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tv   Lincoln New Deal America  CSPAN  April 24, 2020 1:34pm-2:28pm EDT

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people. >> watch history professors lead discussions with their students on topics ranging from the american revolution to september 11th. lectures in history on c-span3 every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv. and lectures in history is available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. boston university history professor nina silver spoke at the abraham lincoln symposium. they highlighted the president's life, career and legacy. this is about 50 minutes. >> the program is going to be starting again. if everybody could take their seats.
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so we can keep on schedule, while everybody is winding their way back to their seats, welcome back. i'm michele krell. i'm the chairperson of the board of the abraham lincoln institute and the curator of the papers at the library of congress. a president of the united states traveled by train from washington, d.c. to gettysburg, pennsylvania, to visit the battlefield and dedicate hallowed ground. speaking before an audience that included veterans of the great battle, the president addressed the challenges the nation then faced and the need to preserve a government of the people. the year was 1938, not 1863. the veterans were 75 years older. the president was franklin roosevelt, not abraham lincoln. the new york herald tribute
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reprinted fdr's speech under the headline, roosevelt's gettysburg address. the chicago tribune proclaimed, roosevelt dons lincoln armor at gettysburg. it seldom helps to wonder how a statesman of one generation would sur mound the cmount the another. a statesman deals with difficulties, with things that must be done from day to day. not often can he frame conscious patterns for the far off future. fdr acknowledged in his remarks. the fullness of the statue of lincoln's nature and the fundamental conflict which events forced upon his presidency invite us ever to turn to him for help. it's such past in a new deal era context that nina silver examines in her new book. professor silver introduced a
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new cast of character to the story of civil war memory and explores how americans reinterpreted the civil war to meet their own needs during the great depression and world war ii. since completing her training as a historian at the university of california berkeley -- go bears. sorry, i had do that. professor silver has returned repeatedly to the fertile field of civil war studies to uncover new perspectives with which to engage civil war history. she has documented the gendered dimensions of the war in daughters of the union, northern women fight the civil war and gender in the conflict. in the romance of reunion, northerners and the south, 1865 to 1900, silver traced the shifts in northern sentiment towards the south during the period of sectional reconciliation and the casualties that was reunion.
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in addition to her publications, professor silver has further understanding of the civil war era through her teaching career as boston university and her contributions to public history projects. i can testify to professor silver's ability to inspire and inform. having long benefitted from the insights contained in her academic scholarship, i recently read an interview in which professor silver was asked if she collect eed 'ti eed histori artifacts. learned of sicivil war nurse barbie. did you know barbie was a nurse at gettysburg? given the physical attributes, perky personality and fondness for accessories, i'm guessing barbie did not serve on dorothy dix's staff.
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she's still waiting for the ambulance. if you understood those jokes, the war isn't over for you. here to share with us how new deal americans reshaped the legacy of abraham lincoln, please welcome nina silver. [ applause ] >> thank you. thank you, michele. i think barbie met lincoln in that book. or at least there was a picture of them. well, you know, it wasn't actually a photograph. something. thank you for that very kind introduction. i'm very honored to be here this this setting with this esteemed group. i'm a little nervous. i've never been on the stage at ford's theater before. i'm taking it all in. i am deeply grateful to john white and the abraham lincoln institute for the invitation to be here. michele gave you an introduction, but i can tell you more about me. i'm a scholar who studies the history of the american civil
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war. but i also study how we use and sometimes how we misuse the history of the civil war. so i'm interested in how people have appropriated the war, how they have reinterpreted it over time. and often they do that in a way so it speaks to their present day concerns. they kind of manipulate the history to speak to the present. anybody who hasn't been under a rock the past couple of years probably knows something about how the civil war continues to get reappropriated and reinterpreted. in every clash over con fed rfe monuments, it's retold with present day concerns in mind. something similar happened in the 1930s. it wasn't so much with monuments because weren't actually really building monuments in the 1930s. the '30s were a decade of crisis and upheaval that some people
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thought had a lot of similarities to the 1860s. no historical figure came in for more re-imagining or reinterpreting during the 1930s than abraham lincoln. be prepared. this is not going to be me talking so much about lincoln in the 19th century but it is going to be me talking about how lincoln was imagined in the 20th century. in fact, during the depression decade, lincoln was everywhere. movies were made about him. including one by the legendary filmmaker d.w. griffith as well as the two better known movies from the end of the decade. there was young mr. lincoln, that's the 1939 film with henry fonda playing the part of lincoln. there was abe lincoln in illinois. that's the one with raymond massey. in the 1935 film, the littlest rebel, lincoln meets with the charmingly petite confederate
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sympathizer played by shirley temple. she met lincoln, too. the two of them shared an apple and then lincoln frees shirley's father falsely accused as a spy from prison. lincoln also starred in novels and radio programs and in theater performances, including two popular plays produced by the w.h.a.'s federal theater. there are more than two. there are small regional productions and festivals about lincoln. it was a popular staple in the federal theater. in one of these popular w.h.a. plays, he was reincar natukacar kentucky professor who helps resolve a labor dispute. i have read a lot of lincoln scripts. is that one of the stranger interpretations of lincoln that i have come across. he was also frequently in the thick of politics.
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celebrated by conservatives, new doole dealers and civil rights activists. lincoln's power went beyond political symbolism. he struck a deal emotional cord with americans in these years. carl sandberg wrote, a well-known multi-volume biography of the president over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. he probably did more than anyone to give lincoln an emotional heft. the son of swedish immigrant parents who settled on the illinois prairie, sandberg seemed attached to the notion that working people and perhaps immigrants above all saw something in lincoln that made democracy viable and accessible. sandberg used the documentary style that became popular in the '30s. it was similar to the style that was employed by writers like john dos pastot. he applied this to lincoln.
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surrounding him in historical details and allowing him to merge almost seamlessly with the thoughts and feelings of ordinary americans. that connection to ordinary folk very much suited the mentality of the '30s. it was a moment when people tended to blame elite bankers and elite politicians. those were the ones responsible for creating the current economic crisis. so they tended then to believe or certainly wanted to believe that the folk wisdom of the plain people would help american democracy survive. sandberg's work on the mind of alfred kasen when he remarked in 1939 that americans had developed, quote, a passionate addiction to lincoln. in 1942, after having written two lincoln poems and completed three portraits of the 16th president, the painter marsden
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heartily used stronger language when he said, quote, i am simply dead in love with that man. before the depression, lincoln did not radiate these kind of passion. in some ways i think he didn't even radiate the same amount of power that he would come to have in the 1930s. it's not that people weren't talking about lincoln. but he didn't seem to possess n strength that he did in the '30s. he was described by former president william howard taft as reflecting the brotherly love between north and south. in 1930, with economic collapse looming, president hoover hailed lincoln not as a great
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emancipator but a great moderator. his words, said hoover, poured their blessings of restraint on each subsequent generation. in that same year, d.w. griffith used lincoln as the subject for his first talking film. gr griffith was another one who said he was very much influenced by carl sandberg. wanted to incorporate carl sandberg's work in what he was doing. he tried to hire carl sandberg to be a consultant on his film. sandberg was too expensive. he wanted more money than griffith was willing to pay. he found something else to do that work. it doesn't -- griffith's lincoln has nothing of the sandberg lincoln about it. he is actually a pretty bland and monotonous figure in d.w. griffith's film. he is your standard issue let's get everybody together person. as one reviewer explained,
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griffith or lincoln made, quote, a notable attempt to be fair to the two halves of our nation. like a lot of the abraham lincolns who were portrayed in the earlier period or before carl sandberg had been writing, lincoln in griffith's film was a rather crude frontiersman. in one screene, the president sn after arriving in washington flops down on the white house floor to take a nap. so it was a very bland, neutral and, yes, apparently fatigued lincoln who was portrayed in this film. i think that image of lincoln in this period reflected the reluctance on the part of many white americans to invest the 16th president with substantial power. precisely because lincoln in these years had to be safe. he had to be moderate. he had to be someone who could
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he heal the wounds of sectional division. in this way, lincoln was being called on to play a part that he had been playing since at least the end of the 19th century when the story of the civil war was often told as a tale of fraternal division that gave way to brotherly reunification. that was, of course, an idea that was most vividly imagined in the idea of white soldiers from opposing sides shaking hands across a bloody chasm or across the stole wall and gettysburg angle. that idea of reconciliation seemed to be about two more or less equal sections coming together. not really about a nation or about lincoln imposing power on its subjects, especially those who came from a rebellious section of the country. had lincoln been imagined as he really was, that is as a figure of federal authority who forced
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states into military and political submission, he would have complicated that feel good reconciliation narrative. so to keep things balanced, lincoln in these years took a back seat to the emotional bonding of north and south. this, i think, is the kind of image of lincoln you get in d.w. griffi griffith's earlier picture. there are a lot of things that are odd about that film. there are a lot of things that are odd about the way lincoln is portrayed in that film. i guess i would describe the lincoln, a birth of a nation, as oddly androgynous. he is weepy. he wears a shawl. he serves as one historian says as both father and mother figure to the american people. and yet in the end, it is not lincoln who helps to give birth to the nation in d.w. griffith's film. but the consolidated power of
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white men, north and south, especially the ku klux klan. this image of a relatively weak lincoln presidency may be one reason why the story of story o lincoln's youth, his frontier upbringing, his awkward but heart felt romantic encounters, his mediocre performance as the new salem postal clerk. these stories became so captivating in the earliest 20th century because here was territory that could be mined for engaging human material without having to venture into the messy business of lincoln as a figure of power who actually enacted measures, emancipation, for example, that did not meet with universal acclaim. so in the '30s my argument is lincoln looks different. he is not a bland figure of moderation. in fact, he seems to foreshadow a more powerful nation state
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that was extending the blessings of freedom to a wider group of americans. with his image being consciously reworked by writers and politicians lincoln became a forerunner for the groundbreaking work of franklin roosevelt's new deal. as early as 1934 carl sandberg helped usher in this new lincoln when he compared fdr's national recovery program and assistance for industrial workers to lincoln's role in emancipation. both presidents sandberg insisted used their executive position to proclaim a new status for an oppressed people. taking a cue from sandberg, f.d.r. also made lincoln his model for initiating social reform for expanded executive power. lincoln, roosevelt claimed, did not simply heal the rift but trans ended sectionalism and
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brought, quote, new meaning to the concepts of our constitutional fathers and to assure a government having for its broad purpose the promotion of life, liberty, and happiness of all the people. fdr in other words styled lincoln as a 19th century version of himself. no longer just the healer and reconciler, lincoln now became aligned with the centralizing and reforming efforts of new deal liberalism. sandberg also suggested the new deal lincoln was also more of a great emancipator than a great moderator. now it is true academics and popularizers had always in some ways called attention to this aspect of lincoln's presidency but the work of freeing the slaves came even more to the forefront during the 1930s and the new deal. writers and artists and politicians imagined lincoln not
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unlike the way f.d.r. imagined himself as someone who channeled a new political energy in some way to make people's lives better. lincoln, they said, strengthened the hand of the federal government in order to attend to people's distress. a distress that was once marked by 19th century chattel slavery but which could just as easily be marked by a 20th century economic crisis. ordinary people often used this language in letters that they wrote to roosevelt. abraham lincoln freed the chattel slaves, written to f.d.r. and now, mr. president, you are about to free the child and wave slaves. they often made these comparisons and often used the language of slavery. they talked about, you know, we live like slaves, we work like
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slaves and then would kind of draw out the idea that someone like roosevelt was needed to free the slaves. but it wasn't quite so simple to talk about both presidents freeing the slaves, since one president, lincoln, had directed his actions toward enslaved black men and women. roosevelt and his supporters, however, were more reluctant about being associated with a racially defined agenda. as a democratic president of the earliest 20th century who needed the support of powerful, white southerners in his party roosevelt preferred keeping race issues on the back burner and showed little interest in upsetting the racial status quo in the jim crow south. feeling the political pressure of white southerners in his party, roosevelt to give just one example refused to lend his support to the federal antilynching law being urged by some members of congress. he also preferred to think about lincoln in a race neutral way as
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someone who practiced a broad based humanitarianism that helped all people. lincoln, f.d.r. insisted in 1938 was an emancipator not of slaves alone but of those of heavy heart everywhere. i'm pretty sure this is not how people in the 1860s would have interpreted the emancipation proclamation. indeed, to the extent that f.d.r. and other new dealers talked about slavery, they worked hard to redefine slavery as a condition that affected white people as much as black. sometimes, in fact, whites seemed to suffer more from slavery than african-americans. as they explained it, the slavery of the 1930s was mainly about the economic devastation and constraints that largely affected wage workers, the majority of whom were white. despite the fact that all our people are free and have the
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right to work and live where they please, said one massachusetts politician, there are many who contend that our toilers live in virtual economic slavery. the assumptions here that all people could work and live where they please, something that was not available to african-americans, suggested that they were not really thinking about african-americans in this definition of virtual economic slavery. according to representative frank dorsey of pennsylvania, lincoln's hatred of precious human beings becoming mere chattel would have seamlessly extended into his distaste for, quote, the new slavery that placed men in economic peonage. this quality dorsey argued made lincoln, quote, a new dealer of the late 1850s and early 1860s. and so i think in the 1930s people seemed more comfortable seeing lincoln free white people and not black.
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in roosevelt's phrase he freed those of heavy heart everywhere. in american popular culture, heavy hearts seemed to rest mainly in the souls of white men. in a popular 1936 play written by future casablanca screenwriter howard koch, a reincarnated lincoln, i mentioned this before, but this is the story, a reincarnated lincoln comes to kentucky to help white coal miners fight their own brand of slavery. striking miners and a parade across the stage and hold a sign that reads, free the whites. an objective that very much appeals to lincoln. when lincoln appears in the shirley temple film "the littlest rebel" his task has nothing to do with freeing black slaves. instead, he is there to grant shirley temple's request for freedom for two imprisoned white men, one her con federal father and the other a kindly union officer. if you know the premise of john
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ford's "young mr. lincoln" you might recall that henry fonda's lincoln again has virtually no contact with black characters. his real work involves helping two white brothers who have been falsely accused of murder. in fact, in the most dramatic moment of the film the two brothers face the wrath of an angry lynch mob and then lincoln turns back the mob and after that mounts a successful defense of the two brothers so that he again lib rates white men from confinement. and, yet, in a very halting and hesitant sort of way, some new dealers began to acknowledge the possibility that race, too, played a part in keeping people down. in both the 1930s and the 1860s. lincoln's attention to racial emancipation they said did merit some attention and consideration. when the african-american singer
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marian anderson was banned from performing in the daughters of the american revolution concert hall here in washington, many figures in f.d.r.'s administration including of course famously el more roosevelt helped to arrange anderson's new open air concert in front of the lincoln memorial. in refuting the narrow racial prejudice of the d.a.r. they also lauded lincoln's role as interior secretary harold ickes explained it in striking the chains of slavery from marian anderson's ancestors and i want to say i think the timing of the concert is particularly important. it is april, 1939. it is a moment of growing awareness of nazism abroad, the nazi threats and atrocities. and by this time roosevelt and his associates also understood that nazi violence was increasingly directed in the service of an abhorrent racial agenda. after comparing jewish singers being banned from a nazi stage
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and anderson being shunned from the d.a.r. hall, assistant interior secretary oscar chapman pointed out the crucial difference between hitler's germany and roosevelt's america. in washington, chapman observed we have a shrine for abraham lincoln. in this more explicit acknowledgment of lincoln's role as emancipator including his work in freeing those of an oppressed race, lincoln was poised to pursue a particularly prominent role as the 1940s began and a new war against facism loomed on the horizon. he appeared with increasing frequency in hollywood movies and plays and figured in the 1941 "lincoln portrait" a musical piece celebrating the american spirit in the aftermath of pearl harbor. he assumed greater prominence in f.d.r.'s speeches which wasn't surprising since roosevelt hired
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the lincoln dramatist robert sherwood as a speechwriter. looking back on the 1940s from the vantage point of the 1960s the novelist robert penn warren recalled that it was, quote, the civil war not the revolution that was used most often in world war ii propaganda. and that it was the image, also warren speaking, it was the image of lincoln not that of washington or jefferson that flashed ritualistically on the silver screen. the powerful associations that throughout the '30s had connected lincoln to fighting slavery helped turn him into the kind of symbol that warren remembered. true, that slavery had often been loosely defined but it did suggest that lincoln had come to embody a certain type of moral energy that could galvanize americans in a new global
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conflict. i should say at that moment americans needed that kind of motivation. as late as 1940, 1941, there were many who remained deeply cynical about the devastation wrought by world war i and about engaging in any foreign entanglements so in this context timely reminders about lincoln and his commitment to emancipation helped people recall a moment when a true, moral purpose guided america's war objectives. so i am just going to say that i am actually borrowing from, because i feel i must pay my due to another scholar here, there is a literary scholar who develops some of this point and i'm kind of borrowing from the literary scholar ichiro takaoshi who talks about the way lincoln is used in the leadup to world war ii. what he suggests is that in recalling lincoln's moral purpose to free the slaves, americans might find a model of
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inspiration for fighting hitler. writers and artists, then, repeatedly and explicitly referred to lincoln and his fight against slavery as a metaphor for understanding the fight against hitler and facism. the office of war information produced a poster that proclaimed, quote, this world cannot exist half slave and half free. the republican newspaper william white agreed that, quote, our great round earth had become a veritable neighborhood that cannot live half slave and half free. not only were lincoln's words used but lincoln himself was portrayed as a figure who had a history of fighting slavery that could underscore the moral urgency americans needed in the new global conflict. robert sherwood, who wrote the 1938 play "abraham lincoln in illinois" held up lincoln as a way to urge americans to get off the sidelines when certain principles were at stake. in lincoln's commitment to
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ending slavery, sherwood recognized the 16th president as, quote, a supreme nonisolationist in his essential faith. this made him an ideal figure for convincing americans that despite their skepticism about foreign intervention they should commit themselves anew to this foreign entanglement. significantly, this language presented african-american activists and artists with some new opportunities. the more lincoln and the language of slavery was used in war time propaganda, the more it gave black americans a chance to remind their fellow americans that slavery was not just a metaphor for describing different types of oppression, the slavery of the factory, the slavery of striking coal miners, but it was also a historically specific experience that continued to impact black life in the united states. black journalists saw in this new environment a chance to urge
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the roosevelt administration to deliver a consistent antislavery message that is a message that recognized oppression based on race both abroad and at home. as one writer for "the chicago defender" put it, if roosevelt cared about fighting slavery, he would stand by the reconstruction amendments and make sure, quote, negros were not returned to chattel slavery. failing to do so would be no different than enacting laws similar to hitler's declarations and edicts. as always, hollywood did its part to visualize, romanticize, and distort this political environment. lincoln appeared frequently on screen in roles that accentuated his commitment to moral principles. in subtle ways, too, i think the movies in the late 1930s and '40s seemed to acknowledge some way or another americans were undertaking a fight against slavery. so i'd like to conclude my talk
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by revisiting an old and familiar film, perhaps one of the most iconic films in hollywood with this perspective in mind. it's not usually what we think about as a civil war movie. the film i have in mind is "casablanca." it appeared at the very end of 1942 and directed by a hungarian emigree. arriving in the united states in 1926 he embarked on a steady stream of movie making directing classics like "the charge of the light brigade" and "the adventures of robin hood." he also made two extremely unmemorable civil war films "the santa fe trail" and "virginia city." "santa fe trail" a poorly named movie if there ever was one since it had nothing to do with santa fe or a trail, it did show an historic jeb stuart played by
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errol flynn and bumbling george custer played by ronald reagan joining forces in pursuit of a fanatical john brown played by raymond massey who i guess traded in his lincoln outfit for a john brown costume. like santa fe trail "virginia city" also celebrates the coming together of white soldiers across sectional lines in a common cause. in this case it was union and confederate soldiers who united in the west, late in the war, in order to fight some gold bandits. it is really not -- the details should not be explored too deeply here. "casablanca" is also in its own way a film about reconciliation although not about unifying nazis and allies. it is, however, about bringing together the indifferent and skeptical rick blaine played by humphrey bogart and the committed partisan played by
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paul onride, a unity achieved when rick discards his cynicism and recognizes the need to take a stand against nazi oppression. before this happens, though, there is a suggestion of the civil war's relevance to current events. rick at last reunited with ilse, i think r ingrid bergman reminds her of the last time they saw each other in paris. i remember every detail, he says. the germans wore gray. you wore blue. okay. the color scheme is important i think. it tells us who was fighting for freedom and who was not but it doesn't directly say the confederates were not the cause of freedom. it is more subtle than that. but the central theme in "casablanca" was not a simple divide between freedom and slavery but the evolution from indifference to commitment. and in this case it is the process by which rick dedicates
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himself to the anti-nazi cause. in some ways in fact rick's journey is meant to reflect a larger american journey at this moment. how it became necessary to break with the isolationism of the interwar period and accept the need, again, to fight this new war. one critical step in that journey involved giving the new war a strong, moral overlay to make clear that the new fight in europe was about principles not about material gain. and as i've suggested, no figure better symbolized deep, moral conviction in war time than abraham lincoln. not to worry. i'm not going to try and convince you that abraham lincoln shows up in "casablanca." i know he doesn't. but his spirit is there. and nothing illustrates this quite so clearly as the moment when rick's saloon owning
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competitor asks if rick's cafe american and the saloon's black piano player, sam, are for sale. how does rick respond? in the language of abraham lincoln. i don't buy or sell human beings. this line perhaps more than any other reveals the ethical underpinning that signals rick's transformation, his willingness now to take a moral stand. and i think it is no accident that he uses the same kind of antislavery language being used by the office of war information and by the lincoln playwrite robert sherwood. in fact, it is very likely that the author of humphrey bogart's antislavery pronouncement was howard koch, a "casablanca" screenwriter, the author of the "lincoln as kentucky college professor" play from the federal theater project. and so even though lincoln, himself, does not as robert penn warren said flash
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ritualistically across the screen "casablanca" embodies the lincoln-like moral urgency being used to get americans behind this new effort. so this, then, this lincoln was once again, or at least his spirit, once again being reimagined and reinterpreted. in some ways this may be a lincoln who inspired an even stronger and more passionate addiction than lincoln of the '30s. this was a lincoln who would have an impressive career in world war ii and even after in the cold war that followed. this was a lincoln who not only fought slavery at home but who could inspire a fight against slavery, however that slavery might be defined, on a global scale. thank you. [ applause ]
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>> all right. let's get this started. man. love the reference with the imagery because imagery and messages are everything. media, our meeting on ethel payne, as america is dealing with its own sense of identity what it is, who it is, where it's going in that time period of where you're looking at where lincoln is. they're also erecting these monuments, confederate monuments we're dealing with right now. so there is always this dichotomy, this tug of war in the mental, social consciousness. i'm just wondering where this wave has gone, where it was at the time, where it seems to be, where it kind of is generating there in the late 1900s, no, late 1800s to early 1900s
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looking now at the international influence and impact where they had to define themselves even more. it seems to me coming to grips with one place with your own domestic identity, then aur he dealing with what is happening overseas when you feel you want to be insular but how can you? there is so much going on. can you give a little -- >> use the mic. >> then i can't see. okay. all right. so there is not a lot of monuments being built in the 1930s. a lot of the monuments were earlier. 1910s, somewhat in the 1920s. what is true about the 1930s is there a kind of competing narrative to all the stuff i described about lincoln. think no further than "gone with the wind" kind of another let's celebrate the south and its lost cause also a very strong theme in popular culture.
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there is a moment about the 1930s, a moment when you can see the two ways of thinking about the civil war, a pro lincoln point of view and pro confederate, more clearly in contention with one another. like clear kind of lines being drawn, definite differences in how people are talking about the civil war. that is a very interesting thing going on in the 1930s and 1940s. the point about the international situation is definitely true because the -- trying to understand for i think franklin roosevelt to kind of understand how the united states fit into this whole new world dynamic and trying to actually establish american prestige in the fight against nazism, it almost necessitated the idea that you had to address somehow the problem of slavery, the problem of racial oppression within the united states, certainly african-americans were, you know, making that point very clear and very prominent.
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and i think one way then that roosevelt and other people try to address that idea is by making lincoln into such an important symbol. by kind of suggesting that, yes. there is a history of racial oppression in the united states but then there is lincoln, you know, as oscar chatman said we have a shrine for abraham lincoln. then there is the possibility of, you know, combatting that racial oppression in american history. >> thank you for being here. in your talk i heard the words, father, healer, shrine, and over time i've thought about lincoln being assassinated on good friday. so my question is, does the attention to lincoln become nearly religious and what would lincoln think about that?
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>> you know, oddly, in the '30s i don't feel it has a strong religious overlay. well, there is a way in which the movie "young mr. lincoln" ends on a very kind of supernatural -- it is certainly possible lincoln has always had those associations and some were explored in the 1930s but i don't find the particular images that emerge in the '30s to be strongly religious, that almost there is, i would almost say overly secularized is the kind of lincoln you get in the 1930s and 1940s because he has put so much in concert with current events. so that might be different from the lincoln that emerges in the 1880s and the 1890s but i think
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every -- because lincoln is so often discussed in the same breath as, you know, current news items or international global affairs, it has a way of secularizing him and so i don't feel the religious part comes out quite as strongly at least not in this period. >> thank you very much. >> hi, professor silver. i got to interview robert penn warren in 1977 as an under graduate. this is the basis of my question. why don't you mention kazin's close friend who was a slavish follower of joseph stalin until the nazi-soviet pact? and hofstetter is very influential in lincoln studies baufs the dreadful chapter he wrote on lincoln in the american political tradition. warren is fighting for himself the southern agrarians and for william faulkner against stalinist literary critics. did you know in 1946 all but one of faulkner's novels had gone
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out of print because the stalinist literary committee disapproved of him. where is stalin in your account of the 1930s and 1940s? >> i'm not sure where to put him i guess. >> he's there, definitely. in fact, stalin didn't want any philip randolph marching on washington in 1941 and the protests, the protests didn't occur because f.d.r. created the fair employment practices commission but he is there. >> okay. i'll think about that. thank you. >> well, i'm curious. when did lincoln -- when did lincoln -- when did they start to perform, when did lincoln museums start to go and when did
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lincoln's name begin to be used in many different places? >> so, you know, my impression is that you can find clubs with lincoln's name, schools being named for lincoln, towns being named. that is all happening immediately after the assassination. my sense is that monuments and statues are a little bit later so maybe the 1880s and 1890s and the lincoln memorial is 1922. so there is kind of, i guess i should say my remarks here are not meant to say that he is being ignored, prior to the 1930s. he is definitely being recognized. he is being honored. he is being celebrated. but i do think there is a kind of switch in the 1930s in terms of less talk about lincoln
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moderating and healing and more a figure of power. a figure who actually kind of represents the most consolidated power of the american government. i don't think you had that image earlier of lincoln but i think you do have that image in the 1930s. >> okay. thank you. >> there is an even more subtle if not oblique reference to lincoln in "casa blanka" if you -- if you recall rick ran guns and fought in the spanish war. >> yes, yes, yes. >> that was the lincoln brigade. >> microphone! >> i know. okay. >> microphone. >> right. >> i simply mention that because that is mentioned three times in the film. >> that he ran guns. yeah. >> i just thought immediately of the lincoln brigade and of
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course that was in the spanish civil war so you wonder if that is almost sub limb inland blimi. >> right. i'll go back and look at that. thank you. >> two questions if i can remember them both that related. did any of the southern segregationist democratic politicians say, wait a minute. you're using lincoln here as a symbol? >> yes. >> and after the war this is going to cause us a lot of trouble because all the black soldiers are going to come back home and say wait a minute. >> we thought you stood for lincoln. >> what about us now? and, secondly, a related question, the south was solidly for f.d.r. he was a god in georgia and alabama especially georgia. went to warm springs and stuff. do you think he over estimated that the south would turn against him if he took even the smallest steps to improve civil
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rights? >> yeah, well, i think, just to answer the second part first but i have to remember, yeah. how did they think about lincoln. right. i think roosevelt was very conscious of not alienating the southern wing of the democratic party. and i think that did inform his decision about the antilynching bill when it worked its way through congress. and southern democrats, there was a lot of tension in that relationship between roosevelt and southern democrats so in 1938 roosevelt actually goes on this campaign to try to encourage more liberal white politicians in the south to challenge the conservatives and, you know, people like margaret mitchell for example come down like the wrath of god on f.d.r. at that point and they say this is just like reconstruction all over again when the federal government tried to interfere with everything that we're doing and blah, blah, blah. so, you know, it was a very tense relationship. it wasn't so much like, yeah. anything that f.d.r. did was
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great. there was that problem. i think the question about southern democrats and the use of lincoln is complicated. i think it was not so easy to simply dismiss lincoln in the 1930s. you couldn't just say oh, lincoln was a tyrant and all this though there were people certainly who still did that. i think if anything what southern democrats tried to do was just not talk about lincoln. so for example you know, one thing i found interesting was douglas freeman who was the biographer of robert e. lee, he spends a lot of time in the 19 -- leading up to world war ii and during world war ii trying to turn robert e. lee into a relevant figure for americans in the second world war. he talks about his military strategy and other ideas and plans he has so he kind of tries to elevate robert e. lee but even douglas freeman at one point writes this essay and he sort of acknowledges and says,
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lee is an important symbol but so is abraham lincoln. it is like the power of lincoln was so much so that even somebody like douglas freeman had to acknowledge, yes. at this moment the historical figure who seems most relevant for what we are doing is abraham lincoln. >> i would just point out f.d.r. being overly cautious, i think if you look at his vote results from '32 through '44 it was the same in those states. people might vote for segregationist congressmen and senators and governors but they adored f.d.r. >> i think you are right about that. absolutely. that means take one more but maybe i don't have one more. yes? i do have one more. >> this was a wonderful talk. i always thought f.d.r. embraced jefferson more than lincoln. did he connect the two at any point? i was looking furiously for any speeches but i always felt like
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jefferson was more in the forefront than lincoln but maybe not. >> no. jefferson definitely was important and i think, you know, f.d.r. spoke at the dedication of the jefferson memorial in the 1930s. 1943. thank you. so, yes. he did speak at the jefferson memorial so it is not as if jefferson was being overlooked and he does sort of take opportunities to infuse jefferson in things he talks about. trying to remember moments when he connects the two. i don't think so. but i would say that lincoln's relevance to current events kind of elevated him at least for roosevelt and for many other people, you know, not just in the new deal administration but, you know, when i think about popular culture, jefferson's not there. when you think about, for example, is it in "mr. smith
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goes to washington" you know that has kind of the big scene? he is jefferson smith but has a big scene at the lincoln memorial. so there is a way in which i think the lincoln image kind of rose above jefferson for that moment. okay. thank you. [ applause ] >> you're watching a special edition of "american history tv." during the week while members of congress are in their districts due to the coronavirus pandemic. tonight we look back at presidents who faced crises while in the white house starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern with a 2003 program from c-span's booknote series. it's about james k. polk who conducted the 1846 to 1848 war against mexico.
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