Closer Readings Commentary

Teacher’s Guide to the Anniversary of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

2015 was the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Coming a month after Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, and a week after the surrender of Robert E. Lee and his confederate army, the assassination electrified a nation already reeling from four hard years of civil war.

EDSITEment has curated a group of resources for teachers who want to introduce students to the best humanities resources on the tragic murder, and its aftermath and significance.

From a virtual tour of Ford’s Theatre and digital newspaper articles to an archive of the inimitable poetry of Walt Whitman and prose of Frederick Douglass, these resources show that a life’s meaning doesn’t end with death.  A leader’s legacy changes and evolves over time as different generations grapple to understand and evaluate his or her achievements and trace out the impact on their own lives and times.

Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre celebrates the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln and explores the American experience through theatre and education. The working theatre, historical monument, world-class museum, and learning center are located in Washington, DC.

  • Video Tour
    In this fascinating series of short videos designed for teachers, Professor Matthew Pinsker of Dickinson College walks us through the events of the murder; the overnight vigil with the president’s body; the conspiracy network and the leading conspiracy theories; the pre- and post- assassination history of Ford’s theatre; the long period of shock, grief, and mourning, which transformed the way people viewed Lincoln; and the manhunt for and trail of John Wilkes Booth. As Pinsker notes, almost all of the objects on display in the theatre museum, such as Booth’s revolver, are available to view online.

Humanities Magazine

The magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Library of America

The Library of America, a nonprofit publisher, is dedicated to publishing, and keeping in print, authoritative editions of America's best and most significant writing.

  • Story of the Week: "Lincoln's Assassination" by Elizabeth Keckly
    Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave, was Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker and friend. The acccount presented here, describing the days before and after Lincoln's death,  is taken from Keckly 1868 memoir Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.

Chronicling America

Chronicling America provides free access to millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836–1922. The project is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

  • Lincoln’s Assassination 
    A sampling of articles about the assassination; the ceremonies in the Capitol and the funeral train; the manhunt for the conspirators; the other attempted assassinations; and the trial of the conspirators. The suggested search terms and dates will help students explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Walt Whitman Archive

The Walt Whitman Archive endeavors to make Whitman’s vast work freely and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers. Within this repository one can find all the poems and expert commentaries on them.

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education.

  • “Lincoln and Whitman” by David Reynolds
     The author of Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography summarizes his view that the tragedy of the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination “purged”          Whitman’s poetry of its excesses.

Teaching American History

A leading online resource for America History teachers and students from the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

  • "Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln" delivered by Frederick Douglass April 14, 1876
     Douglass called Lincoln's assassination the "crowning crime of slavery".  He recounted Lincoln's shortcomings as President, but also his  accomplishments in the  face of nearly insurmountable difficulties. Though constrained by the prejudicies and qualms of his fellow white citizens, Lincoln had successfully preserved the  Union and brought about the end of slavery.