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Who inspired President Abraham Lincoln?

If Abraham Lincoln can be credited for delivering America from the grip of Civil War-era secessionism, he stood on the shoulders of two presidential giants: the iconic 19th century visionary honored the same constitutional ideals of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore.

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What’s on your sesquicentennial playlist?

Looking for something good to put on your iPod for the next four years?  When Louis Masur stopped by I learned that in addition to being able to summarize the entire Civil War in less than 100 pages (see: The Civil War: A Concise History), he also happens to be a huge music buff, having written his previous book on some guy called The Boss. I asked if he wouldn’t mind making us something special for the big 1-5-0 and he kindly obliged. Enjoy!

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Martin Luther King Jr., Standing with Lincoln

Martin Luther King, Jr., had helped organize the SCLC (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Its appeal was to the mass of moderate churchgoing blacks; most of its leaders were ministers. But many young people were impatient with both of these approaches, which seemed too slow-moving. They formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), known as SNICK. SNCC and the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) organized many of the sit-ins in college communities. Some black groups wanted to fight with fists, weapons, and anger. Everyone knew that if they got their way, much of the high purpose of the civil rights movement would be lost. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., had made civil rights a cause for all Americans. It was about quality. It was about justice and freedom for all. It wasn’t just for blacks—although most of the leadership was black.

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Phantoms and frauds: the history of spirit photography

By Kate Scott
The last time President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln sat for a portrait photograph together was in the early 1870s, five years or more after the president’s death and burial. The president, filmy and translucent, tenderly placed his see-through hands on his wife’s shoulders as she looked into the camera.

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The strange career of Birth of a Nation

Today represents a red letter day — and a black mark – for US cultural history. Exactly 98 years ago, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation premiered in Los Angeles. American cinema has been decisively shaped, and shadowed, by the massive legacy of this film.

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To be Commander-in-Chief

On April 4, 1864, Abraham Lincoln made a shocking admission about his presidency during the Civil War. “I claim not to have controlled events,” he wrote in a letter, “but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” Lincoln’s words carry an invaluable lesson for wartime presidents. Author Andrew J. Polsky believes when commanders-in-chief do try to control wartime events, more often than not they fail utterly. He examines Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, showing how each gravely overestimated his power as commander-in-chief.

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The Wartime Presidency

By Andrew Polsky
In 2012, the American people will choose between two candidates for the Oval Office who share in common something unusual — neither one has ever spent a day in a military uniform. No presidential election since 1944 has featured two major party candidates with no military experience. The absence of a candidate with time in the military has led some to bemoan the separation between civilian life and military service. But the more immediate concern should be whether a lack of military experience has an impact on how well a president performs as a wartime leader.

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Politics & Paine: Part 4

Welcome to the final installment the Politics & Paine series. Harvey Kaye and Elvin Lim are corresponding about Thomas Paine, American politics, and beyond. Read the first post here, and the second post here, and the third post here. Kaye is the author of the award-winning book, Thomas Paine: Firebrand of Revolution, as well as […]

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Obama’s Leadership Gap

By Elvin Lim
For after endorsing the idea of the mosque near Ground Zero and resisting the path of least resistance, a day later, the President back-tracked, saying, “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding.” (As Kerry was for the Iraq war before he was against it.) Well done, Polonius.

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