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January 12th, 2009

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s quest to piece together Lincoln’s complex life takes him from Illinois to Gettysburg to Washington, D.C., and face-to-face with people who live with Lincoln every day – relic hunters, re-enactors, and others for whom the study of Lincoln is a passion. Among those weighing in: Pulitzer Prize winners Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner; presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; and Lincoln scholars including Harold Holzer, vice chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; Harvard University’s president Drew Faust and history professor David Hebert Donald; Yale University history professor David Blight; and Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College.

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  • Aron Dennen

    That was great thank you for putting it together!

  • Deborah Abernathy-Smith

    Mr. Gates, I was awakened by this documentary about Lincoln. I had a feeling that Lincoln was not perfect, and possibly owned slaves, because that was the times. I love history, you job is so wonderful. Thanks for waking up our people to know the true and to accept the true. My children are 11 and 14, this documentary will definely show them the true life of President Abe Lincoln.

  • alana rae

    Fantastic! Just when you think you know somethings, you find out the other side in greater detail. As an african american, it is somewhat hard to look at Lincoln without judging him with 21st century eyes and mind. Knowing who he was from the start of his quest and life journey really opened my eyes a bit more. I absolutely loved this film. I love all of Henry Louis Gates documentaries. I’m still waiting to do the DNA ancesterial test :D

  • michel cahier

    fantastic !! superb job !! amitiés à Muriel et bravo pour ce passionnant documentaire !!

  • Gregory Rowe

    I teach history and world events at a middle school in Texas. My world events class is currently working on a Lincoln legacy project in honor of the bicentennial of his birth. My students have quickly come to appreciate the complexity of Lincoln through their own project. I am planning to show this to them and have them compare their own conclusions about Lincoln’s life with those of Professor Gates. I am really looking forward to their conclusions as much as I enjoyed Mr. Gates’ journey.

  • Ken Bloomfield

    …Mr Gates has created a documentary that not only analyzes the greatness of Lincoln but describes the issues of slavery during the civil war remarkably.It is amazing the similarities of life today and during that period. Thank you this is a must see!!!!

  • Colleen

    That was fabulous! I’ve read so many books about Lincoln of late, and loved it. Found this as thorough and well rounded and uplifting as a Pulitzer prize winner. Learned a few things and even shed a tear. Job well done. Thank you, Skip!

  • Carol F. Yost

    Thank you for this very useful documentary. I think that Lincoln in his final days seems NOT to be racist any longer, but as someone of his times who has grown–someone who does believe, or hope to see as true (no matter what has been engrained in him by his upbringing), the idea that all people are in fact created equal. This is what he averred in the end. This is what he acted upon. That is what made him great. I am a white American, but I see the pain of black people as they try to confront the racist things that Lincoln said along the way as he ran for President and after. It has been hard for me, too. I think this documentary makes it clear that Lincoln was no accidental hero or an angel made of cardboard and glue; he really believed in the equality of humankind at the end; the way he speaks about this idea, the way he speaks about emancipation at the end, I think sounds sincere. It’s not enough to say he made racist remarks in order to win the Presidency; that’s horrible and cheap, even if he could have won no other way. However, he later seems to have progressed to the great seeing of racial equality because of time and what he endured. I love Lincoln for that.

  • VLT

    Excellent job Mr. Gates. In recent years, I have come recognized the complexity of the life of Lincoln, and I would like to thank you for so eleqently and tenderly bringing his story to life for me and my family. Looking forward to your next project?

  • Mary Andrzejewski

    I have always been interested in history particularly of this time period, because y ansestor had been enslaved. What I enjoyed about this piece was the putting Abraham Lincoln in a human perspective.

  • Pam

    I find it interesting, ironic, odd, eerie, that most of our country’s strongest, most impactful leaders are “thrust” into these positions. The thought maybe inherent but the action is cosmic.

  • Jason

    This documentary still advances the obstinate delusion that Lincoln was something other than a fanantical abolitionist that instigated a totally unnecessary war to elevate the economic prospects of the North and subjugate the people of the South. The 258,000 people in the South that died defending their homeland against Lincoln’s invading government wanted nothing more than to be politically independent and free from Washington’s moral platitudes about radical equality. Those that died had faces, names, and real lives that dishonored every time tribute is given to this fanatical butcher of the southern people.

  • Kinnikuman

    Some black people should be really thankful to Lincoln. He stopped the slavery and and changed the American history forever. Abraham Lincoln will be always my hero. He was racist but that doesn’t mean that he liked slavery.

  • Tony Prete

    This magnificent series does a wonderful job of presenting in all its totality a picture of a complex and often conflicted man. I’m afraid that the Lincoln I knew was more mythical. And while I am glad to have a more realistic perception, I also think that we need to hold onto the myth. At time when politicians are held in such low esteem, when we seem compelled to “cut down to size” anyone who would challenge our complacency or call for a return to principles, we cannot let Abraham Lincoln fall victim to such demythologizing.

    We need this reminder that being an idealist does not exclude being a realist as well, that growth toward “our better angels” is possible, that pragmatism can be compatable with principle. Lincoln remains a great American icon. As such, he remains the fertile soil out of which new heroism can grow. Part of the mythic Lincoln is present in all that this myth has inspired others to do and to be.

  • Caroline Darst

    Thank you, Mr. Gates. I grew up in Missouri with Lincoln statues as bookends(!) and I’ve always considered him to be our greatest president.

  • Marva Richards

    Brother Dr.Skip, This is the kind of public scholarship that we need and want. Ideas that make us confront our reality and our truth. I enjoy all your work -You epitomize what Public Education should be about, truth-telling in all its forms. This is so well edited and so well narrated. I look forward to your next project with great anticipation. I appreciate your ability to tell a good story and pray for your health and well-being to continue this work.

  • Mark Speers

    The myth of Lincoln will no doubt endure, but as the cover of an elaborate history of a man who became president overcoming all odds set before him.

  • P Robinson

    I enjoyed this so much, thank you for the enlightment. History would have been different if it wasn’t for Lincoln. Glad to share a BIRTHDAY. Good research from you Mr. Gates

  • Carlos J Vidal

    “The truth will set you free” and this documentary let us see it and make us much more real americans. Bravo!

  • Christopher Wilson

    Great documentary. I loved seeing the vault with Lincoln artifacts. If you don’t have the book, Looking for Lincoln, it’s very worthwhile. I’m a third grade teacher, and it’s been amazing to see students connecting with Lincoln. We have school-wide celebrations at our school all day tomorrow! Happy birthday, Abe!

  • Carolyn Bordeaux

    I like Mr. Gate’s work but he does a disservice to American Indian people when he solely focuses on Black people and emancipation. Mr. Lincoln is not a hero of Indian people – he was responsible for the hanging of 38 Indian men in Mankato MN for going up against a tyrannical US government policy to annihilate Indian people. So please do all your research when researching prominent figures including their positions on the Indigenous people of this land.

  • Nick Lento

    I see the parallel between Lincoln’s times and ours being about the ongoing struggle for human rights, dignity and justice in America and throughout our world.

    As one who has had occasion to be present at various civil rights protests over the years, I recall the chant, “No Justice, No Peace”. And yes, that’s clearly true; but ironically, in some sense so is the reverse…for without a *genuine* Peace, Justice is diminished.

    It is my hope that we Americans may yet realize (what I believe to be) our historical imperative/destiny, which is to manifest an example for the rest of the world of what real justice and real peace look like.

    I must say, despite the occasional flashes of brilliance here and there, we still have a long way to go.

    Let us hope to see a world in, perhaps, another 200 years in which global citizens of a transformed Earth, free of the plagues of petty nationalism, ideological identification, and systemic economic injustice will look back on these times in which we live with the same kind of piteous and respectful amazement with which we view our own civil war and the sickness that was slavery.

    Let us not forget that for millions of people, slavery is *still* a reality. Human trafficking is common and well organized to this day!

    The phrase, “Liberty and Justice for All” must ring true for *all* humanity if it is ever to fully manifest here in America.

    Our power to play a role in the great work that is the manifestation of the truly/fully human spirit can not come from the barrel of a gun; but from the force of our example and the clarity of our vision.

    Abraham Lincoln was and is an example of a human life lived well. If our species is to survive into the next millennium; we will need many many more like him. That doesn’t mean “perfected saints” it means that we all can and must strive and struggle to live our lives in harmony with the dictates of Conscience….which, after all, is the residence of those “better angels”.

    Thank you PBS and CPB for producing such an informative, enlightening and inspiring program!

  • C Ridgeland

    Very interesting documentary, but the people who need American history the most, probably won’t tune in. Mr. Gates could have left out Louise Taper, though. Her Lincoln collection belongs in a museum where all Americans can benefit by it; not in the hands of some rich woman who can brag to her friends about her Lincoln cache. That’s a sin. Also, if there are decendants of Confederates who think that Lincoln was a war criminal, why are they living in this Union that he saved, today?

  • T. L. Hill

    EXCELLENT documentary! Henry Louis Gates always lifts our perspective, challenges our assumptions, and deepens our understanding of the complexities folks experience in every time — past and present. We are grateful for this contribution!

  • Joe

    Bravo Mr. Gates. Human beings truly are complex individuals and our attempt to caste a person in on camp or another often is misleading. In spite of his sometimes racist views, Mr. Lincoln propelled our country forward to hasten equality. His own personal ambition, along with his moral sense of right and wrong and willingness to argue his case like any good lawyer, got him elected. Mr. Gates has artfully depicted this complex man clearly and honorably. You can’t help but believe Old Abe would have approved.

  • Sheila A. Taylor

    This was such an enlightening program. Mr. Gates, you were phenomenal. You gave us a three-dimmensional view of this man who, for many of us was only known as the one who freed the slaves. President Lincoln, the myth was brought more in line with the man. we were able to gain a better understanding how his less than altristic motives for ending slavery ultimately shaped him as a leader, and visionary.

  • Ron S.

    Kudos! to Gate’s presentation. A most insightful and engaging lesson on the myth and man Abe Lincoln. Great programming!

  • K. Black

    I thought this was a very interesting documentary which showed us Lincoln as a man not just the myth about whom we have been taught. Doris Kearns Goodwin made a good point that Lincoln didn’t ask to be an icon, we made him one, black and white. What anyone watching this documentary should also take from it was that Lincoln, like all of us, was a product of his times, and to consider his times as part of the history as well. How and why Lincoln arrived at the decision to free the slaves and give them the right to vote is less important than that he did these things. He laid the groundwork for further changes in the future. His death postponed many of those changes for far too long. One other thing I took from this documentary was Lincoln’s passion for the preservation of the Union. Today, I identify myself more as an American than as a citizen of my state or region, something I don’t think was true during Lincoln’s time. That he stressed the importance of the Union helped the people of the country identify themselves as part of a larger whole in a way they may not have before, something we now take for granted.


    the documentary was great. it focused on what we have been taught about mr. lincoln. i am fascinated about his life and death. the biggest downfall of the show and i think a huge lack of judgement was mr. gates introducing a scumbag like clinton and his opinions into the program. the south chose their own path by wanting to destroy the union of all states and by thinking that one man should serve another based solely on skin color.

  • Angela

    Wow. After watching this documentary, my whole ideology of Licoln has been altered:(

  • joonypie

    My amateur readings of history made me aware of the contradictions between Lincoln the myth and Lincoln the man. In learning of his failures and difficulties in life and as a man, I found greater affection for him, but I also was dissapointed that emancipation was a more of a pragmatic decision than the myth that I had learned to love. Thank you Professor Gates for a lesson in the nuance of history; I went back and re-read the Gettysburg address and second inaugural with fresh eyes and could see something of what Fredrick Douglass had seen, that Lincoln had grown and what better story of a man can there be?

  • Joe Ceriale

    Hip hip hooray for Mr. Gates. And I will believe it was to the “ages.

  • Paul N

    Thank you Professor Gates. What a wonderful and important contribution. I felt so enriched by seeing these various perspectives on Lincoln through your eyes. This is a grown-up search for understanding the complexities of Lincoln and his pivotal place in our history. How interesting that we are celebrating his 200th birthday at a time that our nation seems to be growing up–at least a bit. Again, thank you.

  • Ingrid

    Louis Gates documentary is poorly edited, with several distracting elements. Watching it was a frustrating experience. Also, in the first hour at least, his focus is primarily on the weaknesses of the man who is responsible for Gate’s own freedom to stand in front of those cameras and criticize him.

  • Carly

    That is soo intresting iI just want them to tell me more!!! : )

  • Carly


  • Ben Aiken

    Kudos on a very thoughtfull and balanced peice. However, you missed the main reason why Lincoln is so beloved and honored in D.C. He is the godfather of Centralized Federal Power. Before him it was understood that the founders wished for the states to be far more powerfull, the federal gov’t there simply to resolve disputes and provide common defence, and seccession was always understood as the right of any state. Lincoln changed that forever.

  • Melody Thomas

    Henry Louise Gates Jr! I am so proud of you and what you are doing for PBS and the American people as a whole. Thank you for bringing to my attention the authors of Looking for Lincoln (The Kunhardt Men). I can’t wait to discover what else they have written that I almost missed in my lifetime. I have learned so much from you(and them) that it feels me with hope, happiness, knowledge and faith. When ever I watch one of your programs I can’t wait to get to work the next day to discuss with my co-worker and encourage my family to watch. As a black women living in this era it is not just the outstanding politicans, athletes, entertainers and commuity leaders that see us through, but the intellect of citizens of America like yourself that keep my thirst of higher learning robust.
    Thank you,
    Melody Nicole Thomas
    Southfield, Michigan

  • Wayne

    An excellent piece, thank you very much! It is much better to see past the “marble man” of the Lincoln mystique and understand his times. The country would never have elected an abolitionist, and it speaks to Lincoln’s greatness that he rose to the occasion when the occasion demanded it. He certainly could have failed to do so. I think only those within his own time can judge him properly, and Frederick Douglass said it best when he wrote: “But now behold the change: the judgment of the present hour is, that taking him for all in all, measuring the tremendous magnitude of the work before him, considering the necessary means to ends, and surveying the end from the beginning, infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.”

    I’ll take his assessment over any others.

  • Angela Petersen

    Thank you Mr Gates, for yr time and effort to bring us the reality of a man. The push for empowerment of the human soul. Eventhou, the american natives were not mentioned in this time period, I hope that you may in the future connect it all to the main theme. We are AMERICANS after all was said and done. The south view of the black mans purpose had to be altered. Either by the gun or by the Word of God. Let no man put your work into nothing as the end of the struggle we as a people are an example to the world of what brotherhood can be like for all humanity to be apart of. thank you for your contribution.
    Angela Petersen
    Ridgewood, New York

  • Lori of Illinois

    Amazing! I am going to buy the book because when they grow up, I want my children to learn everything that I have just learned from watching this video. And until they are old enough to read the book for themselves, I will be careful to teach them about the real man and not just the myth that I have known as Lincoln.

    I have always known that the greatest leaders have had to compromise at some of their truths to achieve what they knew was most important and that many people misjudge the whole of the person because they have only seen a part.

    Gates has shown us the whole Linoln.

  • Arthur

    I cannot join the high praise lavished on this “documentary.” It should have been entitled, “Looking for Gates” instead of “Lincoln,” as it appeared to be more of a vanity project for Gates than a scholarly work. Even a casual observer of history will conclude that the show presented few, if any, new interpretations about Lincoln. Instead, viewers are subjected to repeated shots (more than 18 per minute!) and close-ups of Gates in a well-rehearsed engrossed and pensive mood. Do we really need to see shots of him driving his rental Nissan Murano to the home of the L.A. memorabilia collector, conversing with the guard, superficially praising the collectors’ home? And the dinner scene with Gates and 3 historians was little more than a distraction. Even worse were the “interviews,” most of which were obviously scripted and rehearsed. Finally, as a Harvard historian, one would expect him to ask interview questions more probing than “Did Lincoln know how long the war would last?” and “What do you admire most about Lincoln?” PBS needs to do a better job distinguishing vanity projects from scholarly works.

  • John Shaft

    I have great admiration to Madam Kearn’s ability in the American histiry, mostly on the presidents. However, in thuis case she tries very hard to make Lincoln the man that he was not, although it was under his administration that the African slaves got his freedom under his administration, but the fact remains that Lincoln was no different than the average white American of the time. The only difference is that he had the chance to change thye situation and time was on his side and he did what he could not to free the slave but to keep the union at any cost.

  • Lawrence of Hueneme

    I was disappointed that Gates ’search’ for Lincoln overlooked Lincoln’s true greatness. The first is that Lincoln won the war. Gates diminishes the Emancipation Proclamation as only an instrument to help win the war. In fact, the only way Lincoln could end slavery was to win the war. If he had lost, slavery would have continued in the Confederacy and all of our lives would be vastly different today. The second and truly most significant thing about Lincoln was the strength of his character. Lincoln knew what was right, believed it, promoted it and lived it. Men like this are hard to find today. There are many who talk a good line and say all the right things, but their lives and actions aren’t consistent with their words. The Union would have preferred to let the Confederate states leave rather than fight for what was right. Only someone with Lincoln’s sense of right, strength of character and brilliant leadership could have acheived what he did. Perhaps Gates is right in saying that Lincoln isn’t what we have been led to believe. He was much, much better.

  • Michael R. Abreu, Kansas

    This is an astonishing record of Abraham Lincoln’s frailty as a human being. In my opinion, it does not diminish his greatness. In fact, the revelation of Lincoln’s battles within himself makes him a far more tangible leader than any other in history since Jesus [I truly believe]. The times and circumstances in which Lincoln engaged suggest great accuracy to his struggle in defining equality among non-whites and, more importantly, the Constitution. Knowing that the initial rendition of the Supreme Law of the Land designated the rights all citizens today solely to adult white Americans, his moral fiber encompassed the need to change one’s perspective and purpose for the betterment of others.

    Lincoln’s lifelong pursuit of truth led him to progressively change himself and consequently challenge his constituents to change as well for the sake of the Nation. His ascent to become the Great Emancipator places him among the great martyrs of all time upon his death.

    Yes, the Emancipation Proclamation was strategic in the Union turning the tide of the war against the Confederacy, but the will of the black soldiers–notably the 54th Massachusetts Regiment among others–and the voracity of his counterpart Frederick Douglass compelled Abraham Lincoln to take his place in history as the man responsible for the abolishment of slavery and the beginning of civil rights for all Americans.

    This reminds me of another abolitionist who endured the same battle…does William Wilberforce from Britain sound familiar. It took him almost his entire life for the Crown to accept dissolving the institution of slavery. I have great reason to believe that Abraham Lincoln knew the significance of this action, thus making it his own.

    For this, he lost his life before he could even get a chance to place further action on his then-renewed vision. In the face of his tragedy, the election of now-President Barack Obama paints a picture of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as one that comes full circle. We should all be proud of who Honest Abe was: controversial, daring, innovative, troubled, passionate, and above all, selfless.

  • Kristine

    President Lincoln and President Obama share Ancestors

    Darwin and Lincoln share birthdays

    All of us are interconnected!

  • Michael S Sherman

    I share what appears to be a minority view that Professor Gates’ “show” was net not constructive:
    1. little was new – granted, the subject is so fascinating that one watched eagerly for a while
    2. it was so typical of our time, where so many “historians” merely combine current values and liberal hindsight, with a dash of scandal, to redefine history in a predictably condescending light. A smug “we know better now” theme permeated the “revelations.”
    3. the self-flattery (pensive close-ups, just walking with his cane, dining, etc.) was palpable.
    4. often what was presented as “evidence” was opinion
    5. the star of the show was the pleasant tavern-keeper who invited Professor Gates to kindly leave if he chose to continue his pathetically rude comments!
    6. to highlight highschool students’ “conversion” viz. their view of Lincoln was as deep as my sons explaining to me (and joining their classmates in writing our then-mayor) why we should all stop celebrating Columbus Day, since Columbus was an evil man who killed innocent Native Americans like a terrorist with biological warfare! This fosters “independent” thinking?
    We all share the inspiration to seek more knowledge about the great people of history. To learn more about their humanity need not tarnish their image – it can certainly help us more fully appreciate them. The difference in quality and scholarship (in History) between Professor Gates and, say, David McCullough, is stunning. PBS should require more than temporal “star power.”

  • Michelle Clifton

    This is an excellent documentary of Abraham Lincoln. In the “Great Emancipator Segment” Mr. Gates languishes over Lincoln’s 19th century perspective of black slaves to Doris Goodwin. In order to break the financial back of the Confederacy, Lincoln had to free the slaves. It had to be done because it was also the right thing to do. I as an African-American woman am not concerned whether or not Lincoln freed the slaves to win the war. I think Mr. Gates wanted to believe in his mind about what he was first taught in school, the compassionate “Father Abraham” which, in reality, was not the case. That is what most of us was taught in school. I can see the bubble burst as he resolved this fact in his mind. I still think Lincoln was a great man in other aspects, he was a man of complexties which sparks my interest in reading more about him. And to Mr. Gates, you did a good job producing this wonderful educational program. Thank you. Also we should look to God first because as human beings we all fall short.

  • Jeff

    Being an avid student of history I am able to find nuggets of information in most documentarie
    whether I agree with there conclusions or not. History is at the merecy of those who write it for
    it is their interpretation and opinion of the facts which is indelibly branded upon their work.
    Today February 12th 2009 is the 200th anniversary
    of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Let us come together to honor this great man and realize his
    humanitarian visions for the future. As a lesder one must be pragmatic something Lincoln realized
    early on. He was able to put aside his own best
    interests for the good of all. He wisely recognised the limits of the times in which he
    lived and took the proper steps to insure that
    progress could be made successfully. Clearly,
    Lincoln wanted all people to be part of the
    American Dream; however he lived in times when
    many of his countrymen unfortunately did not.
    The sum total of any persons life cannot adequately be portrayed in a matter of hours.
    Let us remember Abraham Lincoln for the great man
    he was. His compassion, his generosity of spirit
    and his wisdom are the priceless legacy which he
    has passed on to all future generations of Americans.

  • Kirk D. Lyons

    I give Mr. Gate’s high marks for a suprizingly balanced view of the tyrant and war criminal who destroyed our republic and began our nation’s march to a centralized dictatorship. The words and praise heaped on Lincoln by his numerous worshipers are the most effective indictment of his legacy to the rest of us. Despite Mr. Gate’s bias and mine – I very much appreciated and enjoyed Mr. Gate’s production on Lincoln. As an admirer of Lincoln, it is not Mr. Gate’s burden to catalog all of Lincoln’s transgressions and it is my hope that Looking for Lincoln will inspire further, more critical pieces on the nation’s greatest pallbearer.

  • Professer Awesome

    this is the stupidest movie i have ever seen. i hated it. i recommend, as a teacher, that you do not show your students. it swore, made racial comments, and got off topic. Just Stupid!! I HATE THIS!!

  • Laurie of Pennsylvania

    What a wonderful weaving together of one of the most significant historical journies thru the present. I intend to share this work with as many young people as I possibly can. A great work by so many citizens passionate about “Finding Lincoln”. Thank you for the truth!

  • confederateson

    Lawrence of Hueneme: your comments regarding Lincoln’s “Emancipation” of the slaves, as well as the fact that Lincoln engaged in war illegally not to free slaves, but to secure the misapportioned southern tax base are well documented and refuted by ever-more reputable sources.

    It bears mentioning, yet again, that Lee owned no slaves and Grant did not free his until well after the war. In fact, the Union did not Constitutionally abolish slavery until 9 months after the war had “ended”. The Confederate Constitution restricted importation of additional slaves beyond those already held. Slavery, as a means of income, was a Yankee pastime. The Confederacy only benefited from a labor base.

    Furthermore, both of Lincoln’s inaugural addresses lend great insight to the purpose and intent of his invasion of a sovereign foreign nation. This was not a war waged against only a military foe, but against women, children and the elderly. Sherman and Grant’s “total” war would be an abomination to the honor and dignity of today’s military standards.

    Thanks to men like Lincoln we have Presidents who believe that they have authority beyond the reach of WE THE PEOPLE and our Constitution, ruling by executive order and a congress full of baby-murdering, liberty-usurping, moral degenerates and career criminals.

    If you want to pontificate about someone, make sure you know who they are because, as Benjamin Franklin once opined “Tis better to keep your mouth shut and appear the fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

  • laurence johnson

    Looking For Lincoln has much value for us. I would say that Lincoln’s unofficial remarks are racial inequality were unimportant. Malcolm X long spoke of “white devils”. Eventually, he rejected that view and – in his last years- became the man millions still revere.
    Laurence W Johnson – Illinois.

  • Don

    An excellent series. The episode exploring the myths made me long for a similar scholarly expose on Martin Luther King, Jr. It was explained in the episode that it was “important to demythologize and talk about him as having human characteristics with human failings” when discussing that Lincoln may have gone to a prostitute once. What a scandal! I won’t hold my breath waiting for the same unbiased factual treatment for MLK.

  • Nate

    Ahh. The beauty of history. The relevence of this great man’s story is most applicable today. It is amazing how many similarities there are between President Lincoln and President Obama. Both waged nearly perfect campaigns as underdog candidates using their great oratory skills. Both confronted national crises that had begun before their inception. Not to mention they both would have been great basketball players. Kidding aside, this documentary is one of the most well concepted biographies I have ever watched. Thank You!

  • jim shillinglaw

    Great show. Please show this again, again and again!!

  • Chris Todd

    To Confederateson:

    Given your half-truths and inaccurate interpretations perhaps it is you who should honor the words of Ben. I agree that “Lawrence of Hueneme” goes a bit far in his praise but your screed is just inaccurate.

    To PBS:
    1. Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. is not a historian. He is a literary scholar with, I BELIEVE, appointments in the Literature, American Civilization and African-American Studies departments at Harvard (though to be sure I would have to check.).

    To Confederateson:
    1. Who are your “reputable sources”??? As Lincoln himself said on many occasions, the war was fought to “preserve the Union”. That was his overriding concern. While it is certain that in keeping the secessionist states in the Union that the federal govt would have kept control of a substantial tax base, those taxes could have gone to everyone in the Union. The fact that the South’s economy was based on slave produced commercial crops and thus did not have the need for federally funded “internal improvements” (unlike the North whose rapidly industrializing economy DID need such federal spending) was certainly not the fault of the North or of Lincoln.

    2. Unlike the “Confederate Constitution”, the Federal constitution mandated that the slave trade be ended in 1808. In case you were not counting, that is LONG before these secessionists you speak so highly of thought about it. In fact, in the decade prior to the Civil War many of your fine leading Southern men had called for the RE-OPENING of the slave trade. Further, it was rather easy for those “Souther Rebels” to call for a secession for a slave trade that was already over and one that was not needed given the fact that Southern slave population had long been able to reproduce itself and then some. Where do you think they got all of those slaves that went into the THRIVING internal slave trade in the years between the beginning of the market revolution (in the 1820s and ’30s) to the beginning of the Civil War? Thus, no one (except for the odd illegal importation), neither “Yankee” nor “Confederate” made the international slave trade part of their pastime.

    3. I suggest you read those Inaugural Addresses before you marshal them for any of your arguments. In fact, if you read them you will know that Lincoln emphatically did NOT believe that those states that seceded were a “sovereign foreign nation”. In fact, the Addresses give great insight into his arguments for the impossibility of the dissolution of the Union.

    4. You are right, the Emancipation Proclamation did NOT free all of the slaves. Just the ones in the “rebelling states”. You are right to lay the expansion of the powers of the Office of the Executive at Lincoln’s feet. But if he was able to do so it was because the South rebelled and tried to “disunite” what Lincoln believed could not be pulled apart. After all, Lincoln justified his Emancipation Proclamation based on the fact that the Southern states (though not the boarder states) had rebelled. He was a pragmatist and as he stated the only way to win the War was to turn it into a war against slavery. This he came to believe by 1862.

    5. I am no fan of Northern representatives, but don’t you think you are going a little far and certainly are a little rocky on that moral horse in calling Northern congressmen “baby-murdering, liberty-usurping, moral degenerates and career criminals”? I do believe that it was the South that promulgated a war in order to preserve their “distinct way of life”. This distinct way of life included torture and murder. Further, if SLAVERY is not “liberty-usurping” I could not tell you what would be!

    6. Finally, please remember that this war was started because the Southerners were scared that their “distinct way of life” (those are their words) was threatened by their inability to expand into the West. This certainly became a flashpoint with the absorption of parts of California and the Southwest after the Mexican War. And it further became a problem when the incorporation of the Kansas-Nebraska territory was proposed by that bumble-headed Stephen Douglas. Why was this a problem? If the South could not reproduce its “distinct way of life” in the environs of the Western territories then the federal balance of power as laid out by the Constitution would certainly (as it had already begun to do) shift in the favor of the Northern states. This could threaten slavery because there were certainly people who did not want to see the spread of slavery. A few believed this because they thought slavery was a moral stain on the nation and also because they disgusted by the idea that one man could hold another in bondage. But it was mostly under threat because of the MUCH LARGER number of Northerners who were afraid of the “slave power”, slavery (as a force that threatened their liberty), and who wanted NOTHING to do with black people what so ever. Please remember that there were many Northern states that banned black people from their soil. Many of the white natives and immigrants feared that blacks would take “their work” and greatly reduce their earning power. And they were simply and through racists.

    So please head the words of good ol’ Ben!

  • Carole Bahou

    Civil wars are particularly brutal and heartbreaking, because they pit family, friends and neighbors against each other (see the above comment). It is like intimate violence, in that it is difficult to overcome . But you can’t know where you are going to, until you know where you are coming from. Thank you Prof. Gates for this wonderful birthday gift, and a most fitting and timely way to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Bravo!

  • Walter Adams

    In spite of some balance, this “documentary” cannot change the central, brutal fact that Lincoln was the nation’s greatest tyrant, not its greatest president. He waged aggressive war (the so-called “Civil War”) on his own people and effectively destroyed the original, voluntary Union of sovereign states. Lincoln’s underlying goal was to destroy federalism and states’ rights and create a more centralized government; it was not to free the slaves. The cost of his “saving” the Union (at the point of a bayonet) was the loss of perhaps 1,000,000 American lives (all causes, military and civilian) and destruction of much of the South. More importantly, the war forever changed the character of our government from a limited, decentralized republic to an overbearing, centralized government beyond the control of its citizens. This is Lincoln’s true legacy.

  • Cheryl

    What a wonderful documentary. I learned so much about the depth of Lincoln. I see so many similarities with Lincoln and Obama. What a great educational tool for history classes.

  • Eric Jordan

    As a documentary filmmaker I’m always looking for better ways to tell a story. This film is a profound example of the possibilities. It was comprehensive, poetic, deeply engaging, intelligent, thoughtful….. But what stuck me like never before is the importance of understanding our history, and the responsibility of such a project.


  • henry

    A third term for Lincoln.

  • Marlon Jones

    In July 2001 I discovered the book “Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream”. After being taught the iconic image of Lincoln, thus having the pendulum on one exreme; Mr. Lerone Bennet’s book placed the pendulum slightly past the corrective center. I applaud Dr Gates’ documentary in that it allows for greater balance in the complex life of the 16th President. There are many who are upset about this portrait but when the deconstruction of MLK’s life esp with respect to extramarital affairs was presented, I read comments that it was important to know the whole man. Is not this just as important for Lincoln? My increased knowledge of the person does not lessen my view but rather enriches my view of the 3 dimensional person: MLK, Lincoln, as well as others. Great job!

  • Dink Singer

    Why do we spend so much time looking at the limitations of the Emancipation Proclamation and so little looking at the Thirteenth Amendment? Yes, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the slaves, but the Thirteenth Amendment did. Lincoln knew that the proclamation did not end slavery and also feared that it would not withstand postwar court challenges. Lincoln insisted that the abolition of slavery be included in his party’s platform for 1864. There was considerable political risk in this. He worked hard to obtain approval in the House of Representatives, where the amendment had failed in 1864, but passed in January 1865 by a three vote margin. Lincoln actually signed the Resolution although the Constitution does not require Presidential approval of amendments. Lincoln also lobbied hard for ratification by the state legislatures. He did not live to see the ratification completed, but he certainly was greatly responsible for this final, permanent, abolition of slavery in the United States.

  • JosephineSouthern

    This is a good start to getting at the truth about Lincoln and his War, but just doesn’t go far enough. Americans need to confront their true history. It is gut wrenching when you finally realize the good ole USA was not so good after all and waged war against their own for money and power. These United States became THE United States.

    Lincoln’s war was evil and the results for whites and blacks was horrendous. I agree with Walter Adams posts, he says so aptly.

    All the Roads lead back to 1861-1865.

    The good purpose to exposing Lincoln and his War will be a wiser voting populace who will not fall for Lincoln hype, but know in their hearts it was all about money and power with Marxist philosophy thrown in for good measure.

  • Darlene Swaim

    We were so looking forward to the Lincoln piece, and were so disappointed. Raised in rural Indiana, we were astonished that Gates never mentions the most formative years Lincoln spent near Pigeon Creek, Indiana, and one of his strongest influences, Nancy Hanks, his step mother, who encouraged his reading and spirit. The most peaceful, moving place to experience Lincoln is sitting at the foot of the little knoll, in deep Indiana woods, and contemplating the simple grave of Nancy Hanks that rests at the center of the knoll.
    Giving any time to the grasping collection of the rich lady, the now tedious confederate apologists, the endless shots of Gates walking, driving, and the hopelessly boring ‘dinner discussion’, while leaving out the most important formative Lincoln years in Indiana — well, that’s just a sad waste of film.
    Try again — get in right next time.

  • VJ Thomas

    Impressive! Mr Gates: I am proud of the way in which you submitted Looking for Lincoln. I have always thought it crucial for history to be as honesty as we, as humans, are real. Thank you for not blurring the lines of truth.

  • Catherine

    As a white southern woman I will never make any assumptions about African-American heritage or the degradation they suffered. I am looking at Lincoln from my point of view. What I take from this documentary is that, no Lincoln was not a hero or a saint. But it is true that you have to look at his actions from the point of view of his time and what he was…a white man during time of slavery, a lawyer and a politician. Even if he was a man totally appalled and against slavery, he couldn’t just come out and say that. He had to make his speeches appeal to the men he was speaking to. White men..and yes most with a superiority complex. These men were the ones who were going to get him where he needed to be. But you have to see it from both sides and no matter which way you look at it, the pampered southern slave owners were not going to give up their way of life. They were not going to go out in the fields and work them themselves and they certainly were not going to pay for workers when they could own them. Lincoln was kind of like a parent. When you have two children fighting over a toy, you would most likely just take it away. By him constructing the idea of the slaves being sent away, he was trying to appeal to both sides in his own way. Removing the conflict from the equation. It might not have been the best solution but for the times it was probably the only one that he thought would be best received since the African-Americans were forced to come to America in the first place. I really liked this documentary. It shows that Lincoln was just a man and had to make decisions like everyone else and he did what he thought was right…the only way he could.

  • Susan Morrissey

    Thank you for producing this documentary about Lincoln. It caught my eye the other night, and I was drawn to the complexity of the man, the politican and his Presidency. Adding dimension to the story of Lincoln and our contempory understanding of his work and thinking is much appreciated.

  • Cecile Juin

    thank you, Mr Gates, for this comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln; as a French teacher of english I only knew the myth, now I feel I know the man much better. He has gone off his pedestal, but has gone back on it in a much more human and realistic way. I spent two thrilling hours!

  • John H McDevitt

    Mr Gates, This was a waste of time. I’m sorry my PBS dollars went to the production of such a weak and superfulous piece of cinematic nonsense. You’ve added nothing to the Lincoln legacy and probably (which is tragic in a celebratory year), detracted from young Americans gaining a new perspective of a great leader. Luckily the reported viewership was so low that your influnence will be negligable, which I count as a blessing. If you are to receive any additional PBS funding. I’ll withhold any future contributions as you have proven yourself un-worthy.

  • derek l walker

    Dr Gates has done something so simple, unbaised and honest …he has portrayed a man as simply a man…human…great and tragic… what a wonderful documentary!!! I’d like to see something on Zapata, Malcolm X, Che and Castro next.

  • Kelli Crimins

    While I agree that President Lincoln admitted to no religious affiliation with a Christian denomination, he was in fact a believer in scripture (the Bible) and to infer anything else, is incorrect at best. Anyone who reads his writings and debates will know that he believed in the God of the Bible and in the Savior of the World (Jesus Christ). He obviously held scripture in very high regard. This belief that Lincoln used scripture for political purposes probably came from Herndon but remember, Lincoln said that he did not belong to a particular Christian denomination…not that he did not believe in the truths of Scripture. I actually applaud the fact that he did not belong to a particular Christian denomination, perhaps he was the first non-denominationalist and would have felt more at home in an evangelical church that did not exist in his day. Please get history right and do not believe the revisionists of history.

    Here is just a sampling of his writings about his belief in and admiration for the Word of God (the Bible):

    “That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrepect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular.” Lincoln

    “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.” Lincoln

    “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” Lincoln

    Perhaps Lincoln’s genius was due to his total immersion in the Word of God that can convict men of sin (slavery and all other evils) and change men’s hearts.

    I enjoyed the documentary but hope you will consider making a few edits for future airings.

  • Jose Ruiz

    I am most grateful to PBS and Dr Gates for this in-depth look at President Lincoln. Even with the revelation that young Lincoln’s views were not immune to the pressures that resulted from the social thinking of his era, Lincoln’s actions as President during our nation’s darkest and most trying period continues to be a source of great inspiration. It is the character and leadership displayed by men like Abrahan Lincoln, George Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the face of almost unimaginable odds that has set them apart from their contemporaries and defined them as examples that many Americans and individuals around the world have strived to emulate. Their example is so enduring, because so many people — when given an opportunity to fill similar leadership roles — fall short of the standards they have set.

  • Steven Pge

    A terrific program. I have the following comments:
    1. The high school students that felt betrayed by the simple story of Lincoln the great emancipator, I think, are wrong to feel that way. Young children do not have the capacity to understand the complexities of life and subtitles of subjects. You are taught arithmetic before calculus for that reason. As a person matures they must continue to learn and take in the subtitles and complexities as they are capable.
    2. Dr. Gates felt betrayed that Lincoln was not the great emancipator since the emancipation proclamation did not really free any slaves. The emancipation proclamation was a tool Lincoln used to further his main goal of preserving the union and did not free a single slave is true. Lincoln once said early in the war, something like “If I could free all the slaves and preserve the union, I would, and if I could free NONE of the salves and preserve the union, I would. It was Lincoln that changed the nature of the war from being solely about preserving the union to about preserving the union and destroying slavery, successfully concluded the war, and insured the 13th amendment past, there by abolishing slavery. Which is qualifies him for the title.
    3. In my office I have portraits of Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, (two of my 3 persona heroes (my father being the third.) When ever I get troubled by my problems I look the Lincoln and Lee and realize that I do not know the meaning of troubles and resolve to follow the high moral path and examples of integrity and pragmatism, and honor these men showed. Often I have to explain to Japanese who R.E. Lee is but never do I have to explain who Lincoln is.

  • james reed

    my respect for Lincoln has soared as his life and work has been demythologized. As a mortal faced with enormous challenges, he is faithful to his principles and to his nation

  • Farishta Boura

    I believe that this video does a good job of showing both sides of the story and by the time I finished watching this video I had goosebump on my arms, this is how effectfull the video was.

  • Annabelle

    What were Lincoln’s last words?

  • George Cook, Westfield, NJ

    I had hoped to comment earlier, but I wanted to be very deliberate in what I wish to say –

    Lincoln’s views on race reflect the social sentiments of most white Americans from the founding through the nadir of race relations in America that went well into the 1900s, as Lerone Bennett‘s early own life paradoxically points out. We cannot indict Lincoln for his earliest views on the inequality of the races, without indicting American society for the past 400 years.

    Indeed, it is fair to interpret that Jefferson’s liberating ideas on human equality were derived from the needs of all people and not their innate faculties. Illuminated in this light, Lincoln did believe – throughout his adult life – that the Declaration of Independence of the United States applied to all people. Why else did Lincoln refuse to let the slave states secede from the Union?

    On thoughtful reflection, it should surprise no one that Lincoln realized most white Americans would not accept Blacks as their equals for a hundred years following emancipation. Sadly, did not history ultimately prove him right? It has been said that Lincoln’s greatest attribute as a politician was his ability to see things as the truly were.

    In the end, Blacks have fought for racial respect for more than a century after Lincoln’s martyrdom. Notwithstanding the limits of his direct experience with African-American, prior to his presidency, Blacks have had no greater friend than Abraham Lincoln, throughout the annals of American History. If only he had lived, we would most surely have come out of Reconstruction a more united and equitable nation.

    Not until the last years of the Civil War – as hundreds of thousands of freed Blacks demonstrated their love for this country and risked their lives in mortal combat for its preservation – did Lincoln’s affinity towards Black Americans transcend stereotypical racism. It was only after what David Blight called that “infamous meeting of August 1862” on the feasibility of colonialization did Lincoln learn first-hand how much American Blacks loved this country and were prepared to make a go out of living freely, if not equally, along side American Whites. Until then, given how they had been so mistreated, what reason would he have had to believe that they would really wish to do so?

    With all that was discussed about the man, no image of Lincoln was more provocative than that of the statue of “Father Abraham the Great Emancipator,” which depicts a Black man bowing on his knees before Lincoln. Given the racial sensitivities of our era, it is difficult not to be a little mortified by this image. Yet, we need to remember this statue represents a real historic event. To my mind, this scene glorifies the day Lincoln risked his life to joyfully walk along the streets of Richmond, Virginia, among a jubilant crowd of Blacks, who had been enslaved only the day before.

    It would have been only fair and right to have quoted the President, who said to the man who kneeled before him – that he should stand up and knee to no one other than Almighty God. In this instant, Lincoln’s humane goodness shown through eternally. And so it is that Lincoln set every American free, who would follow him!

  • Amita Kulkarni

    Absolutely brilliant – thanks to PBS and Prof. Gates for inspiring all of us reintroducing us to the complexity and greatness of President Lincoln

  • Pat Van Haste

    I thoroughly enjoyed this series. I stumbled upon it…aren’t so many interesting things stumbled upon in life…and only saw a small portion on TV. Later I was able to find it on the web and watch the whole thing.

  • Andria Medina

    Well done, Mr. Gates! You never disappoint! We can’t wait for your next feature!!

  • Harrison Blair

    An excellent documentary that is actually a meta-analysis of historical interpretation, and the uses of iconography. The documentary tells us more about contemporary Americans than about Lincoln.

  • robert salyer

    Why did the program not interview, among others, Lincoln historians Thomas Delorenzo or Dr. Clyde Wilson from the University Of South Carolina ?
    Finally, why did no one in the program even discuss the December 1860-March 1861 proposed Corwin Admendment to the Constitution ? This amendment is important in examining motivations north and south. The Corwin Amendment is relevent in regard to Lincoln and the US government as Lincoln was a full supporter of this amendment and the US congress voted for it by a 2/3 majority in March 1861 – just before Fort Sumter.

  • E.C.

    Thank you Dr. Gates for an excellent documentary! It is always best to embrace the humanity of a person with all his complexities, than live in the shadow of an opaque mythology. Looking forward to your next documentary. Take care and God bless, E.C.

  • protestant nation

    This documentary, as most others from PBS, omits the real reason for the war. While I give it a kudos for mentioning in passing, Lincoln’s deep understanding of the King James Bible. It fails when it uses slavery as a focal point, instead of a means to an end. The civil war was a religious war, but Lincoln could not let on publicly as to the true purpose. He knew he needed to keep the union together at any cost, for the foe was foreign and temporal. Fail to understand that, and you will fail to understand Lincoln’s true motives. He did not believe in equality of the races, even at the end. But he did understand the roles and the leveraging. He knew there can only be White supremacy, Or, Black supremacy. There is no such thing as true equality, not in marriage, nor parent/child, nor Boss/apprentice, nor master/servant, and he knew there will never be black supremacy as long as our laws are written in the white English language, and derived from English common law or the Roman codified laws that today usurp.

  • T Williams

    Thank you Dr Gates and PBS for this great presentation on PBS. I am a long time contributor to PBS and believe PBS demonstrates Edward R Morrow’s words “This medium can teach”!
    Thank you and God Bless!

  • Rhonda Larkin

    I believe Lincoln was a statesman and a master politician….and there is a difference. A statesman will do everything he can to do something for the people. A politician will do everything he can to get the people to do something for him. I believe he said what he had to say to get elected so he would be in a position of power to take the gradual steps to doing something about slavery that he always believed was morally wrong. I will always hold him in high esteem.

  • Oral

    This was truly an authentic presentation of our history inter woven with our great President Lincoln’s history.

    Sections brought tears to my eyes. wonderful documentary. Thank you professor Gates.

  • Morgan L.

    I am a Junior in high school who had the option to do an extra credit project for my AP U.S History class. I am very glad i decided to do my project. This documentary, along with this website, gave me a much better understanding about the life of my FAVORITE president. Learning about how Lincoln was not the symbolized “hero” in his time actually gave me a better appreciation for the man, because he had suffered through so much, and ironically he was the man in charge of taking the responsibility to step up and become a REAL hero. Great videos, and amazing website. Now, I cannot wait for the reopening of Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland!!! Haha =)

  • Jun Kyoung

    I say that this is very interesting. [:

  • Joshua

    Excellent work Prof. Gates , I have gained a greater respect for President Lincoln, the Man and the Myth.
    I especialy like the portion with Lerone Bennet Jr., though he desconstructs Lincoln, his accolades to those who worked the Abolishionist movement , more than make up for it. “..One of the greatest generations of white people ever produced in this country..”, is a fitting tribute to those remebered only by acedemics, who did the moral “heavy lifting” for our country for so long.

    Thank You very much for an honest look at our shared history.

  • Michael Young

    This was truly an exordinary program on the life of Abe Lincoln. A man who faced overwhelming obstacles in life with a mountain of confusing issues on how best to accurately do the right things in life and make the best judgements concerning what is right and what is wrong. And even then tho, President Lincoln, may have been confused on rather he was doing the right thing or not, we today, in our modern times can look back and see that indeed, he done what was right, for all mankind. As an American Indian, we too where affected by his leadership. I thank the good Lord, and give Him all the praise and honor in the highest for sending us help as He did with the wisdom our creator gave to this man, known as Abe Lincoln. It’s not the man, I glorified, although he is highly honored and greatly appreciated (and I do believe that Lincoln is with the Lord), but it is God Almighty and His manifold blessings of grace and goodness through His loving Son Jesus Christ, that truly gives all men there freedom. Amen!

  • James

    Stunned! Breathless! Contemplative! These words describe my emotional and rational states of mind after viewing Professor Gate’s newest PBS production, LOOKING FOR LINCOLN. That professor Gates is a historian of significance was never in doubt at any point in this wonderful production. That Mr. Gates would be so unblinkingly truthful, encompassing all of the ugliness and inconsistency that befall all of humanity, raises him beyond being a mere historian. He now ranks with that select number of persons privileged to be called an “American Storyteller”.

  • Paul Bergeron

    The program comes closer to examining the question, “How does forced Union dovetail with Liberty?” which the victors refuse to confront.

  • Deborah Chenault-Green

    I have always enjoyed the work of Dr. Henry Louis Gates. I watch with great anticipation when he does the shows with DNA testing and traces the lineage of people back through the ages. That is why it puzzled me when there was no mention of the claims by Dr. Auset Bakhufu, and noted Antropologist and Historical Researcher Joel A. Rogers that Abraham Lincolm (and 5 other presidents), according to his friend and Law partner, William Herndon, was the son of a mother from Ethiopia. Herndon also stated in his book, “The Hidden Lincoln” that Thomas Lincoln could not have been Abraham Lincoln’s father because he was sterile from childhood mumps and was later castrated. Herndon quotes Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, as saying that Abraham Lincoln was the illegitimate son of an African man. I expected Dr. Gates to bring this out when he talked about Lincoln’s law partner, but he never did. Are these finding legitimate or myth?

  • Rick from Alabama

    What a great program. I wish I had been taught a more balanced view of our 16th President in Birmingham or bombing-ham as it was called back then. On a different show they showed clips of Reagan, Nixon, etc. praising Lincoln. Bush’s comment about Lincoln’s moral clarity was perfect. It is gratifying that even ultra-conservatives know greatness when they see it. Thank you Dr. Gates!

  • chris green

    Excellent work on Lincoln. I was not aware of his views on slavery, both before and after he became president. It’s clear that he had to do what was most valuable to his political career at the time. Like Malcom X hundred years after Lincoln, he had racist views, but life lessons within some certain realities made him see things in a different light. Like governor Wallace, who was very racist during the civil rights movement, turned his views around before he died and realized what wrong he was thinking. This was an EXCELLENT feature that shows and proves without a doubt that Lincoln was just like the rest of us, HUMAN, which indeed makes him a great American Icon.

  • MadJayhawk

    Deborah: Some of us will need to see Lincoln’s real birth certificate before determining the circumstances surrounding his birth.

  • Diane

    I have to take issue with you Deborah, Thomas Lincoln very likely was not the biological father of Lincoln but I find it incredulous that it would have been an Ethiopian. I did read a few years ago that his biological father most likely was Abraham Enloe. If you see pictures of Mr. Enloe, the resemblance is amazing. According to that story, Lincolns’ mother had an affair with the married Mr. Enloe and when she became pregnant her father managed to get her married off to Thomas Lincoln. Others claim that Lincoln was already born when she married Thomas. Just Google “Abraham Enloe” and you’ll find a plethora of stories regarding his birth. That might explain why Dr. Gates didn’t fly with the story of his father being an African. I’m sure that if there were any actual evidence he would have mentioned it.

    Here’s just a few items that came up on the Google search:

  • charles

    early in the comments someone mention that southern women and children suffered because of the war never mentioning the evil demeaning side of slavery only how wrong it was to mess up the southern system of enslavement excuse me i meant to say the gentile way of southern living. We may never lnow the truths behind what Mr Lincoln was really thinking and at this point does it matter a form of slavery thrived long after the war was over in the form of chain gangs and lynchings .

  • Ellen

    Thank you Dr. Gates for a full and complex portrait of Lincoln. While I have been a holder of the belief in a legend, I came away from “Looking for Lincoln” with a deeper respect and higher regard for our 16th President. Thank you too, to Drs. Holzer, Goodwin and Blight for sharing their scholarship in this richly rewarding portrait.

  • Jessica Campbell

    Great video!
    Helped me so much on my project, very eye opening and interesting.
    Thank you!

  • Chad

    “Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

    Abraham Lincoln
    Second Innaugural Address
    March 4, 1864

  • Anna C.

    How disturbing that this country would celebrate a tyrant who forced a war that killed 600,000 Americans. Very sad.

  • PHDT

    @Jason says: Did you watch the same documentary as I did? I bet you didn’t even watch it.

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  • Marquita Murray

    This is so great. I don’t always watch PBS, but I stayed up till midnight to watch this. I can’t wait to watch this with other people.

  • Brigette Wzorek

    What a great gift item for an avid traveler!

  • Nelson Robison

    Thank you Dr. Gates, for an intriguing and eye opening look at someone’s view of President Abraham Lincoln.
    Your voice a worthy one to share so much of yourself with the viewers of this documentary, honestly sir, I cannot for the life of me think that I would be this open in regards to one of my lifelong heroes.
    With this in mind, I have some commentary to add, I look at the presidency of Abraham Lincoln as one of the most troubled and least understood of all the all the presidencies in our history.
    His suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was one of the most controversial of his presidency. I imagine that his decision to do this was one of the hardest that he had to do, yet with your explanation of his presidential order, “the Emancipation Proclamation” that makes his decision to withdraw habeas corpus a minor affair, although this too was a purely political decision.
    Altogether this was one of the best programs in the historical vein that has been produced by PBS in quite a long time.

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