English 1000: 45
Mystory: Community History of Abraham Lincoln
Being raised in Illinois, you learn first hand that Illinois is the ‘Land of Lincoln.’ In Springfield, Illinois, there is an entire museum dedicated to him and all the things he has accomplished in his life. I was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, which is about an hour away from Springfield, IL. Abraham Lincoln was not only a significant figure in U.S. history, but he is the sole symbol of the state of Illinois. There are museums and monuments all around Springfield to symbolize the history of Lincoln, all of which show how important he was to our country and how he remains a significant historical figure in the U.S and in Illinois.
When I was in grade school, everyone in my grade went on an organized field trip to Springfield to go to the Lincoln Monument and Tomb and the Lincoln museum. Being young children at the time, our attention spans weren’t exactly on point so we only focused on what we would buy at the gift shop instead of focusing on the history that surrounded us. The Lincoln Tomb is the sight where Abraham Lincoln is buried. It has a large monument that lies above his grave, along with statues of himself and soldiers from the Civil War (Lincoln Tomb). These statues, as seen in the picture, symbolize the Civil War and what how Lincoln led the fight for freedom of slaves. The statues seem to show the importance of Lincoln during the Civil War and how he was trying to bring the two sides together but remain firm in what he believed in. Along with the monument is a large bronze statue of Lincoln’s head, which is located right in front of the monument. It is usually customary to rub the nose of the Lincoln statue for good luck, which is why today it has a golden shine on the nose. All these monuments were made later on after his death, but some of the original parts of his grave have been kept preserved.
Inside the tomb, you are able to see Lincoln’s actual tombstone that is very well preserved to this day. Since the tomb has been preserved since the original building and tombstone were created, they have very strict rules for tourists who walk through the underground area of the burial site. When you are younger, you might go through an important burial area like that and not think much of it, but when you’re older and understand more about how that person has made a huge affect on our country, it’s an unusual feeling to experience because of all the history that is in front of you. Seeing the monuments and statues that have been established in his name over the years shows how well respected he was and the importance he had on this country. Although the burial site of Abraham Lincoln offers a lot of physical history, the museum in Springfield, IL gives you a thorough insight into the life of Abraham Lincoln.
The Abraham Lincoln Museum first opened when I was in early grade school and became one of the most popular museum openings in all of Illinois. The museum focuses solely on the life of president Abraham Lincoln and all he accomplished throughout his lifetime. One of the parts of the museum that was most interesting was the section that gave a visual of what his life was like as a child. It has an area that is decorated and designed just like a colonial cabin home, which gives you an idea of what the lifestyle was like back then for Lincoln and his family. Although Lincoln was never actually born in Illinois, his family moved there when he was only 21 and he began working his way up in the political world. In 1834, he earned a seat in the Illinois State Legislature as a Whig (Civil War Trust, 3). His political career began growing more and more outside of Illinois when he began promoting his anti-slavery motives. Being from the Northern states and being against slavery, he won support of the North but was despised by the South. His election as president became one of the primary reasons the Civil War broke out in 1861. Many parts of the museum showed his progression in politics from his early days in Illinois to his presidential election. I remember some areas even showed real artifacts and historical documents from key political moments in his career. Most of the political parts weren’t the most appealing during the tour, but the one area everyone raved about was the Ghosts of the Library.
The Ghosts of the Library is an area in the museum where people go sit in an auditorium and a man comes out to discuss Abraham Lincoln’s life. However, while the speaker is talking, a hologram of Abraham Lincoln appears to discuss things about his life such as his election, historic addresses, and family life. This new technological advancement was the most popular attraction in the whole museum. During my experience in this show, I was so mesmerized by the hologram that I never remembered what they were actually talking about. The speaker would usually talk a little bit about Lincoln first and then out of nowhere, a blue, transparent Abraham Lincoln would appear. The whole show focused on looking at certain documents and books that contained information on events and facts about Lincoln’s election and the Civil War. This exhibit became so popular because it allows people to learn about the history of the area they live in and, of course, about Abraham Lincoln in a new and fascinating way that allows you to be more interested in the information.
The Abraham Lincoln Museum is full of so many interesting visuals that allow you to really experience the life of Abraham Lincoln. Many of these visuals include the colonial cabin that was previously mentioned, the realistic wax statues of Lincoln and his family, and the large colonial white house built in the middle area of the museum. Although many of these things are very impressive creations, the more interesting visuals would be the real life artifacts that have been preserved throughout history. The Lincoln Museum contains many artifacts, such as documents (diaries, letters, etc.), articles of clothing, and sentimental objects that belonged to his family. These artifacts give you the sense of the rich history that Illinois has in connection to Abraham Lincoln.
There’s no doubt that Abraham Lincoln was one of the most significant presidents in U.S. history, but he was even more significant for the state of Illinois. It is certain that Lincoln is the symbol of Illinois based on phrases such as “Land of Lincoln.” When we are younger, most of us don’t learn to stop and really learn about the history that surrounds our community. As we grow older and understand more about history, we begin to appreciate the history in the areas we live in. Being educated more about the Civil War makes you realize the sacrifices that were made and struggles that were overcome to reach a goal. Abraham Lincoln was a persistent leader in the fight against slavery and became the historic symbol for freedom of slaves. It makes me feel proud to live in a state where it is symbolized by a president who faced obstacles and struggles every day to fight for something he believed in. I hope to return to the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Lincoln Tomb again to really experience the sites, visuals, and information that are given.
“Abraham Lincoln.” Civil War Trust. Council on Foreign Relations, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/abrahamlincoln.html>.
“History of the Tomb.” Lincoln Tomb. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.lincolntomb.org/tomb_about.php>.
In class the other day we talked about whether or not there could be another civil war in the U.S. someday. I believe that it’s possible the U.S. could have another civil war but I’m doubtful that it would happen in our lifetime. It’s also difficult to say what it could be over. Today, the United States is such a large and significant country that if it were to have another civil war it would have to be over a very serious issue. Even then it would be a long-shot because the U.S. is so populated and is a wealthy country so it would be confusing as to where the battles would take place because during the Civil War, the U.S. was still starting out as a country and it wasn’t as populated or technologically advanced. Now a days, civil wars that occur in other countries usually have to deal with the government vs. the people, but since the U.S. is a democracy where it is all about liberalism and free speech (to an extent), I think it would be difficult to have a civil war break out. Civil wars always have large death tolls, so if a civil war were to occur in the future, it would have to be over a very serious matter such as issues over race or government because the U.S. isn’t going to have a civil war occur if it’s over an issue that can be solved peacefully. The Civil War occurred because of 2 sides opposing in a serious issue over a group of people. America is so complex today that there are so many different groups and subcultures that usually any issues that occur can be dealt with head on, or in some cases, involve some kind of protest or rally. So, I don’t believe that the U.S. will have any civil wars soon but it’s possible that one might occur a ways down the road.
Although I’m not a huge skeptic, I do have my doubts every now and then. I enjoy watching ghost hunting shows and do believe in spirits but when watching Ghosts of Gettysburg, I highly doubt that the stories the witnesses were telling were true and I felt they exaggerated most of those stories quite a bit. However, I do agree with what you said about the interesting stories they told about the soldiers at Gettysburg and the story the woman who was killed in the house near Gettysburg. The EVP’s are the things that stand out most to me when watching shows like this, although they can easily be debunked because everyone is always really quiet when recording them and any noise could be thought of as a ghost. There were some times when I was watching a show and an EVP sounded too real to debunk, but you never know. Even though this show on Gettysburg didn’t seem that believable as far as spirits, it was interesting none the less on the unknown stories that come from there.
A German bounty hunter, a freed African American, and a southern plantation owner. This seems like the beginning of a bad joke, but they are in fact the three main characters of the film Django Unchained. This movie focuses on the point of view of a slave who is bought by a charismatic bounty hunter and goes on an adventure with him across the south to find his wife who is still within the slavery trade. The theme of slavery in this movie is a bit different than other slavery based movies because Tarantino really shows the brutality and horrors that slaves went through in a straightforward and somewhat witty way. Django Unchained made a big impact in the film industry when it was released, but what about it made it such an icon on the theme of slavery during the Civil War era?
The setting of the film takes place 2 years before the Civil War starts and begins in Texas. The main character, Django, starts off as a slave who is being transferred with a group of other slaves. They run into Dr. King Schultz, who addresses himself as a dentist, but in reality he is a German bounty hunter. When he purchases Django to help him find a band of brothers, Schultz tells him that he is now a free man. This part really stands out to me because it was very rare during this time for a southern white man to give an African American man his freedom so Django was very confused about how to act around a white man as a freed slave. I imagine that that was how most slaves acted at first when they were freed because they have always been trained to act a certain way around white people and now they are free to talk to them in any way they want. During this time, most people in the south aren’t used to the idea of African Americans becoming free people, so Tarantino interpreted this in another scene.
Soon after Django accompanies Dr. Schultz, they go through a small town in Texas with Django riding on a horse, which results in many shocked reactions of the white people in the town. This clip shows that scene and how the town people react when they see him riding on a horse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr7Qd2ql2WI). In this scene, Dr. Schultz asks Django why everyone is staring and Django replies “they ain’t never seen no nigga on no horse before” (Tarantino). Slaves generally in this era would walk as a group and be lead by chains attached to the their owners who rode on horses or carriages. The way this scene is filmed shows how even though the Civil War was going to occur soon and slavery was eventually going to die out, citizens in the south still weren’t familiar to the idea that African Americans could be equal to whites. Even though Dr. Schultz explains to people along the way that Django is a free man, people still look down upon him.
Throughout the film, there are major aspects of racism and discrimination towards black slaves and even Django, although he is a free man. To me, I think during this time southerners are so used to the idea of African Americans being treated as slaves that they don’t want to let freed slaves, like Django, believe that they are truly free or that whites will treat them that much different. Tarantino’s film depicts this with his very controversial script, which has white and black people saying words like “nigga” and “boy” in abundance. Although these words today are used in a derogatory sense and was shocking to most of the audience, it was the truthful language people used during the late 1800s. Many people criticized that the movie had too controversial of vocabulary and it was inconsiderate, but I felt that Tarantino used this bold script to show the reality of the South during slavery time. The word choice gives you an honest insight to what the culture was like and the relationship between African American slaves and their white owners. People in today’s culture seem to take this type of language use in a bad way and are too sensitive about controversial topics like this when in reality, the depiction that Tarantino presents of the slavery era was close to the reality of what it was really like. Along with the language that was used during this time, Tarantino also showed the brutality that occurred to slaves.
In today’s society, if you were to witness one person whipping another person strapped to a tree, it would call for police involvement and criminal charges. However, in the years before the Civil War, African American slaves were seen as property to most white people, which they were free to do with as they please. If slaves ever did anything to disobey or go against their owner, they would get severely punished. Many of these punishments included whipping, beating, or being tortured/neglected. In one scene in the film, the wife of Django tried to run away from her plantation and when she was caught, she was sent to the “hot box,” which was a box built in the middle of the field that was dug into the ground. This punishment required that she wore no clothes, was neglected food, and she would have to stay in the box for days. Watching this scene was a little difficult to watch, even though it only lasted for a minute or two, because I couldn’t even imagine having to endure that kind of punishment even for an hour.
Another punishment that was shown in the movie was the whipping of one of the women slaves who dropped a carton of eggs. Although she never ended up getting whipped, the screaming and pain she experienced being dragged to the tree and being strapped to it, ready for the whip, was enough to leave an idea of the cruelty they experienced for the smallest mistakes. When the man who was going to enforce the punishment explained what she had done to deserve it, he said, “She’ll never drop another egg again” (Tarantino). This line really stood out to me because it shows how easily white people were willing to beat an already miserable slave over a silly mistake like dropping eggs and how they looked at is as conditioning. This treatment of the slaves demonstrates how white slave owners looked at slaves as their property.
Most people today have an educated understanding of the Civil War and slavery through books and learning, but a real emotional understanding of what the slaves went through we get through films like Django Unchained. During one of the last scenes in the film, a southern plantation owner named Calvin Candie, who owns Django’s wife, figures out that Dr. Schultz and Django are only there to buy her and threaten them by having them pay full price or he would beat her. At this time, Candie says, “I can choose to do with my property whatever I so desire” (Tarantino). This line reveals how slave owners really saw their slaves as objects instead of actual people. Seeing slaves as property was the norm for most southern slave owners and it was rare that any white person would treat them like a free human being, which is why Dr. Schultz was my favorite character of all of them. He talked earlier in the film how he wasn’t a fan of slavery and was in favor of have slaves be free people, which was an outrageous thought in the South. The relationship he had with Django was almost that of a superhero and a sidekick because he wanted to help a former slave and fight for the underdog.
All the factors that displayed the horrors of slavery before the Civil War in this film were well put together and thought of. Unlike other slavery films, Django Unchained goes into the depth of slavery with the emotions from a slave’s point of view and the brutality they experience along the way. Although there are some scenes that are graphic and, some might say, disturbing, to me, it shows the honest reality of slaves and the horrors they faced to get to their freedom. It also shows this theme in a way that isn’t too dramatic because of the witty characters and comic relief that is shown throughout. This film became a major icon in the film industry as a slave movie because of the truthful details of the South and the slaves and their circumstances. Django Unchained is a movie that will prevail for a long time as an honest story-telling film about the horrors in the lives of slaves and how they faced their obstacles.
Django Unchained. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Perf. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington. Columbia Pictures, 2012. Film.
Your view on the controversy over the Arthur Ashe statue is very true and I agree 100%. Arthur Ashe was definitely an important figure in history because of what he achieved but he wasn’t directly involved with the Civil War. The statues that are there now seem to be more important to the people of the south than it does for the whole country. When we talked about Arthur Ashe and read about his story in Confederates in the Attic, it said that he fled Richmond during the Civil War because of the discrimination going on and he didn’t feel comfortable there. I understand that he should be recognized but I don’t think it should be in a place where he didn’t truly feel accepted or where Confederate leaders seem to be worshiped. If Arthur Ashe should have a monument, it should be somewhere where he can be recognized without being belittled by the Confederate monuments around him.
This is a very valid point that you make and it is true what you say about how America holds on to the Civil War very closely more than other wars. To me, it seems that the U.S. pays more attention to the Civil War because its the only civil war this country has ever had and it made (and still continues making) a huge impact on our country. This war is one of the biggest events that has shaped our country and made it as it is today. In my opinion, I believe that Southerners today are still very passionate about it because the Confederacy was full of passionate people who weren’t ready to surrender to the government and wanted to fight for what they believed, even if it was morally incorrect.
Everyone at some point in their life always has a moment where they wish they didn’t remember and that they could erase from their mind. However, most people might look back on a mistake and see it in a positive way. That’s how it seems to be with daughters and sons of Civil War veterans. Although the motive for the south was wrong, descendants of veterans seem to look back on it in a positive way so they can be proud of their ancestors and to hold on to the ideas of them to remember them by.