Cottage Conversation: They Knew Lincoln
Join us as historian Kate Masur, along with co-presenter and President Lincoln’s Cottage Executive Director, Erin Carlson Mast, discuss Masur’s most recent project, They Knew Lincoln.
Originally published in 1942 and now reprinted for the first time, They Knew Lincoln is a classic in African American history and Lincoln studies. Part memoir and part history, the book is an account of John E. Washington’s childhood among African Americans in Washington, DC, and of the black people who knew or encountered Abraham and Mary Lincoln. Washington recounted stories told by his grandmother’s elderly friends — stories of escaping from slavery, meeting Lincoln in the Capitol, learning of the president’s assassination, and hearing ghosts at Ford’s Theatre. He also mined the US government archives and researched little-known figures in Lincoln’s life, including William Johnson, who accompanied Lincoln from Springfield to Washington, and William Slade, the steward in Lincoln’s White House who accompanied Lincoln to the Soldiers’ Home. Washington was fascinated from childhood by the question of how much African Americans themselves had shaped Lincoln’s views on slavery and race, and he believed Lincoln’s Haitian-born barber, William de Fleurville, was a crucial influence. Washington also extensively researched Elizabeth Keckly, the dressmaker to Mary Lincoln, and advanced a new theory of who helped her write her controversial book, Behind the Scenes.
A new introduction by Kate Masur places Washington’s book in its own context, explaining the contents of They Knew Lincoln in light of not only the era of emancipation and the Civil War, but also Washington’s own times, when the nation’s capital was a place of great opportunity and creativity for members of the African American elite. On publication, a reviewer noted that the “collection of Negro stories, memories, legends about Lincoln” seemed “to fill such an obvious gap in the material about Lincoln that one wonders why no one ever did it before.” This edition brings it back to print for a twenty-first-century readership that remains fascinated with Abraham Lincoln.
Kate Masur teaches in the Department of History at Northwestern University. She is the author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. and the co-editor of The World the Civil War Made.
When: Monday, February 26th
Reception: 6:00 pm, Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center (Entrance at 140 Rock Creek Church Road NW)
Lecture: 6:30 pm, President Lincoln’s Cottage
Admission: $10 for the lecture and $10 for the reception. To purchase tickets and RSVP click here.
Free for Cottage members at the $250 level or above. To reserve your seat as a Cottage member $250 or above, email Michelle Martz at MMartz@lincolncottage.org or call (202) 688-3735.
Cottage Conversations offers relaxing evenings to socialize and learn something new about our 16th president from authors, collectors, and artists. The program begins with a cocktail reception, is followed by the lecture, and concludes with a book signing.