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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Questions, Clear and Concise Answers
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...
Published on March 27, 2008 by Rea Andrew Redd

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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read...But SOME Objectivity is Needed
DID LINCOLN OWN SLAVES? is a fine book. It achieves a fine balance of being informative, thorough and entertaining. This book leaves few stones unturned when it comes to addressing every facet of Abraham Lincoln's life, and includes countless, interesting anecdotes.

There is no doubt that the author, Gerald J. Prokopwicz, knows well the subject of which he...
Published on March 27, 2009 by William E. Innes


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Questions, Clear and Concise Answers, March 27, 2008
By 
Rea Andrew Redd "Civil War Librarian" (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania metropolitan region) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. The answers to such questions as 'What was his greatest speech?' four pages long and contains a note and portions of Lincoln's remarks. Wonderfully, Prokopowicz conditions his answer with the remark "You already know about his presidential speeches, like the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address . . ." and then presents 11 paragraphs of cogent description and discussion of the October 16, 1854 Peoria, Illinois speech addressing the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Chapter Six, 'President,' Prokopowicz begins with 'How old was Lincoln when he became president?' He deals with the answer in one declarative sentence and then a remark that Lincoln was the third youngest president up to that time. The chapter builds to longer answers in the middle then wind downs to shorter answers. The author leads the reader into an in depth discussion and out again. At the end of the each chapter, a section 'For Further Reading' not only suggests books in the field but also offers a brief historiographical discussion of the resources.

From first to last, the author is not a sage-on-a-stage but a guide-by-the-side. A clear writing style and a concise delivery of the facts presents the reader with an enjoyable experience. A foundation of facts with citations offers the reader a thoughtful and scholarly return on the time invested. Each of the chapters leads the reader to the next; Civil War Librarian at times could not put it down missed several hours of sleep. Of the many satisfying chapters, 'Legacy' is the most appreciated; Prokopowicz's discussion of the variety of interpretations and the climate of the times in which each interpretation was written, capped 'Did Lincoln Own Slaves?'

With Andrew Ferguson's Land of Lincoln in 2007 and Prokopowicz's 'Did Lincoln Own Slaves?, both the general reader of biography and the dedicated reader of Lincoln books will have a Lincoln book in both their hands.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Stale and Dusty?, February 18, 2013
By 
Arthur S. Ross (East Tennessee, USA) - See all my reviews
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book For Those Curious About Abraham Lincoln, September 2, 2009
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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. His book is aimed toward those who are curious about Abraham Lincoln, and though the author answers each question he also includes a section titled "For Further Reading" at the end of each chapter for those who would like to know more.

As Lincoln scholar, Mr. Prokopowicz has devoted much of his life to the study of the life and times of our 16th president. For nine years he served as the Lincoln Scholar at the Lincoln Museum at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was the editor of its quarterly journal, "Lincoln Lore." He is a member of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission Advisory Committee, and the host of Civil War Talk Radio. He is currently the chair of the history department at East Carolina University.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a Press Conference, February 2, 2013
This review is from: Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Civil War Library) (Paperback)
I have read almost all the books I can find on Abraham Lincoln. Yet this book was far more interesting, informative and humorous than I thought it would be.

The author begins the book with a disclaimer telling you if you have read a lot about Lincoln you won't learn anything new by reading his book and he almost encourages you to stop and not bother reading any more. I am so glad I didn't stop and I had a hard time putting it down. It was really good and even though I know most of the facts about Lincoln, it was offered in a new and interesting, almost a press conference kind of way.

I wish more history books were written like this. Don't pay any attention to the disclaimer, even if you are an Historian. Sure, most you know, put it is presented in a unique fashion and I believe helps you retain more of the facts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great, Entertaining Book!, September 23, 2010
By 
Amazon Customer (Roswell, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Civil War Library) (Paperback)
Folks this is a great book! This is sort of a compendium of Lincoln questions organized by topic with cogent, even-handed answers that cite sources for you to check yourself. Each chapter covers a different aspect of Lincoln's life and ends with a list of sources for the reader to engage in further research. Contrary to the assertion of another Amazon user's review, I think even Lincoln buffs will learn something from this book. Highly recommended for everyone!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Lincoln Primer, November 27, 2008
By 
William Nash (Sterling Heights, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Q's`With Real World A's, May 6, 2009
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This review is from: Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Civil War Library) (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.

Lincoln based his view on notions of legal equality founded on the Declaration of Independence, especially with regard to the fruits of one's labor and the opportunity for betterment. Prokopowicz also notes that, as a professional and ambitious Illinois politician, Lincoln had to be careful how he stated his views. He shows that Lincoln used his well-developed oral and legal skills to leave himself wiggle room while appealing to his audience.

The war, of course, pushed Lincoln to emancipation, a direction in which he was not loath to go. Prokopowicz believes that Lincoln's views on race broadened during the war, but he recognizes that ultimately one could still argue that Lincoln was just as racist as was 19th century American culture.

This book will give any reader a good overall view of Lincoln's life and career. It has something for even experienced Lincoln buffs to enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read., September 7, 2011
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This review is from: Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Civil War Library) (Paperback)
Having been assigned this book for a college history course, I was skeptical of reading it. However, I found that it is filled with very interesting facts and stories related to Abraham Lincoln and the events of his time. It is a well-written and very interesting read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This and a Host of Questions Are Answered, September 14, 2009
By 
Regis Schilken "Rege" (Bethel Park, Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Civil War Library) (Paperback)
When I first started reading Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln, sometimes the book's question-and-answer format affected me as a superficial way of examining the life of a man whose tall, bearded shadow fell over us and collected us back together not just as a united people, but as a united, just people. As I continued reading, the book became so fascinating with its unusual facts about Lincoln, I found it hard to put down.

While the format contains some trivia, it also contains unknown facts that even the most avid history buff might appreciate. A scant few of the facts that fascinated me follow below. All of this information is presented in Did Lincoln Own Slaves? as answers to specific questions in the book.

I've seen many photographs of Lincoln's birthplace that look like the real thing. In fact, what looks like a genuine antique photo can be found on page five. Well, the picture is an antique; but according to author, Gerald Prokopowicz, in all probability, one would be lucky to find even a trace of wood from the original Lincoln home. It stood deserted until most of it fell down. The rest was torn down, moved several times, and mixed unceremoniously with other lumber.

The book explains that Lincoln's ancestors had migrated in 1637 from Hingham in England to Hingham in Massachusetts. Each generation moved farther west with the expanding frontier. After working with his father to clear land and start a farm, Lincoln fast decided that hard physical labor for the rest of his life was not for him. He preferred a life of the mind. With only one year of regular schooling,

Lincoln taught himself to read and write. He set out early to support himself in a variety of ways to make himself economically independent from his father.
One of his jobs involved converting logs into fence rails. In spite of Lincoln's gangly body, splitting logs was not for the frail of mind or heart. To gouge downed trees into four long fence rails with a heavy sledgehammer and a set of wedges could put striated muscle on any physique. Mentally, even this job was challenging. It took forethought to read the split lines in a log to conserve as much physical strength as possible.

Other jobs Lincoln held according to Prokopowicz: storekeeper, storeowner, postmaster. Several times he built rafts to ferry goods and people out to awaiting steamboats. On one trip to Louisiana ferrying a load of produce, Lincoln observed the plight of human beings being bought and sold like cattle. "A slave ship from Virginia, ironically named the United States, was docked in New Orleans with a cargo of people to sell." The memory of their plight almost certainly influenced
Lincoln then, and in his later years as well.

The answer to Did Lincoln Own Slaves? is a researched, resolute, resounding "No."

As a sportsman, Lincoln played "fives" which is a type of handball, billiards, and an early version of baseball. At wrestling, he was a champ. In 1831 in New Salem, Lincoln wrestled the town bully. Whether he won or lost the match, or whether it was called a draw, made little difference to history. Lincoln won the respect and admiration of bully Jack Armstrong and his gang of thugs.

Three circumstances helped Abraham Lincoln become a lawyer:

1) He could read law books;
2) The books were lent to him by John Todd Stuart, a Springfield attorney;
3) He didn't take a bar exam because it was not required in Illinois.

In its place, Lincoln was examined by other law practitioners who vouched for his legal knowledge and found him to be of "good moral character." He practiced various kinds of law, "contracts, torts, corporate law, failure to return rented ox, divorce, murder, seduction, runaway slaves, etc."

Although Lincoln is oft embodied as a public failure until he somehow found himself as president, according to Did Lincoln Own Slaves this is legend. The reality is that Lincoln's career was a bit like the stock market during good times.

Politically and financially, he probably had an equal number of both good and down times. What is most interesting is that Lincoln considered himself a failure: "With me, the race of ambition has been a failure - a flat failure."

For over 22 years, he compared his life and failures to the successes of his political rival, Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln had a desire for fame but not for the sake of mere celebrity. He wanted esteem that was "so reached, that the oppressed of my species, might have shared with me in the elevation."

After debating proslavery Stephen Douglas and asking him a question he could not logically answer without alienating both pro and con slavery believers, Lincoln went on to become the sixteenth president of the United States in 1860.

In Did Lincoln Own Slaves?, I learned several interesting things about Lincoln I was not aware of. He signed the first federal income tax law, for one thing, even though it was later changed by Congress, repealed for a while, and then reinstated.

He kept his White House staff to a bare minimum: secretaries Nicolay and Hay, his personal secretaries, William O. Stoddard, a few clerks, a doorkeeper, and a domestic staff. The president received over 200 pieces of mail each day.

As Commander-in-Chief, Lincoln educated himself about military strategy by borrowing a textbook from the Library of Congress. Back in 1832, he served briefly in the militia with other New Salem boys but as far as the Civil War is concerned, he relied heavily on his generals to set up their own strategies. Needless to say, his patience with General McClellan's ever increasing demand for more recruits before committing troops to an outright military confrontation really unnerved him.

Lincoln continually urged McClellan to aggressively pursue Lee rather than wait. At one point in Did Lincoln Own Slaves?, Prokopowicz tells of Lincoln visiting McClellan to ask him personally why he did not attack Lee. McClellan used the excuse that his horses were tired. Lincoln asked, "Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?"

Shortly, Lincoln replaced McClellan. But there would be several more replacements until Lincoln found the right man to pursue the Confederates into the deep south at any cost: Ulysses Grant. Often the human price was quite high!

Of course, Lincoln was deeply moved by the horrifying details in the reports of the slaughter which occurred at Gettysburg. For two reasons:

1) The human carnage and suffering was unthinkable;
2) Although he needed a victory to turn the tide of the war, it was hard to rejoice in the deaths of so many brave men on both sides of the battle.

Certainly the short address he gave at Gettysburg reflected his feelings. It contained no note of rejoicing; only the hope that a just Union would prevail.
Lincoln had always been impressed by the words of Frederick Douglass. Douglass' brilliant mind and his arguments against human bondage made it clear that "intellectual endowment" could never be limited only to white people.

Slavery was a satanic revulsion on America's conscience. Emancipation for slaves was an undeniable right, and now, Lincoln could finally have his way. He felt that the African Americans who fought so bravely for the Union showed more "reverence for the constitution" than those who railed against it.

As Did Lincoln Own Slaves? draws to a close, it mentions other attempts made to assassinate him. In August of 1864, a sniper attempt failed. The bullet pierced his stovepipe hat high above his head. His horse spooked and galloped away leaving the hat to be found by soldiers the following day.

Three years prior, Pinkerton detectives told Lincoln an attempt would be made to kill him on his way from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration (1861). He dressed incognito wearing a cap instead of his tall hat. News cartoonists portrayed him as trying to sneak in and out of Washington like a thief. This tore at his self-esteem. Never again would he hide from anyone. He would make himself and his government available to all the people, all the time. This attitude set Lincoln's fate with John Wilkes Booth.

Did Lincoln Own Slaves? is a treasure. You can begin reading it on any page. Just read the first question you see, and then the answer, often detailed, sucks you in. You need not follow page by page in order to appreciate the factual detail of this work.

As I continued reading, I realized that the question-and-answer format of the twelve chapters subconsciously slipped into the background. What I was reading was the tale of Abraham Lincoln's life from the viewpoint of all the questions which have been raised by admirers and detractors of this heroic figure. In the end, it proved an exciting and fascinating format.

I would highly recommend Did Lincoln Own Slaves to everyone. It is an excellent read filled with relevant facts which tie together almost as a novel. As a former educator myself for over 30 years, I think the book's format would prove a nice change-up technique for getting high school students interested in discussing Lincoln's life and the influence his ideals had on our own generation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Book on Lincoln, April 15, 2014
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This review is from: Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Civil War Library) (Paperback)
You can't get a better one. This book, in question and answer format, fields the many questions lay people, and indeed many scholars, have about our 16th President.

The book was written by the former director of the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois. Can you possibly find a more authoritative source ? He obviously knows his material, but additionally, the book was written by someone who has a pretty good sense of humor.

Dennis C.
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Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Civil War Library)
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