Q & Abe Podcast

Join us down the rabbit hole, as we answer real questions from visitors to President Lincoln’s Cottage that we want to spend more time answering. We always start with Lincoln and the Cottage, but we often end up in unexpected places during the half hour. Listen to our Q & Abe podcast to learn more about President Lincoln’s life, the issues he grappled with, and the topics that are still relevant today.

About the Podcast

Every day at President Lincoln’s Cottage we engage with visitors in conversation on difficult topics, from slavery to grief to immigration. Visitors, young and old alike, come here from next door and from around the globe. And occasionally, we get asked a question on a tour that stops us in our tracks – one we wish we could spend a half hour answering. Some of these questions, on their face, were innocent or simple, but on a second look they contain a level of complexity that leaves us wanting to know more.

Thanks to generous donations from our supporters, we created “Q & Abe” – a podcast that investigates real questions from visitors to the Cottage. Each episode, we’ll investigate a single real question a visitor asked us here.

Season 3

Episode 4

“Did Lincoln ever worry he was unqualified to be president?”

In this episode, we’re exploring a question from a friend of the Cottage about Lincoln’s self-doubt and what it means to be qualified for the presidency. Encounters along the way include rowdy 1860s politics, imposter syndrome, the Constitution, and a formula for courage. Come along with us! Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 4 Bonus

“Leadership After the Election”

Normally, for a bonus episode, we share with you portions of our initial conversation with our guests, but today’s episode is a little different. We checked back in for a new conversation with Jared Peatman and Nancy Belmont just yesterday, after the election. What is the responsibility of the people being led?  Click herefor more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 3

“Willie was his favorite, right?”

In this episode, we’re investigating a visitor question about Lincoln’s relationship with his four sons, including Willie. While we’re looking around, we run into mischief in the telegraph office, our innate need to be loved, and a new reflection on Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert. Come along with us!  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 3 Bonus

“Lincoln in the Bardo”

About two and a half years ago, our Executive Director Erin Carlson Mast was in conversation with George Saunders, the author of Lincoln in the Bardo, on the Kojo Nnamdi show. The Kojo Show and American University were gracious enough to allow us to share with you some excerpts from the conversation.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 2

“Wasn’t she crazy?”

In this episode, we’re digging into a question we often get from visitors about Mary Lincoln and her mental health. Along the way we stop off at the orbitofrontal cortex, what it’s like to lose an election, the physiology of grief, and the connection between spiritualism and the telegraph. Come along with us!  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 2 Bonus

“Brain Questions and Neuroaesthetics”

We asked Dr. Anjan Chatterjee an existential question, and also to explain a little more about his field of neuroaesthetics as it might apply to a place like the Cottage.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 1

“Wait, she’s black?”

In this episode, we’re digging into a question a fifth grade student asked about Elizabeth Keckly, a formerly enslaved woman who became a renowned dressmaker to Mrs. Lincoln. Encounters along the way include colorism, the term “mulatto,” racial passing, and Carolus Linnaeus. Come along with us!  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 1 Bonus

“I Don’t See Color”

One of the things we’ve been hearing a lot, in all the conversations about race this summer, is an idea that “I don’t see color.” Karen Grigsby Bates and Nina Jablonski helped us gain insight into how to respond to that statement.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Season 2

Episode 4

“What’s the Cottage worth?”

In this episode, we’re investigating a question we often get from visitors: “What’s the Cottage worth?” Come investigate with us as we pore through old banking records and talk to an insurance adjuster, an antiquities appraiser, and an architect who studies sacred spaces.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 4 Bonus

“Preservation Insights”

Having rediscovered the full specifications for building the Cottage, we asked our Senior Preservationist Jeff Larry to read them for us, and to shed some light on them using his expertise.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 3

“What’s the difference between liberty and freedom?”

For this episode, we’re investigating the question: “What’s the difference between liberty and freedom?” Dig in with us as we talk to a historian of the English language, a native French speaker, and a legal expert in the anti-trafficking field.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 3 Bonus

“Didier and the Second Amendment”

Partway through our conversation with Didier Saillard, he had a question that resulted in a fascinating exchange about constitutions on both sides of the Atlantic.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 2

“If people saw that slavery was getting started, why didn’t they stop it?”

In this episode, we’ll be digging into a question asked by a third grade student at the Cottage – “If people saw that slavery was getting started, why didn’t they stop it?” Come down the rabbit hole with us as we talk to a historian of colonial Virginia, staff at the historic site of the 1619 landing, a former colleague, and two anti-racist facilitators. Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 2 Bonus

“Encounters with Race and Racism”

Several of our guests shared with us stories about their personal experiences encountering race and the other legacies of slavery. You’ll hear from Robin and Terry from Fort Monroe, and Catherine and Andre from Point Made Learning. Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 1

“Who did Lincoln trust the most?”

In this episode, we’ll be working through a visitor question: “Who did Lincoln trust the most?” Come along with us as we talk to a renowned Lincoln scholar, an expert on Lincoln’s political life, and a philosopher of trust.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 1 Bonus

“Trust Stories Fiction and Non-Fiction”

Sidney Blumenthal shared with us a gem of a story about Lincoln’s first encounter with what would become the Republican Party, and Sandy Goldberg gave us his recommendations for which novels and shows best explore the nature of trust.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Season 1

Episode 3

“Why are there no pictures of Lincoln in his military uniform?”

In this episode, we’ll unpack a question from a Belarusian visitor: “Why are there no pictures of Lincoln in his military uniform?” Come along with us as we talk to a Constitutional expert, a civil-military relations scholar, an artist’s family, and our very own neighbors at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in search of answers.   Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 3 Bonus

“Mr. Diamond in the Service”

In our conversation with the residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Retired Staff Sergeant Jim Diamond told us a couple of incredible stories about his experiences serving in the army, including while he was working as part of the detail serving Arlington Cemetery and how he came to join the infantry after enlisting as a truck driver.   Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 2

“Is it ok to call her Aunt Mary?”

In this episode, we’ll dig into a question we received in several different forms — “Is it ok to call her Aunt Mary?” which visitors have asked about Mary Williams, a black woman working at the Cottage as a cook. Come exploring with us as we talk with two historians of the African-American experience in DC during the Civil War, an art curator, a literature scholar, and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience as we search for answers.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 2 Bonus

“Role Playing and African-Americans”

Adena Spingarn talks about why minstrelsy isn’t part of the popular consciousness as much as one might expect, and Chandra Manning tells us about the ways that black women in contraband camps asserted their presence, and their right to be present, beyond what Union soldiers expected of them.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 1

“How could Lincoln sleep, if slavery was happening?”

In this episode, we’ll explore a question asked by a second grader on a field trip to President Lincoln’s Cottage — “How could Lincoln sleep if slavery was happening?” Go down the rabbit hole with us as we speak to a Civil War historian, a sleep doctor, and a licensed professional counselor in search of answers.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.

Episode 1 Bonus

“Dreaming of Emancipation”

During our interview with Jon White, he told us a fascinating story about a Civil War soldier’s dream that illustrates the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation on the subconscious of everyday people.  Click here for more information, including an episode transcript.