The Lincoln Bicentennial: A Symposium . . .

Podcast — Lincoln Symposium, February 12, 2009


R evered, reviled, but nonetheless central to our understanding of American history, Abraham Lincoln has been the subject of thousands of books. The bicentennial of his birth, being commemorated across the nation, is an opportunity to reassess his legacy. The North Carolina Office of Archives and History, as a prelude to the wider commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, sponsored a symposium at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on February 12, 2009, what older generations remember as Lincoln Day.


Lincoln and NC

Abraham Lincoln’s connections with North Carolina were political, not personal. Lincoln had scarcely any interaction with the state until his presidential campaign in 1859-1860, and even then his name did not appear on the ballot in the state. His election in 1860 sent many planters reeling.

The break did not come officially until shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter when Lincoln asked North Carolina to raise two regiments of soldiers to help put down the insurrection. Governor John Ellis responded, "You can get no troops from North Carolina." Several weeks later, a convention of delegates passed the secession ordinance.

Lincoln never visited North Carolina. In February 1865 he took part in the shipboard Hampton Roads Conference at Newport News, Virginia, likely the closest he came to being in the state during his lifetime. North Carolina does lay claim to a personal connection with the Lincoln family. Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress was Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave who spent her youth in her master’s house in Hillsborough.

During and immediately after the war, Lincoln was the object of various displays of veneration in North Carolina. Elizabeth James founded the Lincoln School at the Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island prior to the end of the war. In September 1865, during the first Freedmen’s Convention in Raleigh, a bust of Lincoln was placed in the front of the sanctuary of the AME Church.

Although no towns or cities in North Carolina are named for the sixteenth president, the Lincoln Heights Rosenwald School operated in Wilkesboro, as did the Lincoln Hospital for African Americans in Durham. Carl Sandburg, who received the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Lincoln, from 1946 until his death in 1967 lived at "Connemara" in Flat Rock.


Lincoln Agenda

10:00 A.M.

Welcome, Jeffrey J. Crow, North Carolina Office of Archives and History

Session 1

“Lincoln’s Political Leadership: An Overview”
William C. Harris, North Carolina State University

“Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederacy: A Comparison”
Paul D. Escott, Wake Forest University


Lunch on your own

1:30 P.M.

Session 2

“Lincoln as Military Commander”
Joseph T. Glatthaar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“United States Colored Troops”
John David Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

3:00 P.M. Break

3:30 P.M.

Session 3

“Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery”
Loren Schweninger, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

“Lincoln’s Legacy”
Heather A. Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

5:00 P.M. Reception


Lincoln Speakers

William C. Harris, emeritus Professor of History at North Carolina State University, was recipient of the Lincoln Prize in 1998 for his book With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union. He is the author most recently of Lincoln’s Rise to the Presidency (2007).

Paul D. Escott, Reynolds Professor of History at Wake Forest University, is the author of Military Necessity: Civil-Military Relations in the Confederacy (2006).

Joseph T. Glatthaar, Stephenson Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse (2008).

John David Smith, Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is the editor of Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era (2002).

Loren Schweninger, Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was recipient of the Lincoln Prize (along with his co-author John Hope Franklin) for Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (2002).

Heather A. Williams, Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom (2005).

Lincoln Symposium

Lincoln Symposium

Famous Lincoln Quotes

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

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.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

Others on Lincoln --
“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. This was in the minds of many. None threw a longer shadow than he. And to him the great hero was The People. He could not say too often that he was merely their instrument." Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, 4 vols. (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1939), 4: 387.