I’m not someone who watches a lot of television. Since a couple of my favorite shows went off the air at the end of last season, I hardly ever turn it on unless it’s to have background noise while I’m doing something else. But over President’s Day weekend, I was drawn into and completely enthralled by a series of programs on Abraham Lincoln that variously explored a medical condition he may or may not have suffered from, his assassination and its aftermath, and other areas of his much-storied life. Lincoln’s been sort of a hot topic lately, with Daniel Day Lewis starring in a movie depicting his life and actions during the Civil War. Authors Bill O’Reilly, James Russell Lowell, David von Drehle, and Henry Ketchum have published new books about him within just the last twelve months. (Please don’t even ask me about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!)
Although Lincoln was the first American president to fall victim to an assassin, Presidents William H. Harrison and General Zachary Taylor (among others) also died in office. James Garfield and William McKinley both perished at the hands of gunmen, but how many people remember anything more than their names? And Lincoln led us through the Civil War, but how much do you know about James Madison, the “Father of the Bill of Rights” who led the young nation through the War of 1812, or Woodrow Wilson, who plunged us into the Great War (later known as World War I)? What is it about our sixteenth President that continues to fascinate us, almost 150 years after his untimely death?
These questions and others about this most beloved and controversial of presidents, are the subject of “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” opening on February 21, 2013 at the Sumter County Museum. Program materials pose some fascinating questions: Was the United States of American truly one nation, or “a confederacy of sovereign and separate states”? Was Lincoln “a calculating politician willing to accommodate slavery, or a principled leader justly celebrated as the Great Emancipator”? And most importantly, why do we still care so much?
This traveling exhibition, organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office, will remain at the Sumter County Museum until April 6, 2013. For more information, please call (803) 775-0908 or visit the museum online here.
The program is made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This important exhibit offers a look at the man who led the country through one of the most traumatic events in its history, and offers insight into why Abraham Lincoln matters today.
by Colette Daniels