Looking for Lincoln

Expand/Collapse Looking for Lincoln


Looking for Lincoln explores the life and legacy of the man widely considered one of our best and most enigmatic presidents. The PBS series, presented and written by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (African American Lives, Oprah’s Roots), addresses many of the controversies surrounding Lincoln – race, equality, religion, politics, and depression – by carefully interpreting evidence from those who knew him and those who study him today.

  • Abraham Lincoln, Attorney at Law

    In this video segment excerpted from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin examine Lincoln’s years as a “prairie” lawyer on the Illinois circuit, and discuss how they honed and polished Lincoln’s confidence, sense of fairness, and social skills.

    Grades: 1-12
  • Abraham Lincoln's Words

    In this video from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. cites several of Lincoln’s most famous lines of oratory from different points in his political career, noting the “seemingly simple but profoundly eloquent language” he used “to express and ennoble his cause.”

    Grades: 4-12
  • All Things Lincoln

    In this video segment, excerpted from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. visits the Lincoln Museum to see the iconic “stove pipe” hat firsthand. He then travels to Beverly Hills for a tour of the world’s largest private collection of Lincoln-related artifacts.

    Grades: 1-12
  • Bush on Lincoln

    In this video featuring a White House interview conducted by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., George W. Bush discusses the qualities he most admires in Abraham Lincoln and speculates on his own presidential legacy. While Lincoln is now widely regarded as perhaps our greatest leader, in his own day he—like Bush—made unpopular decisions as a wartime commander-in chief, and both presidents have been accused of exceeding the lawful limits of their power.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Civil War and Abolition

    In this video from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, professors Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Drew Gilpin Faust examine the unprecedented slaughter of the Civil War and the psychological toll it exacted on the man most directly responsible for it—President Abraham Lincoln. They explain how Lincoln recognized that such bloodshed could only be redeemed by elevating the justification of the war from the political ideal of union to the moral imperative of abolition. Former President Clinton then helps contextualize Lincoln’s finest expression of that new, higher cause–the Gettysburg Address.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Gettysburg Address

    A video segment excerpted from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, in which President Bill Clinton explains the context of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. examines its content.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Lincoln's Early Views

    In this segment from Looking for Lincoln, historians Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and David Blight examine the complicated historical reality behind the romanticized myth of Abraham Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.” They explore Frederick Douglas’s impatience with Lincoln’s reluctance to make slavery the fundamental issue of the Civil War and describe Lincoln’s proposed compromise solution, in which slaves would be purchased by the government and deported to “colonies” in Panama and Liberia. Blight observes that such a “cushioned overthrow of slavery” was never truly possible, insisting that slavery “was going to have to be bludgeoned out of existence.”

    Grades: 5-12
  • Lincoln's Growth and Change

    In this video—the conclusion of the PBS series Looking for Lincoln—historians Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and James Horton examine the transformation of Lincoln’s views on slavery and speculate on how different American history might have been had he lived to oversee a more extensive Reconstruction. Tributes to Lincoln’s enduring legacy from historians David Blight, Drew Gilpin Faust, Joshua Wolf Shenk, and former President Bill Clinton culminate in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory speech.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Looking for Lincoln During the Civil War

    This lesson explores the unique challenges Lincoln faced during the five years of bloody civil war which made him America’s ultimate but most controversial wartime leader.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Looking for Lincoln Through his Words

    In this lesson, students explore how Abraham Lincoln used the power of words in speeches, letters and other documents.

    Grades: 5-7
  • Looking for Lincoln Throughout His Life

    In this interdisciplinary lesson, students gather different facts about Lincoln through a variety of hands-on activities.

    Grades: 1-3
  • Looking for Lincoln Views on Slavery

    Students examine Abraham Lincoln’s views on slavery and race in this lesson based on the PBS series Looking for Lincoln.

    Grades: 5-8
  • Proving Ground

    In this video from Looking for Lincoln, host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. reflects on the unprecedented scale of the Civil War, wondering how so many soldiers on both sides could have marched so enthusiastically to their deaths. Gates’ interview with historian Allen Guelzo explores both the specific horrors of the battle of Gettysburg and President Lincoln’s personal contempt for the Confederate States of America, which he refused to officially recognize as anything more than an insurgency.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Quoting Abraham Lincoln

    This video, excerpted from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, features clips of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama quoting Lincoln’s oratory—not always accurately—to lend his historical weight to their own speeches.

    Grades: 4-12
  • The Road to Emancipation

    In this video from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and historian David Blight examine President Abraham Lincoln’s mixed motivations for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. They conclude that while Lincoln ultimately recognized the moral righteousness freeing the slaves, his first and primary concern was strategic: it was the best way to rally the North and strike at the heart of the South’s economy. Gates and Blight then join a roundtable discussion of Lincoln scholars debating the legal authority of the Proclamation and its special meaning for African Americans.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Was Lincoln a White Supremacist?

    Henry Louis Gates, Jr. deconstructs the traditional, legendary narrative of Abraham Lincoln in this segment from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln. Writer Lerone Bennett, Jr. recalls his disillusionment with “The Great Emancipator” who’d been his childhood hero, citing Lincoln’s proposed “comprise” solution to slavery (which had involved the deportation of slaves to “colonies” in Panama and Liberia) and Lincoln’s failure to contribute anything to the Abolitionist cause prior to the Civil War. Historian David Blight, however, reminds us that it is our own task to define “what is worth remembering” about Lincoln’s story.

    Grades: 5-12

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