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BIO Classroom

BIO Classroom

Bio of the Month Abraham Lincoln

BIOGRAPHY®: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most popular American presidents. Lincoln is revered throughout the world for his leadership during the Civil War, his brilliant writings, and his image as self-taught, hard-working, and devoted to democracy. Iconic photographs of "Honest Abe" can still be seen in magazines, on television, and in our textbooks. Two hundred years after his birth, many Americans continue to be curious about Lincoln's life and legacy, eager to learn more about his personality, beliefs, and his role as the nation's chief statesmen throughout the Civil War.
This biography traces Lincoln's life from the rustic childhood that shaped him through his tragic assassination. Throughout this documentary, historians offer insights into Lincoln's personality, his decision-making style, and the combination of factors that led him to become one of the most significant leaders in American history. This program examines Lincoln's writings, his complex family life, and the evolution of his career. Seeing Lincoln from multiple angles–as child, lawyer, rising politician, husband, grieving parent, President, candidate, mourning statesmen, and contemplative visionary–allows students to grasp his life, legacy, and humanity in new ways.

CURRICULUM LINKS

Abraham Lincoln: Preserving the Union is appropriate for middle and high school students. It is appropriate for history, social studies, and politics courses. It would be an excellent companion to lessons related to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial or the Civil War. It meets the National Council for History Education requirements for (1) Civilization, cultural diffusion, and innovation, (2) Values, beliefs, political ideas, and institutions, and (3) Patterns of social and political interaction. Vocabulary

VOCABULARY

Using a dictionary (www.merriamwebster.com) or an encyclopedia, students may want to define or explain the significance of the following terms from this program:
  • Anarchy
  • Confederate
  • Consecrate
  • Euphoria
  • Foray
  • Nemesis
  • Obscurity
  • Oratorical
  • Referendum
  • Rudimentary
  • Secession
  • Stimulus

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. How would you describe Lincoln's upbringing? How do you think his childhood affected his life?
  2. Lincoln has been described as a "self-made" man. What does this mean? Do you agree with this assessment of him?
  3. Lincoln had a gift for telling stories. How do you think this ability help make him popular?
  4. Lincoln grew up on a farm and worked as a shopkeeper, then a lawyer. How and why did Lincoln become a politician?
  5. Lincoln's nickname, "Honest Abe," is still associated with him. How did he get this nickname? What to you think it reveals about his legacy?
  6. What were Lincoln's views on slavery? Did his views change over time? Discuss.
  7. When Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860, the South seceded from the Union. Why did his election cause the South to secede?
  8. What was Lincoln's proposal for emancipated slaves?
  9. Over 150,000 African Americans fought in the Union Army. How did the performance of these soldiers alter Lincoln's perceptions about African Americans?
  10. How would you describe Mary Todd Lincoln? How did Lincoln's relationship with his family affect his life and career?
  11. John Wilkes Booth, one of America's most famous actors, assassinated Abraham Lincoln in the Ford Theater while the president watched a play. Why did Booth assassinate Lincoln?
  12. Why do you think we should study and remember Lincoln today? What do you think is his most important legacy?

EXTENDED ACTIVITIES

Log Cabin Life
During his early childhood, Abraham Lincoln lived in a spare log cabin. This simple upbringing was a common experience for Americans in the 19th century. The log cabin has become a symbol of Lincoln's hard-scrabble youth, and his determination to advance beyond these origins has become central to his story. Ask students to break up into small groups and research Lincoln's early years and the famous log cabin in which he lived. Then, ask them to create a drawing, blueprint, or illustration of a typical 19th century log cabin, including a description of how they were built and the materials that were used.
Images of Abe
After watching this documentary, students might have a might different impression of Abraham Lincoln than before watching it. Ask students create an art project that reveals or captures the essence of Abraham Lincoln as an individual and as a leader. These projects can poster-board paintings, drawings, 3D models, or in any other medium of their choice. Students should write a one-page essay describing their projects.
Lincoln Documented
When President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he stated, "If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it." Lincoln was also the author of some of the most important writings produced by any American President. In small groups, ask students to brainstorm a list of important documents and speeches by President Lincoln. Then, ask them to narrow down the list to five. At the library or using the Internet, the students should then locate these documents and chose excerpts from each. Students should create presentations arranging these excerpts in chronological order. Each selection should include a one-paragraph explanation of the document and the context in which it was created. These presentations can be put together in hard copy form, in PowerPoint format, or in a creative design such as a photo album.
Nation Undivided
By the end of his life, Abraham Lincoln showed a sense of relief that the Civil War had ended and the nation had been reunited. Ask students to imagine that Lincoln had not been assassinated in 1865. They should then write a one page essay, either from their own perspective or from Lincoln's in 1865, describing his key priorities for the United States after the Civil War had ended. These writings could also be in journal or letter form from Lincoln's perspective based on what they have learned from watching a documentary. Students should share these writings with the larger class or group.

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES

  1. Ask students to create an illustrated timeline of Lincoln's life.
  2. Older students can create chapter books about Lincoln to share with younger students which tell his life story and meaning in U.S. history.
  3. Have students create campaign buttons or mottos about Lincoln as a Presidential candidate.

REFERENCES

Websites

Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation (ALBF), the official successor organization of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission:
http://abrahamlincoln200.org/
Library of Congress, "Mr. Lincoln's Virtual Library:"
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/alhome.html
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History's Lincoln site:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/exhibitions/exhibition.cfm?key=38&exkey=1210

Books

Clinton, Catherine. Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Scholastic Reference, 1999.
Freedman, Russell. Lincoln: A Photobiography. New York: Clarion Books, 1989.
Gienapp, William E. The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.
North, Sterling. Abe Lincoln, Log Cabin to White House. New York: Landmark Books, Random House, 1993.
Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

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