Lincoln’s “Little People”

Most of you have no doubt heard that Sotheby’s has auctioned a letter by Abraham Lincoln for $3.4 million.  The letter in question was written on April 5, 1864 in response to a request by a group of students for Lincoln to free the slaves.  He addressed the letter to their teacher, Mrs. Horace Mann:

Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are
so full of just and generous sympathy and that, while I have not the
power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has,
and that, as it seems, He wills to do it.

I don’t know about you, but I am struck by Lincoln’s sensitivity to their request and I love that reference to the students as "little people".  First, he takes their request seriously by acknowledging their emotional convictions, but at the same time manages to point to his own limits as president.  In other words, Lincoln is saying that it is unfortunate that the issue of slavery cannot be decided based on "generous sympathy" alone.  In addition, Mann’s students learn that their president is not all-powerful, but constrained by the Constitution.  The reference to God’s will perhaps would have sounded familiar if their teacher had introduced Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the classroom. 


Update on Confederate Monument Defacing in Montgomery

This is an update on the three white teens who were arrested for defacing a Confederate statue in Montgomery, Alabama back in November 2007.  The teens painted "N.T. 11 11 31" in black
paint on the monument’s base, an apparent reference to
the date rebellious slave Nat Turner was hanged in 1831.  According to Attorney Richard Keith:

They learned this stuff in school.  Folks are wondering what was going on, what the
message was and it was a statement against slavery.  They should have used pens and paper instead of cans of
spray paint, but otherwise they weren’t making
antagonistic gestures.  I don’t
think anyone condones slavery, at least not these days anyway.

Read the story here.


Remembering Dr. King From a Slightly Different Angle

Forty years ago this week Martin Luther King, Jr., was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee.  I will begin all of my classes by reminding them of this important date.  King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 sparked widespread race riots across America that cost dozens of lives and led to damages worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It hastened the process of ‘white flight’ from the inner cities that left many American downtowns virtually abandoned. Many have not yet recovered.  In the days immediately following King’s assassination it was left to countless individuals – some famous, but mostly obscure – to try to quell the violence.  The most famous example is that of Robert Kennedy climbing a platform to reassure and calm the people of Indianapolis.  What most people are not aware of, however, is what took place the next evening  on April 5 in Boston where James Brown was scheduled to give a concert.  Brown decided to go ahead with the concert and agreed to have it televised as a way to maintain calm in the streets of that city.  He was later thanked for his efforts by Lyndon Johnson.  Here is a short clip from that concert.  VH1 recently commissioned a movie around the concert called "The Night James Brown Saved Boston" which can be seen on Saturday.  Note: I’ve been known to employ some of Brown’s moves in this video while teaching.


Sons of Confederate Veterans Honor Black Union Soldier

This Saturday a ceremony will take place at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in McConchie, Maryland to unveil a grave marker to Corporal George Brown, who served in Co. I, 19th USCT.  Apparently an SCV chapter has helped with the organization of this ceremony: ‘‘We like any veterans with unmarked graves to be taken care of,” said
Jim Dunbar, commander of Sons of Confederate Soldiers Pvt. Wallace
Bowling Camp 1400, in 2006.  The article includes some comments by Ben Hawley who reenacts with Co. B, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment in Washington, D.C.  I interviewed Mr. Hawley as part of my research on the Crater and memory.  Check out the story here.


He Knows Not What He Speaks Of or Why Civil War Historians Should Blog (Part 2)

On Friday I shared some thoughts  in connection with a paper that I will be presenting on Civil War blogging at the upcoming meeting of the SCWH in New Orleans.  Brooks Simpson’s latest post has given me a bit more to chew on in connection with this paper.  His post is a brief response to Michael Aubrecht who recently offered some revealing commentary concerning Brooks’s decision to share his OAH comments as a 3-part post.    While Aubrecht hopes not to be misunderstood, Brooks rightfully pins this as a first-rate example of the anti-intellectualism that pervades sections of the Civil War community.  I quote at length as this blogger has a tendency to take posts down after being challenged:

Many of these conferences and seminars can sometimes come off as being a bit elitist and arrogant. Sometimes people who participate in these events echo that sentiment in their comments. (Ironically, most of the best rangers, guides, speakers, authors, filmmakers, re-enactors, and all around buffs that I know are anything but ‘academics’ and have zero pedigrees to boot.)

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