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Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln Hardcover – January 22, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

East Carolina University history professor Prokopowicz has created a Lincoln trivia book, answering dozens of questions about the 16th president of the United States. Did he write his own speeches? (Yes, though sometimes he borrowed from other writers—the conclusion of the Gettysburg Address echoes abolitionist Theodore Parker.) Do we celebrate Thanksgiving because of Lincoln? (Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving on the urging of writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale.) Did Mary Lincoln hold séances in the White House? (Yes; she was trying to contact her dead son.) How tall was Abe? (Six feet and nearly four inches.) Prokopowicz addresses some trendy topics, such as the two depressive episodes Lincoln experienced in the 1830s and 1840s and the debate about Lincoln's sexual orientation. As for the titular question, Prokopowicz insists that people keep asking whether Lincoln owned slaves: he did not, but he may have rented one. Although the irksome q&a format necessarily lends itself to a certain superficiality, Prokopowicz is learned, his tone is engaging and his suggestions for further reading at the end of each thematic chapter are also a helpful resource. (Jan. 22)
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"A wonderful book, as witty as it is wise. Addressing every question that conceivable can be raised about Abraham Lincoln, Gerald Prokopowicz provides answers that are short, accurate, and in many instances highly amusing."
--David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln

"From his birth to his death (not to mention the century and a half since), here is everything one ever wanted to know about Abraham Lincoln, told authoritatively and entertainingly by a fine scholar and gifted writer. Facts are reported, myths punctured, and controversies analyzed in a text that proves both an essential reference and a page-turning good read."
--Harold Holzer, cochairman, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

"Of the thousands of books about Lincoln (you can get the exact number, and many other facts, from this book), very few bring us as much information, and none is more pleasantly amusing. If you have any interest in Lincoln and start reading this book, you will have a hard time stopping."
--William Lee Miller, author of Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography and President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman

"Witty, intelligent, and informative, Did Lincoln Own Slaves? is a book that every level of Lincoln student--from grade school to scholar--will find useful. Prokopowicz has provided accurate answers to the essential questions about our sixteenth president; no more digging around in the Lincoln library is required."
--Jean H. Baker, author of Mary Todd Lincoln

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1St Edition edition (January 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375425411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375425417
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,381,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Civil War Librarian on March 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln,Gerald J. Prokopowicz, Pantheon Books, 311 pp., illustrations, photographs, bibliographic and reference notes, index, 2008, $24.95

Well, when Civil War Librarian received a first notice of the book, a stereotype was placed in a mental pidgeon hole. Probably a slim book published for the middle school-high school library. Probably lots of often published photographs. Maybe a 'Dummy's Guide to Abraham Lincoln'. But, there was the author's name: Gerald J. Prokopowicz. Civil War Librarian is a listener and fan of Civil War Talk Radio and its host and faculty member of East Carolina University. Hmmmm.

Prokopowicz doesn't write/talk down to the reader of Did Lincoln Own Slaves; it is as if the reader is in a seminar on Lincoln and the author is the the discussion leader and instructor. Aristotle and Socrates would be pleased; Prokopowicz employs questions to bring the reader through the implications of the simplest question. What are the assumptions implied in the questions? How has this question been answered previously? What is the current scholarship on the question?

As scholar-in-residence at the Lincoln Museum of Fort Wayne, Indiana for nine years, Prokopowicz probably had to handle this questions. The book is organized somewhat chronologically but also topically. In the sections 'Boy Lincoln,' 'Rail Splitter,' 'Springfield,' 'Politician,' 'Speaker' and seven other chapters, the author organizes the material in chronological fashion but also explores the implications of the questions and stretches outside the confines of the immediate dates.

In the section 'Speaker' an articulate essay on Stephen Douglas brings the reader into the historical context of competitive politics.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James D. Miller on September 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Did you ever have a question about Abraham Lincoln but didn't want to pull several books of a library shelf to find the answer? Have you toured the White House, the Lincoln Home, or any of the other various Lincoln sites and had a question that you thought others might think you stupid or uneducated for asking? Then Gerald J. Prokopowicz's book "Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln" is just the book for you.

This, as acknowledged by Mr. Prokopowicz in his introduction, is not a book directed towards Lincoln Scholars or history professors. This is a book intended to be read by the general American public. If you have read several books on Abraham Lincoln there is little, if anything, new to be discovered between its covers that you probably haven't read elsewhere.

This slim tome is an encyclopedia of questions posed about Abraham Lincoln's life and times, the man, the myths and the legends. Though there are probably several, I cannot think of a single question about Abraham Lincoln that is not answered in this book.

Written in a question and answer format, the book is broken into chapters covering specific segments of his Lincoln's life: The Boy Lincoln, Rail-Splitter, Springfield, Politician, Speaker, President, Commander In Chief, Gettysburg, Emancipation, Lincoln The Man, Martyr and lastly, Legacy.

Mr. Prokopowicz does not speak down to his readers. He writes in an easily read, conversational style with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor thrown in. His answers are often short and concise, but more complicated questions, such as Lincoln's view of race, or emancipation, both deserve and receive longer answers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Nash on November 27, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Just finished listening to this audiobook and am very pleased. On the first disc,listeners are encouraged to put the book away if they're long-time Lincoln buffs-because nothing new would be heard. Well, I am a long-time Lincoln fan but I still learned new things- but more importantly I just enjoyed the heck out of the book. I love the question and answer format used. I appreciate the author's sense of humor, easy going style, and clear concise language. This really is a "must have" for all who are seeking to know Lincoln better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By KR on February 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Never believe it! Dr. Prokopowicz, as knowledgable a Lincoln scholar as there is, takes a question and answer approach to his heroic subject. This is in no way to trivialize Lincoln, rather, it's learning with a smile and at a fast pace. You'll know more about Lincoln when you finish this book than just about any other, and you'll return to it as a reference source time and again. Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Moran VINE VOICE on May 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
Like an earlier reviewer, I almost ignored this book. The title made it sound like another Lincoln bashing; and the Q and A format often signifies low level content. I looked at the book expecting to see another hatchet job on the Satanic Lincoln. I saw something quite different.

Anyone reading this book will get a mini-survey of Lincoln the man, the politician and the war president as well as something of a run down on his afterlife in American memory, culture, scholarship and popular media (yes, including the bashers). Prokopowicz draws upon his experience answering thousands of questions from visitors to the Lincoln Museum in Ft. Wayne (where he was scholar in residence for nine years) and from questions arising from lectures and addresses given to audiences of all kinds.

The book is written with clarity, energy and humor and in a conversational tone. Prokopowicz's answers are always understandable but he does not dumb them down. He gives lengthy and nuanced responses when questions touch on complex issues. Nor does he shy away from more controversial matters. While clear about his own views, Prokopowicz readily concedes that other views are possible.

Lincoln's views on race, for example, are troubling to many today. Prokopowicz outlines those views clearly while giving the applicable cultural and political contexts. Prokopowicz himself seems to believe that Lincoln's views were moderately progressive in the 19th century US. He believes that, before the Civil War, Lincoln would have preferred to see slavery abolished but not if that meant violating the Constitution or putting the Union at risk.
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