Monday, February 9, 2009

Abraham Lincoln On PBS This Week

There are two special documentaries on PBS this week which should be of great interest to Abraham Lincoln enthusiasts. One is the story of the assassination, while the other strives to find the "real Lincoln," the man behind the myths.

Tonight (February 9, 2009) at 9:00 p.m. (Eastern), the PBS series American Experience tells the story of the assassination in feature film 90 minutes in length. It focuses not only on the assassination itself, but also on the tumultuous two months following the deed as approximately 7 million Americans showed an outpouring of grief which had never been seen in the country. These Americans either paid their respects at the funerals held in numerous cities across the eastern U.S. or by simply lining the tracks as his funeral train made its mournful journey to Springfield. The assassination was one of the greatest tragedies in our history and it helped to solidify myths about Lincoln, such as the belief that he was universally loved. The USA Today television critic says that some of the re-enactments are a bit "cheesy" but I think it should be a compelling film, at least based on the usual high quality programming on American Experience.

On Wednesday night (February 11, 2009) at 9:00 p.m. (Eastern), PBS will debut "Looking For Lincoln" (2 hours in length) hosted by the historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he looks for the "real" Lincoln. Too often, we lose sight of the fact that the people who helped shape American (and world) history were flesh and blood like us, that they had failings in their lives, that they were human. History becomes boring for students and adults alike when it becomes a recitation of facts, dates, and numbers. We need to understand the real persons hidden behind myth. A companion book of the same title has already been published. It is a remarkable look at how Lincoln's son Robert, various friends of Lincoln, and others worked to shape the Lincoln myths. It is an excellent book which I cannot recommend highly enough. I'm very much looking forward to this film. By the way, be sure to check out the link I provided in the opening sentence of this paragraph. You can take a Lincoln quiz, or even watch the film itself.

If you are just learning about Abraham Lincoln, or would like to further your understanding of this complex man, these two PBS films should do the trick. Please check your local PBS schedule as sometimes the local stations do not show the scheduled presentations at the same time as the national feed.

5 comments:

Jim said...

Thanks for posting reminders about these programs. I totally would have missed them!

I took the quiz and got 14 out of 15! I can't believe I missed one. Embarrassing. :)

Abigail said...

Looking For Lincoln features our truck in a few shots :)

Rebecca said...

I saw another program on PBS about Lincoln that will be airing tonight, Feb. 10, called "Lincoln: Prelude to the Presidency."

The description says,"Chronicling Abraham Lincoln's years as a lawyer (1837-60) on Illinois' Eighth Judicial Circuit, and how his experiences helped shape his presidency."

Sounds like a good topic that's not normally covered about Lincoln!

Kathy said...

I watched the Assassination special last night and although I enjoyed it, I was sorry that they seemed a bit timid in their discussion of the accomplices. The research I've read suggested that Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd were much more complicit than the AMerican Experience piece would lead you to believe.

Geoff Elliott said...

I've not yet seen the American Experience special which was on PBS last night. Another person told me that she didn't like it very well.

I'll have to see for myself. The Mudd descendants have tried for decades to exonerate their ancestor, Dr. Samuel Mudd. Most historians today believe that he was very much a part of the conspiracy against Lincoln, regardless of the protestations of the Mudd family. Personally, I think the family should be grateful that Dr. Mudd wasn't hanged.

I don't see how Mrs. Surratt could be exonerated either. The conspirators met frequently at her house, she helped hide weapons for them, etc. Thanks for your comment.

 
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