Thanks to generous donations from our supporters, we created “Q & Abe” – a podcast that investigates real questions from visitors to the Cottage. This bonus episode accompanies the third episode of Season 4, “Did Lincoln ever play basketball?”
As we talk to all kinds of folks about their perspective for the show, we sometimes end up with interesting things that don’t quite fit in the main episode, but we don’t think that should keep you all from hearing them. Curtis Harris told us a little more about how the aftermath of the Civil War affected the ideologies behind the invention of basketball, and Len Elmore spoke to us about how he tries to share the long arc of history with his students.
In addition to the embedded media player below, you can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts or wherever you get podcasts. You also can read below for a transcript of the episode.
Callie Hawkins: Hi everyone – This is Callie and Joan from Q&Abe, a podcast by President Lincoln’s Cottage.
Joan Cummins: As we talk to all kinds of folks about their perspective for the show, we sometimes end up with interesting things that don’t quite fit in the main episode, but we don’t think that should keep you all from hearing them.
CHawkins: This bonus episode accompanies episode 4.3, Did Lincoln ever play basketball?, so if you haven’t listened to that one yet, it might be a good place to start.
JC: Curtis Harris, our basketball historian, told us a little more about how the aftermath of the Civil War affected the ideologies and the social concerns behind the YMCA movement in which basketball was invented:
CHarris: Something important about, just like the whole cadre of people – it’s like the ideology, it was, uh, muscular Christianity. So it evolved out of like maybe the 1870s or so, uh, it was really big in 1890s and early 1900s. The YMCA was just a part of this broader movement and – as was Naismith, but these guys, uh, and also a few women were – really kind of distraught, some of them, about American society. Cause you know, you had, you had had the Civil War, so, clearly a very bloody affair, but the good part of it from some perspective was that those people have proven their masculinity and have proven their bravado, and their strength through warfare. But when you’re getting into the 1890s, you now have like a generation of people that are now growing up and coming of age, that were – you know, they’re the sons of Civil War veterans, but they themselves haven’t proven their masculinity, uh, in society. So they viewed sports as a really good way to show your masculinity, but also, um, there is this countervailing fear of, you didn’t want to be too savage and too brutal because you also have mass immigration at that point, there are a lot of, uh, Italians and Eastern Europeans migrating to the United States and they were the ones doing the factory work. So people thought of them as like being like, you know, they prove their masculinity, ‘cause they’re doing hard jobs in factories and construction work, whereas as middle-class native-born white Americans were like, well, we haven’t fought a war recently, so we can’t prove our masculinity that way, we don’t do any rough factory work anymore, either, we’re all doing like office jobs. Uh, so they were kind of just feeling just under siege, from a psychological standpoint, um, and also viewing a lot of the immigration. So, uh, there’s a lot of that going into the creation of basketball as well. Uh, not directly, but as part of the larger, kind of social and ideological thought process for a lot of these people. Uh, although Naismith was less concerned with that than other folks like Luther Gulick. He was very concerned about a lot of that stuff, but James Naithers – Naismith was a little less, a little less concerned about it. He was a little more chill about all those aspects.
CHawkins: And Len Elmore spoke to us about how he tries to share the long arc of history with his students in order to contextualize the present.
Len Elmore: I think my favorite thing is history. I really want them to understand, and it really came to, came to full view, came to clarity, during the aftermath of George Floyd and some of the other, unfortunate incidences, um, where, you know, we were at a moment, at that time and, you know, you want that moment to continue to be a movement. It just reminded me of, of 1968. I was 16 years old. You know, watching, you know, cities aflame, uh, in the aftermath of the death of Dr. King, uh, even prior to that, watching, you know, the destruction of, uh, of, or almost the destruction of communities, you know, because of the inequities and also, you saw the birth and the growth of people, um, who you know, with the help of allies, if you will – try to build something, you know, growing up, watching the ivil rights bill being – the Civil Rights Act, being passed, the Voting Rights Act, being passed, watching the demonstrations and the positives that came to fruition. Also, you know, when, when you talk about the tragedies, as I mentioned, the death of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, you also saw the development of self-sufficiency and self-respect for a period of time through various causes. You know, we have Black Lives Matter today, but back then we had the Black Panthers, you know, who preached, uh, the ideals of self-sufficiency, of community help, et cetera, et cetera. All these things that, you know, helped me grow as an individual. You know, the other day uh, we, uh, kinda remembered the assassination of Malcolm X and what Malcolm X was able to preach, and his moral evolution, that ultimately embraced all people. So there are so many things that I want to talk to students about today based on those experiences that I’ve had in recognizing that history has a tendency to repeat itself, and in some way, shape or form, this moment, these last couple of years reminded me of, you know, 1968, a little bit before, and certainly years afterwards. And it was kind of a turning point, but somehow we’ve stalled, you know, somehow we’ve found ways, to avoid each other, communicating with each other and gone to almost separate poles in, in society. And we have that now. We’ve got to really make sure that we try to bring them back, bring us back together because you know, we’ve never seen what happens when we go so far, uh, to the separate poles that we kind of fall off. We haven’t seen that. Maybe we saw it during President Lincoln’s time. And that’s not the ultimate, the ultimate conclusion that we want, because I fear that as we finally came back in a painful way from that Civil War, you know, I’m not so sure if we had another one that we could come back.
JC: That’s part of our goal as well, to help people understand the past so they can make decisions about what they want the future to look like.
CHawkins: Thanks for listening and for coming along with us on Season 4. We look forward to talking with you again soon!
JC: This episode was produced by me, Joan Cummins, with Callie Hawkins and support from the President Lincoln’s Cottage team. Music for Q&Abe was written, performed, and is copyrighted by Clancy Newman.
CHawkins: Q&Abe is possible thanks to generous supporters of President Lincoln’s Cottage. To find out how you can support this podcast and other programming, visit www.lincolncottage.org. You can also write to us at [email protected].
JC: President Lincoln’s Cottage is a home for brave ideas. Stay curious!