For thirty two days, voices of veterans of the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars animated a bronze commemorative statue of Abraham Lincoln that has stood silently in Union Square Park since 1870.
The memories and feelings of ordinary Americans spoke through Lincoln as part of an outdoor public art installation by Krzysztof Wodiczko, an artist renowned for his large-scale light projections on architectural facades and monuments. Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection marked a return of sorts to Manhattan for the artist, whose last monumental work here was the influential and still often cited Homeless Project (1988).
“As our troops withdraw from Afghanistan, this commemorative statue, commissioned just a few years after the Civil War, again becomes a place for dialogue about war,” says Micaela Martegani, founding director of More Art. More Art, an eight-year-old organization devoted to bringing new and innovative works of art into public spaces in New York City, is the organizer of Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection.
In collaboration with many New York City veterans organizations, Wodiczko has engaged with dozens of veterans and their family members over the course of several months. He filmed fourteen of the veterans and their family members for the installation of Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection, recording conversations about their war experiences and the toll of duty on their family life. It was these points of views, presented in each person’s own words, voice, and gestures, that were projected via sound and light onto the figure of Lincoln.
In response to my last post Al Mackey referenced a North and South magazine article from back in 2001 by William Harris on the Emancipation Proclamation. Al correctly noted that Harris’s article addresses the long-standing myth that the proclamation did not immediately free any slaves in the South. I’ve made use of this particular article (December 2001) on numerous occasions in my courses on the Civil War. What I especially like about the article is the accompanying map, which is incredibly helpful in visualizing the reach of the document.
For a nation that prides itself as the leader of the free world, I’ve always found it curious as to why this day is not set aside as a national holiday. On this day 150 years ago President Abraham Lincoln did what he promised he would do 100 days earlier by issuing his final Emancipation Proclamation. We can quibble about whether the proclamation ought to be understood narrowly as a military or moral document, but what we are always left with is the fact that it paved the way for the eventual freeing of 4 million slaves. That it did so can and should be celebrated by all Americans.
Click here for Eric Foner’s excellent Op-ed column on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation in the New York Times.
Just arrived home from a wonderful 10-day trip to Germany. My wife and I spent time with family in Bremen before moving on to Bonn/Koenigswinter and Frankfurt. This was my first trip to Germany during Christmas and I have to say that this Jewish kid from New Jersey was impressed. There really is something special about the way Germans celebrate the season, from decorating their trees with real candles to meeting friends and family at the local Christmas market. It’s much less commercial and much more family oriented.
The food was simply amazing. I could easily hibernate for the rest of the winter on the amount of Bratkartoffeln and German meats that I ate during the week. And let’s not even go into the pastries, chocolates and cookies. Every morning started with a relaxing trip to the local cafe. No one bothers you with a check or with having to vacate your table. You can sit as long as you like. My kind of place. As always I am sad at having to return. I find Germany to be completely absorbing and I can even envision spending a year abroad if the opportunity ever presents itself.
On this 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year. Let’s make it a good one.
Just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone at the Civil War Forum of Metropolitan New York who came out for my talk last night. One of my first public Civil War presentations was at a Shoney’s near Petersburg back in 2002. Last night I spoke at Le Sans Culottes on 57th Street. As I said to my audience last night: “progress.” Special thanks to Jackie Eberstein for the invitation to speak and for being such a gracious host. Around 40 people attended. They asked excellent questions and took a number of books off my hands, which I greatly appreciate. The highlight of the night was having the chance to talk with three blog readers. Everyone knows the prolific commenter, but you may also recognize the names of Brad Lewin and Dan Weinfield. They too have also left comments over the years. We were the last three to leave the restaurant and I want to thank them for making the trip. It’s always nice to be able to put a face to the comments.
All in all I had a great day in New York City. Took a nice long walk through Central Park, did a little shopping, and wandered through the New York Historical Society.
Gary Gallagher’s forthcoming book explores Confederate loyalty through the lives of Robert E. Lee, Steven D. Ramseur, Jubal Early. Gallagher has analyzed the lives of all three, including an early biography of Ramseur, but this might be his most extensive treatment of Early to date. Many of us anticipated a full-length biography of Lee’s “Bad Old Man”, but that is not going to happen.
Last week the Lovett School in Atlanta hosted Gallagher as part of its speaker series, which you can watch below. I am very much looking forward to this book.