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Lincoln's Body - A Cultural History

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Nineteenth-century African Americans felt deep affection for their “liberator” as a “homely” man who did not hold himself apart; Southerners felt a nostalgia for Abraham Lincoln as a humble “conciliator.” Later, educators glorified Lincoln as a symbol of nationhood to help assimilate poor immigrants. Monument makers focused not only on a gigantic body but also on a nationalist “union,” downplaying “emancipation.” Among both black and white liberals in the 1960s and 1970s, Lincoln was derided or fell out of fashion. Recently, Lincoln has been embodied once again (as idealist and pragmatist) by outstanding historians, by self-identified Lincolnian president Barack Obama, and by actor Daniel Day-Lewis—all keeping Lincoln alive in a body of memory that speaks volumes about our nation.
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