Abraham Lincoln Highlights
by the Gilder Lehrman Institute
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, founded in 1994 promotes the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. Drawing on the 80,000 documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection and an extensive network of eminent historians, the Institute provides teachers, students, and the general public with direct access to unique primary source materials.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the HISTORY® Channel invite you to watch Abraham Lincoln, then explore Lincoln’s world through primary sources. The items below highlight some of the many resources, programs, and materials focusing on Abraham Lincoln.
Spotlights on Primary Sources
At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, an archive of more than 80,000 historical documents. Each of the Spotlights from the Gilder Lehrman Collection provides explanatory text, questions for discussion, a transcript, and an image of the featured document. Questions for classroom discussion are provided for K–12 teachers.
“Abraham Lincoln, Inventor, 1849”
This Spotlight on a Primary Source discusses Abraham Lincoln’s patent for a device for “buoying vessels over shoals” and provides questions for discussion.
“The ‘House Divided’ Speech, ca. 1857–1858”
This Spotlight on a Primary Source discusses Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech from his US Senate campaign and provides questions for discussion.
“Lincoln speech on slavery and the American Dream, 1858”
This Spotlight on a Primary Source discusses Abraham Lincoln’s speech on slavery and the American dream from his US Senate campaign and provides questions for discussion.
“Lincoln on abolition in England and the United States, 1858”
This Spotlight on a Primary Source discusses a speech fragment from his US Senate race in which Abraham Lincoln compared the ongoing struggle to end slavery in the United States to the successful abolition movement in Great Britain and provides questions for discussion.
“President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861”
This Spotlight on a Primary Source discusses President Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address and provides questions for discussion.
“The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863”
This Spotlight on a Primary Source discusses Abraham Lincoln and the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation and provides questions for discussion.
Inside the Vault
Inside the Vault is a free, monthly online program that highlights unique primary sources from the Gilder Lehrman Collection. From iconic historical treasures to personal letters that reveal the contributions of ordinary American citizens, each session investigates primary sources and discusses their background, impact, and potential use in the classroom.
“Highlights from the Collection,” April 3, 2020
In the first episode of Inside the Vault, curators discuss a rare copy of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. The discussion begins at minute mark 8:50.
“Abraham Lincoln,” November 12, 2020
In a conversation with educators and Gilder Lehrman Institute curators, this video highlights a selection of Lincoln’s most well-known documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection, including the Thirteenth Amendment, Gettysburg Address, and “House Divided” speech.
“The Emancipation Proclamation and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Advice to High School Students,” September 3, 2020
In a conversation with educators and Gilder Lehrman Institute curators, this video highlights Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. The discussion begins at minute mark 5:14.
Many essays pertaining to Abraham Lincoln have been published on the Gilder Lehrman Institute website and in History Now, the online journal of the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Selected essays are available here, to provide historical perspective for teachers, students, and general readers.
“Douglass and Lincoln: A Convergence” by James Oakes
In this essay, Professor James Oakes discusses Frederick Douglass’s relationship with Abraham Lincoln as Lincoln’s views on slavery and abolition evolved.
“‘To give all a chance’: Lincoln, Abolition, and Economic Freedom” by Lewis E. Lehrman
In this essay, Lewis E. Lehrman, co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, discusses Lincoln’s focus on economic policy and abolition during his presidency.
“‘In the end you are sure to succeed’: Lincoln on Perseverance” by Harold Holzer
In this essay, Harold Holzer discusses a letter written by Abraham Lincoln to George Clayton Latham to encourage him in his college entrance exams writing, “in the end you are sure to succeed.”
History Now, “Abraham Lincoln in His Time and Ours,” Winter 2008
In this issue of History Now, historians Sean Wilentz, Manisha Sinha, James Oakes, and Richard Carwardine share essays on Jacksonian Democracy, abolition, states’ rights, and Lincoln’s religion.
Learn more about Abraham Lincoln from such leading historians as David Blight, Eric Foner, and Harold Holzer.
“Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Journey” by Harold Holzer (17:30)
In this video, Harold Holzer discusses Abraham Lincoln’s path to the presidency.
“The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” by Eric Foner and James G. Basker (36:12)
In this video, Professor James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, sits down with Professor Eric Foner to discuss Professor Foner’s book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.
“Hating and Loving the ‘Real’ Abe Lincoln: Lincoln and the American South” by David W. Blight (38:31)
In this video, Professor David W. Blight discusses the ways the American South has “used, appropriated, hated, loved, and remembered Abraham Lincoln,” recognizing the truism that there are “many, many Souths.”
“Learning from Lincoln” by Lewis E. Lehrman (28:46)
In this video, Lewis E. Lehrman, co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, discusses the lessons to be learned from the writings of Abraham Lincoln.
“Lincoln and the Rights of Black Americans” by Eric Foner (33:50)
In this video, Professor Eric Foner discusses the evolution of Abraham Lincoln’s attitudes and policies on slavery and race.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has sixty-five online exhibitions and twelve traveling exhibitions that cover American history from the colonial era to the present day. The selection below explores the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words
This exhibition provides an intimate view of our greatest president, based on the exhibition of documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection previously on display at the New-York Historical Society exploring Lincoln’s legacy through letters and speeches written in his own hand.
Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times
This exhibition highlights Abraham Lincoln as a man of his time—humbly born, self-taught, and ambitious—he seized the opportunities of an expansive society to rise to the country’s highest office. A man for all times, Lincoln’s strong principles, timeless rhetoric, and resolute leadership have contributed to his status as a globally recognized figure.
Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation
In this exhibition, a timeline traces Abraham Lincoln’s evolution from anti-slavery advocate to emancipator through speeches, letters, and acts from the speech at Peoria in 1854 to his Second Inaugural Address in 1865.
Lincoln, Douglas, and Their Historic Debates
This exhibition discusses the Lincoln-Douglas debates: a series of seven joint discussions between Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, and Stephen A. Douglas, a Democrat, held during the summer and fall of 1858 in Illinois.
Wilberforce, Lincoln, and the Abolition of Slavery
This exhibition presents a variety of original documents and images highlighting the story of the abolition of slavery between 1787 and 1865 in England and America. Each item has its own historic significance as well as a place in the broader progress of abolitionist thinking, from the moment William Wilberforce joined the British abolition campaign through the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation.
These two lesson units explore the life and work of Abraham Lincoln. A variety of primary sources and pedagogical strategies are built into these lessons designed for use in classrooms
The Gettysburg Address: Identifying Text, Context, and Subtext
This lesson highlights the importance of teaching literacy through history as it has students carefully analyze the Gettysburg Address in order to understand context, subtext, and argument formation.
Lincoln’s First and Second Inaugural Addresses
In this lesson, students will develop comparison and contrast skills through the analysis of Lincoln’s First and Second Inaugural Addresses.
Students can sign up for free trial access to American History: 1493–1945, a database containing more than 60,000 digitized documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection. Each school—and its students—will have free access during the trial window. Need help getting started? Read our Guide to American History: 1493–1945, which includes essay ideas, advice for navigating the database, links to thematic resources, and more.
Please contact Jillian Tweet at Adam Matthew Digital if you have any questions about American History, 1493–1945 or the trial process.
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