations that tell us more about ourselves than anything having to do with regional identification and history.  There are two important conferences that are worth considering, one in Richmond, Virginia and the other in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The first will take place on February 12 at the North Carolina Museum of History.  Speakers include Joe Glatthaar, William Harris, Paul Escott, and John D. Smith.  In March the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar will host a dynamite line-up of scholars to discuss Lincoln and the South.  This is a three-day conference that ought to attract a wide range of Civil War enthusiasts and teachers.

Also in March the Surratt House Museum will host a conference on Lincoln’s assassination.  Howard University’s Emancipation and Race in the Age of Lincoln will take place in April and in July Oxford University will explore the global legacy of Lincoln.  This just scratches the surface and does not include the myriad tours and exhibits that will take place throughout the year as well as all of the Lincoln books that will have been published by the end of the year.  I can detect very little “hero worship” in these events.  It is an acknowledgment that Lincoln’s life and presidency have much to teach us regardless of race and place.

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13 thoughts on “Embracing Lincoln in the South

  1. Robert Moore

    Notice that this marker was erected in 1997. However, you will see a link within this page to the “Abraham Lincoln’s Father” marker, which was erected in 1942. I am also aware of different pieces in area (Shenandoah Valley) newspapers from the latter nineteenth century about Lincoln. Most reveal a curiosity or intrigue about Pres. Lincoln’s ties to the area, even in the time in which Confederate veterans were still around. I think I have even seen something about Robert Lincoln actually visiting the area to learn more about his Virginia roots.

    Like I’ve mentioned before, the annual Lincoln’s Birthday event at the Lincoln homestead near Linville is conducted by the Lincoln Society of Virginia. No matter the weather, it is held on February 12. You should come over to check it out. Nothing elaborate, nothing fancy. Since it is so “grass roots” and simple, you might find it especially interesting in terms of how many Southerners have chosen to remember Lincoln. I attended for the first time last year and was quite surprised about the excellent turn-out… perhaps because of my familiarity with the “Lincoln-haters club.” :-)

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  2. Kevin Levin Post author

    I noticed that particular link. There is some very interesting material on this site so thanks again for referencing it. The Lincoln event in Linville would make for an interesting field trip for my Civil War Memory students. Here is the link: http://lincolnva.org/

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  3. Tom Ward

    Kevin,
    In regards to your posts on both Lincoln in the South and the Grant papers to go to Miss. State, the theme of last year’s Mississippi Historical Society meeting was “Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and the Civil War in Mississippi” (http://mdah.state.ms.us/admin/news/mhs-post-mtg_08.html). John Marszalek, who was behind bringing the Grant papers to MSU, is the Mississippi Historical Society president. I would venture a good guess that he’s doesn’t give a damn what the SCV thinks of it either.
    Tom

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  4. Kevin Levin Post author

    Hey Tom,

    Nice to hear from you. Marszalek also strikes me as someone who could care less about what the SCV thinks. These people don’t deserve to say anything about historical scholarship in any of its forms. :)

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  5. Pingback: Excellent discussion about Civil War memory and some issues pertaining to the “read-write” nature of blogging « Cenantua’s Blog

  6. Eric Roy

    Kevin:
    I have a question about the “Lincoln and the South” conference set for this weekend that you linked to. The Friday 2 p.m. session promises to, among other things, delve into “Lincoln’s misreading of Southern resolve for secession.” I could be wrong, but I don’t seem to remember Lincoln campaigning for president promising “that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States,” as claimed in the South Carolina declaration of secession. And, while it’s true that South Carolina did not formally secede until about a month and a-half into Lincoln’s term, the declaration was issued on December 20, 1860, some two and a-half months before he was inaugurated. Meaning, it seems to me, that the secession train was already pulling out of the station before Lincoln even had a chance as president to “misread” anyone’s resolve. What am I missing?
    - Eric

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  7. Kevin Levin Post author

    Eric,

    Historians have long debated whether Lincoln underestimated the push for secession in various parts of the South. South Carolina seceded approximately one month after Lincoln’s election, but before his first term began in March. By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration the states in the Deep South had seceded, but the Upper South had not. Lincoln believed that those states were sufficiently fused to the union and he also believed that moderates in the Deep South would eventually regain control. This is probably what the panel will address. I hope that helps.

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