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tv   Mourning Abraham Lincoln  CSPAN  February 22, 2016 7:02am-8:01am EST

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good afternoon. i'm the chairperson of the department of history at howard university. we've had a wonderful program thus far. thank you for returning for the afternoon session. i think you'll be delighted with what we have in store for you. it's my happy task to introduce
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our next speaker, professor of history, new york university. professor hodes is the author of the sea captain's wife. a true story of love, race and war in the 19th century which was a 2006 finalist in the lincoln book prize. the 1997 winner of the allen nevins prize. her most recent work warning lincoln which was published this year is already garnering praise. reviewers have described it as original and ingenious approach. a lyrical and important study. our own michael whom is no
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stranger to such basaccolades called it a stunning piece of research. that is high praise coming from a master researcher. when she's not writing books, she's receivie ining awards for teaching. despite her research commitments and teaching obligations, she gives lectures around the nation and the world and engages diverse audiences through public media. you can hear her on tuesday, this coming tuesday, march 24th on npr's show where she will be discussing her new book. please welcome professor martha hodes. [ applause ]
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>> good afternoon. i'm happy to be part of this event. i've been teaching the civil war for nearly 25 years. i call my course race, civil war and reconstruction. i want to draw my students about larger historical questions. i've always had a few lines in my lecture about the assassination, but several years ago i found myself taking a greater interest in this event. i now trace that interest to september 11th, 2001. that tuesday was the first day of the fall semester at new york university. the first plane hit the towers before i left my apartment and the second as i was walking to
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class. 9/11 made me think about how people respond to transformative events on the scale of every day life which conjured my memories of kennedy's assassination. i was five years old. as a scholar of the civil war i began to wonder. what did people do at home, on the street, with their families, by themselves when they heard the news of lincoln's assassination. i wanted to understand an event on the human scale. i decided to write mourning lincoln because books have drawn on public sources.
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i also found they gathered personal responses by reading memoirs crafted after the immediate events had pass ee ed. all of these are fine sources. the tweet that came in during jonathan's white talk asked what's been the most overlooked part of the assassination? well, read my book. in particular, personal responses to the illuminated irreconcilable differences after in the future, after the civil
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war. yet cure i don't sayly i found many of those portrayed a monolific nation in mourning. 9/11, again. in the days that followed attack it felt like the whole world was mourning and in gruf. in those photos of i saw evidence of something else. i saw evidence of tension and contention. one sign called for peace. another for peace after payback. some signs spewed fury at the peacemakers.
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others warned mourners to distrust the media. they asked who compromised the in dozens of archives over five years i read hundreds and hundreds of personal accounts from the spring of 1865.
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these are the soldier responses that stephen found missing. rich and poor, the well known and the unknown. in the course of this emersion in deiaries and letters, i foun quite a bit that surprised me. that made clear to me no matter how majestic were the public ceremonies northerning lincoln, this end of war moment was not a time of unity and closure. the immediate aftermath of lincoln's assassination, those hours and days and weeks i soon realized the key moment of intense strife that had been left out of story and a moment that resonates into the present day.
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everything was at stake. black freedom had been seized and delivered but would it last? peace would soon be declared but couldn't endure. how can confederated be brought back into the citizenery? wo? what would of nation would the leaders create? no one knew at that time this would be his last speak. this cautious suggestion irritated abolitionist.
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the same suggestion struck as entirely too revolutionary. that same even one of the conspirators attacked william bed. he lived while the news of president lincoln's death spread through the telegraph wires and across the nation and the world. now suddenly new questions
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became pressing. what would president andrew johnson do? what would happen the next day? trepidation for the future, i found, was particularly acute for african-americans. lincoln had been deeply influenced. one 6-year-old boy down south echoing the fear of grown ups around him. asked would he have to be a slave again. i knew the principal responses would be shock and grief. people were astonished, astoundsed, stupefied. people wrote word of lincoln's death was like a thunder clap
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from a clear, blue sky. it was a dreadful dream, a play on a stage. today we would say i felt like i was in a movie. it was a joke, a hoax, a lie and in particularly for former slaves it was a successionist lie. clergymen struggled to make it through their sermons, some unsuccessfully. the minister broke down and the tears rolled down his cheeks. union soldiers were weeping like children. lincoln's mourners were al angry, very angry. if another battle came to pass one soldier wrote to his mother,
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they're confederate opponents wish he told her they had never been born. the men of the famous black 54th massachusetts station said now there's no more peace. let us turn back and if necessary exterminate the race that can do such things. they were a distinct race. exterminate the race. i did find evidence of reprisals in the immediate moment after the assassination. these contradicted the proclamations of universal grief made by mourners that everyone, everywhere across the whole nation was of one heart and mind. north and south are weeping
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together. i found sentiments like that across many personal writings. that wasn't true, not at all. many confederates revelled in the assassination. thanks god for the first glean of light in this midnight darkness. the darkness being surrender. lesson forgotten. she flew home. these are her words. her heartbeating with
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excitement. he stopped off first at her aunt josie's where everyone shouted what do you think of the news? isn't it splendid. they were all in excitement. these made for violent crashes between white southerners and black southerners. in port smith, virginia it was dangerous to venture out at night. the fact was confederates were angry too. one of my richest discoveries when i was researching the book was a diary of an ardent successionist. he didn't hold back in his private writings. he saw white people begging in
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the street, he could not contain his fury. lincoln and white abolitionist were cowards, destitute and perverted. there were also white northerners who despised lincoln. these with his political opponents, the copperheads. the archives preserve them too.
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these actions are preserved in the national archive in cou court-martial records. one of the men announced i'm glad he's dead. some of these soldiers were brought up on charges of treason after the fact. the crowds were unprecedented from california to kansas to washington up through new england. black churches and white churches were jammed with worshippers eager to make sense of what felt incomprehensible. listening as their ministers assassination as part of god's devine plan for the future. confederates were sure that the assassination was god's will.
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lincoln's mourners did tremble. many took comfort in their minister's explanations. i was most interested in those who wrestled with their faith, wrestled the god in the faith of such unprecedented calamity. i cannot reconcile myself one soldier admitted. stumped as the why the almighty would take away the great abraham lincoln, i cannot believe it was for the best. i was also interested then to figure out who lincoln's blame.
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most pointed to the confederate leadership. many placed the blame on the institution of slavery. a german immigrant wrote it's slavery. all that day accusations continued. at the same time reading through so many diaries and letters, i realized that in order to understand personal and political responses to lincoln's assassinati
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assassination, i had to grapple with the persistence of every day life in the face of catastrop catastrophe. i think the first time this struck me is when i read the diary of a 9-year-old boy from new jersey who wrote school let out early and then added in the afternoon i played ball. mourners indulged in the idea that lincoln's assassination stopped the world. reading through diaries and letters, i realize that just the opposite was true. instead of every day life coming to a halt, every day life intruded into this cataclysmic event. i was surprised at just how much ink people devoted to daily trivia alongside their reactions to the assassination. take the diary of emily davis,
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an african-american student. along side her group and to view the president's body, davis also recorded visits with female friends, a sore throat and whether or not her suitor had come by. that attention to daily life didn't diminish her tribute to lincoln. we also know her probrothers foug two brothers fought in the car. she had listened to a message by frederick douglass two months earlier.brothers fought in the . she had listened to a message by frederick douglass two months earlier.fought in the car. she had listened to a message by frederick douglass two months earlier. here is one of my favorites. a rare self-conscience
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rumanation. henry and his fiance set their wedding day for 1865. that's the day frank wrote his letter. hear only joy bells because it is your wedding day. he pleaded it had been ghastly to be plunged from the heights of joy following union victory to the deaths of sorry. now frank confessed he was glad for the distraction. i'm hankful for time away from it. to that end frank asked henry to tell him about the wedding, whether you behaved or not and
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how many mistakes you made in the service. frank wanted to know the most details asking about his domestic life including how your rooms look and what you can see from the windows. mournings e mersimmersed themse. to face the future proved much more difficult for defeated confederates. when a white mississippi woman wrote that all are mourning and their hearts are crashed, president lincoln was nowhere in her thoughts. she went on the estimate she had lost $65,000 worth of human chattle. with aching hearts we will mourn for many days, weeks, months and years to come.
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ideal vision the world had come to a stand still. time suspended in order to allow proper grieving. lincoln's enemies didn't so much wish to stop time as they wish to reverse time. as i noted the out set to clashing and irreconcilable visions of the nation's future. with union victory african-americans and their white allies looked forward to education, land, voting rights for black men all with the guarantee of federal enforcement. former confederates for their part looked forward to the reestablishment of their own
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politititititi rights with no fl interference. nor had the nation's first presidential assassination subdued the confederates. on the day of lincoln's grand funeral a young woman con tell meplated her words. precisely what the civil war had been for african-americans. thus did lincoln's radical mourners come to believe that god permitted lincoln's demise for a special political reason. that is, in order to alert the victors their defeated enemies. the anti-slavery forces might
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not have insisted or the need for radical policies in the aftermath of unionq3u victories. black petitioners told president johnson he was replacing a man who had proved himself indeed our friend. reminding johnson of the liberty brought to us and our wives by your noble predecessor. they look to the emancipation proclamation and look to his last speech that only very intelligent black men and black soldiers should be granted to vote. lincoln's more radical mourners
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looked to a speech that had already become famous. lincoln had declared that the war on the battlefield would last. these are now famous words until every drop of blood drawn with lash shall be paid by another drawn with a sword. the war he meant would not end until slavery ended. lincoln closed that address with the appeal and richard fox had us speak these words this morning. these words were already famous when he was assassinated. malice toward none and charity toward all. many, at the time, thought they knew what lincoln meant and many
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today understand these words in the same way. as the union army approached triumph it seemed lincoln want them to treat their vanquished confederate enemies with mercy. rather i believe african-americans north and south interpreted lincoln's imperative of malice toward none and charity toward all. to apply to themselves to former slaves, to african-americans in their quest for freedom and equality. that's why lincoln inscribed those two phrases. with lincoln's imperative of adjust and lasting piece in mind frederick douglass said
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permanent peace could not be accomplished without justice. today we would say no justice, no peace. justice required going beyond legal freedoms. when they looked to the spirit of the martyred president. that's why frederick douglass concluded his words to the colored people, lincoln's death was an unspeakable calamity. the assassination opened the eyes of the radical black and white to the necessity of revolutionary policies following defeat on the battlefield.
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lincoln's mourners were not avenging his death. they wanted to avenge succession and war and the cause of the war, slavery which they understood to be the root cause of lincoln's assassination. with the end of reconstruction in 1877 came the beginnings of jim grow segregation and lynchings. as i read through confederate
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diaries i also found sentiments of white southerners from later decad decades. john johnston was leafing through his diary. he prayed to god that the rumors of lincoln's assassination were true. 40 years later he added a note on that same page. this was a sincere prayer that included lincoln's death. it was the first shot in the war that came with the war on black freedom and equality.
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in 2015, the 150th anniversary of lincoln's assassination we know this quest is not resolved. the meaning of the civil war not yet resolved which is why we turned with such intent interests to the legacy of president abraham lincoln. thank you. [ applause ] questions, thoughts, reflections? >> you mentioned there was a fear that the emancipation proclamation would go away. it was anticipated it would pass. >> what i found especially in sentiments of african-americans,
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the moment of crisis and often the documents i have for these are northern teachers who are teaching freed people in the south and wrote letters to the american missionary association which sent them describing the scene in their classrooms and that's where children and grown ups alike expressed that fear. that's not the only place. it meant equality. it meant citizenship. it meant voting rights for the men. it meant education. it meant land. that's what people were afraid of. thank you. >> do you have some thoughts
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about draws us here in the same context to what draws the crowd to the world trade sites as a way to mourn that kind of incide incident. >> i do have some idea. part of it comes from the sources i read about why people both collected relics of lincoln so picture, postcards, beautiful framed portraits, speeches he gave, funeral sermons. people would come to washington and write in their diaries. they walked around the theater. i went out and saw the alley in the back where john wilkes had escaped. there's one diary of a boston
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woman who comes down for the event of the armies in early may. she comes to ford theaters and goes across the street to peterson house. she writes in her diary how she went to the room where lincoln had died. the bloody pillow was there. she said something else. she said because it makes it, her words, so vivid. part of the visits to the world trade center, making such an event seem real. i felt something i hadn't felt before.
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there's a way in which it makes it true. it makes it go from unbelievable to believable. thank you. >> i direct a national prison reform organization, and identify been surprised at the lack of research that's gone into the exception clause, the 13th amendment where we still have slavery within our prison system. we now have 2.3 million people in prison. we have 25% the world's prisoners and only 25% of the world's population. i thought there would be some connection, we still have
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slavery within our constitution. we're looking at 150 years of its anniversary. maybe there should be a move to remove"+d all slavery that -- e that's the unfinished work. >> thank you for that comment. you're quite right that prisoners are not able to vote in this country. >> they're slaves. >> what i would say, there are activists on this issue. one of them is a wonderful scholar. a historian -- i can't remember her name. she's at temple university. she is a scholar of prisons and the history of prisons. she's very active in this movement to allow prisoners to vote. >> no, no. >> does anybody know her name? >> i'm talking about moving the
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exception clause. prisoners are considered slaves in our constitution. >> not just voting. >> thank you very much. let's have the next speaker so we can have more time. thank you for that comment. i appreciate it. >> i appreciate the confederate people who were celebrating the diaries of people celebrating but the assessment that i've always believed and of course there was lincoln wanting to be very merciful and reconstructionist, after the assassination they were more determined to be vengeful in reconstruction policy. what confederate diary, writings, observations have you found about people who were horrified about saying we're looking toward the future? this has doomed us to a lot of
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northern retribution. it will make it difficult the next few years as we try to get on with our lives and build our economy and go on with another way in life. >> i disagree with that common reading that lincoln's assassination furthered the retribution. if you read, as i have done, all of the sources, so many sources, right at the moment of assassination people are clear it's succession war and slavery they are avenging. let me speak to your very interesting last point. what's so fascinating about abraham lincoln. there were two groups of people that said lincoln was their best friend. the first were the freed people, african-americans, free and former slaves. the second, despite the fact confederates were gleeful in their personal writings, they
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were also very worried. thought cause. lincoln was the great statesman and confederates, although they were glad for the moment of reprieve and glad union supporters were suffering because it was a turn around, they were also very worried. the other thing is confederates were clear is they wanted booth alone to be blamed for the assassination. in other words, union supporters were saying it was the spirit of the confederacy that did this. slavery that did this. all through confederate letters and diaries you see people saying two things.
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they first say booth is our hero and the second thing is he was a lone madman and doesn't represent the sentiments of c confederacy. they knew they needed to move forward. thank you for that. >> we have a couple of questions. one is how did your research impact your view on the assassination? >> i've been teaching the civil war for 25 years. i had a stock description that i gave. i think i did imagine a nation in mourning just the way i
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recalled 9/11 as the world in group and shock. my view became hard to understand. that's the job of his ttorians. >> that will also make for a perfect tweet. the other question was some top conspiracies that came through. >> interesting. there were conspiracy theories at the time of the assassination and the judge. all through the trial to convict
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them but was unsuccessful. they were quite sure the confederate leadership was involved. often mourners would write out long list of names and their positions. the obvious ones were jefferson davis and robert e. lee. they would write out long lists of cabinet members and confederate diplomats. quite sure that it had been more than booth. that was part of their belief thisw whether or not these men were responsible had assassin e assassinated the president. thank you. sgr we hear a lot about this one. we hear as much about kennedy and very little about the other two. this may be off topic. it may not be your area of
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expertise. do you have any idea, would that consider cataclysmic in their time and why did he hear so little about those? >> garfield in 1881 rand mckinley in 1901, the first reason that scholars give is that lincoln and kennedy died immediately or almost immediately. i follow this couple up through reconstruction till the end of their lives. i'm not sure i can explain this. she's devastated, utterly
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devastated. i followed her through the whole story. she wrote so much about lincoln. there's a sense of at the immediate moment, i think garfield and mckinley were devastating events but they didn't have the legacies that lincoln and kennedy had partly because they were not, i guess, although garfield was a very good president, they were understood to be the kind of great statesmen that lincoln and kennedy were understood to be. thank you. yes. >> i wonder if you can tell it to be more 150 years ago about lincoln's assassination, 100
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years later then how people feel about also how they address the issues because the cause may be freedom and justice and peace and now we can international affairs. would you give us a little bit related issues and how people feel and why do they assassinate this person. >> i'm not a kennedy scholar but i think it's a tremendous event in people's lives and terms of commemorations and sentiniels. i do think what's so fascinating for me about thinking about kennedy and lincoln and the two assassinations was the difference in the world when the
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two took place. the first difference is civil war versus no civil war. that's enormous. they needed to see confirmation by seeing other people crying, weeping sad. they went outside. kennedy's assassination, i was very young. i remember this. i've spoken to other people about this. what people did when they were out on the street was they gathered around appliance stores with television sets in the window. those days not every household had a television and even if you did you wanted to go outside to confirm this had happened. you stood around watching television together so that you could all confirm this event. by the way, 9/11 was pre-facebook and tweeting.
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he was no new york city in a auto parts store. the guy behind the counter brought the radio out front so the customers could hear. everybody was devastated but everybody finished their purchases and went onto respond. maybe that's not exactly what you asked but i think perhaps scholars of kennedy's assassination can speak to your points. i think kennedy and that assassination are enormous events that got a great deal of
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