Knowing Him by Heart
African Americans on Abraham Lincoln
by Fred Lee Hord and Matthew D. Norman
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Pub Date 20 Dec 2022 | Archive Date 29 Mar 2023
An unprecedented collection of African American writings on Lincoln
Though not blind to Abraham Lincoln's imperfections, Black Americans long ago laid a heartfelt claim to his legacy. At the same time, they have consciously reshaped the sixteenth president's image for their own social and political ends. Frederick Hord and Matthew D. Norman's anthology explores the complex nature of views on Lincoln through the writings and thought of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, Gwendolyn Brooks, Barbara Jeanne Fields, Barack Obama, and dozens of others. The selections move from speeches to letters to book excerpts, mapping the changing contours of the bond--emotional and intellectual--between Lincoln and Black Americans over the span of one hundred and fifty years.
A comprehensive and valuable reader, Knowing Him by Heart examines Lincoln’s still-evolving place in Black American thought.
"This valuable addition to the growing literature on Lincoln and race features a generous sampling of Civil-War-era African American opinion (including two little known, highly significant speeches by Frederick Douglass) and abundant later commentary, both positive and negative, from an impressively wide variety of sources, ranging from historians and journalists to poets and statesmen."--Michael Burlingame, author of The Black Man’s President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Equality
"No voice has been more important in speaking about Abraham Lincoln than the African American one. Yet, that voice has been often buried in obscure newspapers and magazines and long-forgotten collections of papers. It has been fervent in its admiration, and it has been strident in its resentment at condescension. The remarkable achievement of Fred Hord and Matthew Norman is to bring these varied voices together in one place, offering an unprecedented resource for understanding the fraught relationship of a national image of emancipation with a people longing for redemption. 'I know Abraham Lincoln,' declared one of these voices. Thanks to Hord and Norman, we can all 'know Lincoln' in an entirely new and multi-voiced way."--Allen C. Guelzo, author of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
A compelling collection of speeches, letters, and poetry...all related to how Lincoln was viewed by African Americans across his political career. All the readings range in length, from a single paragraph to several pages long. Some of the people are recognizable by name, while others were new to me. What I gleaned from this book is a point made by Henry Louis Gates Jr.: we have to meet Lincoln where he was at; we cannot approach him through 21st century eyes; we must realize that Lincoln was all too human, meaning he had varied views regarding slavery and African Americans overall. Mythologizing him, or anyone for that matter, does a huge disservice to Lincoln and it serves as a huge stumbling block to understanding him in the confines of the times he lived in. I particularly loved that the book closes with 2 speeches given by Obama. There is a joy that fills me to read his words, as they are simple yet eloquent. In a way, when he speaks, he embodies one of the best gift Lincoln had: his eloquence and grace. I definitely recommend reading this. It's perfect for those who love all things Abe Lincoln.
Thanks to NetGalley for access to this advanced reader copy.
What a very interesting book. This Lincoln had a lot of different ideas and thoughts. I like how the speeches through The years and how How the years changed from right after the Civil War of toll like 1930 And clear up until the sixties. When they read the speeches it was interesting and then they gave like a highlight after that and was pretty amazing. Lincoln had a lot of different views and stuff especially toward slavery. I do not know he wanted the slave to leave the United States and he was proposing different places where they could go. Everybody had a different opinion of this issue and I think everybody was trying to figure out what to do. Lincoln was pretty amazing because he was at a And a crossroad because some of the border States which were not slavery. The Scott case was pretty interesting and they bought that up as well. He was a self educated man trying to deal with the crisis going on in the country. Some of the blocks were really mad at him because they felt he was using them for the war. Something's changed in the South but a lot stayed pretty much the same.
Thank you to Net Galley for providing an early copy of Knowing Him by Heart
It isn't often that as a reader of nonfiction I come across a body of work that merits a rating beyond five stars. Knowing Him by Heart, compiled and edited by Fred Lee Hord and Matthew D Norman is such a book and is meant to be absorbed slowly until its contents reach the very core of the reader.
So much has been written about our 16th president, but this book unites so many individuals both of Lincoln's time and beyond who share insights into every facet of Abraham Lincoln's life and legacy. Opinions are many and varied, but each entry speaks of a sincere desire to understand the man, the lawyer, the politician and the martyr.
Including so many differing opinions adds immeasurably to the reader's understanding of just how complex our nation's history is and allows the mind to ponder, connect and evaluate as each reader sees fit.
The next time a 21st-century defacer of property attacks any statue or memorial of Abraham Lincoln, it would be fitting to hand the person a copy of Knowing Him by Heart in order to realize that defacing anything Lincoln is defacing the millions who are a part of the landscape of Lincoln's life and aftermath.
The reader will walk alongside Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington along with perhaps lesser known but just as powerfu figures Philip A., Bell and poet H. Cordelia Ray. Particularly moving are the accounts from former slaves which the WPA was able to gather during the 1930s as part of initiatives during the Great Depression.
The day that Knowing Him by Heart is published, I will be obtaining my forever copy of this incredible compilation, reading perhaps one entry per day and marking any number of entries.
Knowing Him by Heart
By Fred Lee Hord and Matthew D. Norman (Editors)
This is a compilation of writings by various Black writers which span the years from Abraham Lincoln's beginnings in politics to the present time. The authors include famous Blacks, such as Frederick Douglas and Barack Obama, Clarence Thomas and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. But also included are writings by less well known Black men and women which run the gamut from hero worship to deeply critical.
It is interesting to view Lincoln through the lens of color, but it also proves that no man or woman is perfect, and that writings of this kind must be viewed from the perspective of the times – both the times in which the subject lived, and also the times of which each writer is the product.
This book is proof of the old adage "no man is an island". Every man's life and works can only be truly understood in the context of their times.
This is a selection of speeches, book excerpts, and the like from African Americans about Lincoln. This is a great perspective of Lincoln. I enjoyed this collection.
The first thing I’m going to say is this book is very long but this book is very good. We have read a lot of books written about Abraham Lincoln by historians or fiction writers and everything in between. There’s even an Abraham Lincoln book on vampire hunting but in Knowing Him By Heart, African Americans on Abraham Lincoln we get to hear the good, the bad and the indifferent with the modern pin from those who were there or in one way or another felt effects of Abraham Lincoln. . I love reading old newspaper articles in a lot of this book are exactly that , they are directly out of a newspaper, correspondence, serials or out of a book and it all makes for such interesting reading. Anyone who loves history that’s written in historical terms and not with the modern day nomenclature or new fancy words will love this book. This really is a great addition to any lover of Abraham Lincoln, history, the Civil War ET see it is almost 1000 pages packed full of known in unknown people all talking about one of the greatest presidents. I wish I had words to explain the greatness that this book is but just trust me when I say from one history lover to another this is a super great read. I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.
Fascinating read. At times slightly repetitive - we get the reactions of African American writers from the day, writing about Lincoln's speeches and proclamations, and not all of them (certainly in the early days) were all that positive. Lincoln's actions, writing, and statements in his last three years certainly did much to erase his earlier missteps, but they're an important piece of historical context that show how a politician (and human) can overcome errors in political (and human) judgment.