They Knew Lincoln: A Selected Bibliography

February 2nd, 2018

Originally published in 1942 and now reprinted for the first time, They Knew Lincoln is a classic in African American history and Lincoln studies. Part memoir and part history, the book is an account of John E. Washington's childhood among African Americans in Washington, DC, and of the black people who knew or encountered Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. 

A new introduction by Kate Masur places Washington's book in its own context, explaining the contents of They Knew Lincoln in light of not only the era of emancipation and the Civil War, but also Washington's own times, when the nation's capital was a place of great opportunity and creativity for members of the African American elite. On publication, a reviewer noted that the "collection of Negro stories, memories, legends about Lincoln" seemed "to fill such an obvious gap in the material about Lincoln that one wonders why no one ever did it before." This edition brings it back to print for a twenty-first century readership that remains fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. Kate Masur will discuss They Knew Lincoln on Monday, 2/5 6pm at the Co-op.

Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, by Elizabeth Keckley - A controversy about this book impelled John E. Washington to research Keckley and other African Americans who had known the LIncolns.

Oration at the Unveiling of the Freedmen's Monument in Memory of Abraham Lincoln, by Frederick Douglass - A classic Douglass speech offering a complex view of Lincoln. collId=mfd&fileName=23/23004/23004page.db&recNum=0&itemLink=/ammem/doughtml/dougFolder5.html&linkText=7.

Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of a Friendship between a First Lady and a Former Slave, by Jennifer Fleischner - The definitive modern study of the two women's lives and how they intersected. Fleischner persuasively argues that Keckly spelled her own surname without a second "e."

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, by Eric Foner - An excellent recent account of Lincoln's relationship to slavery and his views on race.

Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies, by John E. Blassingame - A wonderful compilation of first-hand accounts of slavery and emancipation.

Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration, by Elizabeth Clark-Lewis - An excellent study, partially based on oral histories, of the lives of black domestic workers in early twentieth-century Washington, D.C.

Racism in the Nation's Service: Government Workers and the Color Line in Woodrow Wilson's America, by Eric S. Yellin. Describes how early twentieth-century changes negatively affected the striving black elite of the nation's capital.

About Kate Masur:  Kate Masur teaches in the Department of History at Northwestern University. She is the author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. and the co-editor of The World the Civil War Made.

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