Edited by Eric Foner, this collection of essays on Americaís most popular president is an academic examination of several topics on
Abraham Lincoln. While the general reader might get bored with some of the essays, Lincoln buffs and academics will enjoy Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World and discover
there new information and some new insights.
The essayists are scholars including
The essay collectionís stated purpose is to mark Abraham Lincolnís bicentennial of birth on February 12, 2009. The scholars discuss various timely and historical topics and succeed in examining his life and political career from various angles. This will not be the final word on Abraham Lincoln - he is too popular for that Ė but this collection of essays is a worthy addition to the volumes of books and other materials related to him.
- James M. McPherson on Lincoln as the commander-in-chief;
- Mark E. Neely, Jr., writing about Lincoln and civil liberties;
- Sean Wilentz, comparing Lincoln and Andrew Jackson;
- Harold Holzer, discussing how Abraham Lincoln has become the subject of many pieces of art;
- James Oakes, examining Lincolnís views on African Americans and race;
- Editor Eric Foner, presenting Lincolnís views on sending African Americans to Africa or elsewhere;
- Manisha Sinha, examining Lincoln and his connections with abolitionists;
- Andrew Delbanco, discussing how Lincoln used Scripture quotes in his speeches;
- Richard Carwardine on what Lincoln believed and whether or not he was a Christian;
- Catherine Clinton on Lincoln and how important his family was to him; and
- David W. Blight, discussing how some scholars, politicians, businesspeople and others have abused or misused Lincolnís memory.
Some readers might be surprised by what they read in these essays. While some people may still believe that Lincoln sought equal rights for African Americans, they will be sadly disappointed to find out that this is not true, as James Oakes shows in his essay. Eric Foner shows that one of the possible remedies to the slavery question Lincoln highly considered was to ship those of African descent to Africa or elsewhere, where they might have their own country. Some politicians, especially Republicans, have tried to use Lincolnís image and memory as a way to garner support from contemporary African Americans and others by averring that they are the ďParty of Lincoln,Ē when in fact (as David Blight shows in his essay) Lincoln most likely would not agree with either modern party. Some businesspeople have used Lincolnís memory and image to sell all kinds of things, since Lincolnís image is seen as one of honesty and integrity.
Our Lincoln is highly recommended to Lincoln buffs, and some Civil War buffs will enjoy it, too, especially James McPhersonís essay. The essays vary in length and style of course; following them is a list of the contributors and their credentials, endnotes (which also serve as the bibliography) for each of the essays, and an index. Harold Holzerís essay includes black-and-white photographs, and the dust jacket features an extreme close-up of Lincolnís face.
Eric Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of history at Columbia University and the author of many award-winning books on the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. He is the co-author of Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction (2005).