Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life

Abraham Lincoln

As part of the Smithsonian-wide celebration of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the Museum broght together—for the first time—its unique and unparalleled Lincoln collection in an exhibition that ran through May 2011.

Through a focused selection of nationally important Lincoln artifacts, visitors explored the life and times of this extraordinary figure. Each highlighted object was augmented with personal stories told by Lincoln and the people who knew him best. The exhibition showcased more than 60 historical treasures associated with Lincoln's life from an iron wedge he used to split wood in the early 1830s in New Salem, Ill., to his iconic top hat he wore the night he was shot at Ford’s Theatre. The exhibition told a new and very intimate story of the life and legacy of this remarkable individual.
Online Exhibition
Visit the online version of this exhibition to explore artifacts from Lincoln's life, including the wedge he used to split wood in the 1830s, an office suit used during his presidency, and the top hat he wore to Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. Visit Web site.

Lincoln Lecture Series

Uneasy Partners: Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr. March 26, 2009
Juan Williams of National Public Radio moderated a discussion of the relationships between Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Baines Johnson and the most influential African American leaders of their day, Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorating the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, the National Museum of American History presented an engaging public dialog series to accompany its exhibition, "Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life."

John Stauffer of Harvard University and author of Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, and Nick Kotz author of Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America discussed the relationships between these two presidents and two legendary Civil Rights leaders. 

This program was made possible by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and its traveling exhibition "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times."

View webcast of this event (Windows Media format).

Lincoln, the Smithsonian, and Science April 23, 2009
A discussion of Abraham Lincoln's philosophy on government-supported scientific study, the President's relationship with Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry, and the role of presidential science advisors to this day. Discussion features: Marc Rothenberg, editor of The Joseph Henry Papers Project at the Smithsonian Archives; Thomas B. Allen and Roger MacBride Allen, authors of "Mr. Lincoln's High Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillance Balloons, Iron-Clads, High-Powered Weapons, and More to Win the Civil War." President Obama’s science advisor John P. Holdren, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, offers thoughts on the challenge of Presidential science advising today. Moderated by Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Richard Kurin.

View webcast of this event (Windows Media format).

Lincoln, Race and the American Presidency February 18, 2010
Fath Davis Ruffins, the museum's curator of African American History and Culture, moderated a panel discussion on race and presidential politics (in Lincoln’s time and our own).

Lincoln’s views on race, and indeed the national debates on racial issues and politics in the mid-19th century, were much more complex and complicated that simply a question of whether to end the institution of slavery. Lincoln and his contemporaries also wrestled with issues of colonization, voting and other political and social rights, interracial marriage, gradual versus immediate emancipation, and, as one congressman argued, whether the United States was a nation “made by white men, for white men.”

To discuss these issues, which have an incredibly relevant legacy today, panelists included Dr. Maurice Jackson and Dr. Chandra Manning of Georgetown University; Dr. Edna Greene Medford of Howard University; and Dr. Ronald Walters, author of Black Presidential Politics in America and director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

View webcast of this event (Windows Media format).

The Brass Letters of Citizenship: Lincoln, African Americans and Military Service February 23, 2010
Join moderator Tom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent for National Public Radio, along with a panel of noted scholars for a discussion of the expansion of the military to include African Americans under President Abraham Lincoln. The distinguished panel included Dr. Ira Berlin of the University of Maryland and Dr. Chandra Manning of Georgetown University, both experts on the African American military experience in the mid-19th century.

The program also included Dr. Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Unfriendly Fire, who compared arguments surrounding the issue of the makeup of the United States military in the 19th century with modern arguments around the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Part of the Lincoln Lecture Series and related to our current exhibition Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life.

View webcast of this event (Windows Media format).