Digital Commons @ Georgia LawPopular MediaFaculty Scholarship4-20-2005Lincoln Assassinated!Donald E. Wilkes Jr.University of Georgia School of Law, [email protected]This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Faculty Scholarship at Digital Commons @ Georgia Law. It has been accepted forinclusion in Popular Media by an authorized administrator of Digital Commons @ Georgia Law. For more information, please contact[email protected].Repository CitationWilkes, Donald E. Jr., "Lincoln Assassinated!" (2005).Popular Media.Paper 121.
LINCOLN ASSASSINATED!Published in Flagpole Magazine, p. 11 (April 20, 2005). Author: Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln almost exactly 140 years ago–Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while watching the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. around 10:15 p.m. on Friday, April 14, 1865, and died at 7:22 a.m. the following morning–was, in the words of historian Edward Steers, Jr., “a cataclysmic event in American history” which “gave rise to an ominous cloud that spread across the American landscape leaving its fallout on subsequent generations.” The prolongation of widespread virulent racism in this country, the calamitous failure of Reconstruction, the rise of the Jim Crow system, the continued economic and social oppression of African Americans and their transformation from slaves to underclass–all in some way resulted from the fact that Lincoln’s violent, early death deprived America of his brilliant leadership when it was needed the most. Even though it was the single most terrible murder in American history, until fairly recently professionally trained historians were wary of the Lincoln assassination as an independent topic. The first book on the assassination written by an academic historian was published in 1982, the second in 1983. Prior to then, books about the Lincoln assassination all had been written by journalists or nonprofessionally trained historians who often wrote with a partisan agenda, and whose research usually did not extend beyond secondary sources. Examples: David M. Dewitt, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Its Expiation (1909), Clara E. Laughlin, The Death of Lincoln (1909), Lloyd Lewis, Myths After Lincoln (1929) (republished in 1994 under the title The Assassination of Lincoln), Otto Eisenschiml, Why Was Lincoln Murdered? (1937), George S. Bryan, The Great American Myth (1940), and Jim Bishop, The Day Lincoln Was Shot (1955). Since publication of William Hanchett’s The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies (1983), only the second book on the assassination written by a professional academic historian, the Lincoln assassination has regularly attracted the attention of professional
historians, both academic and nonacademic, who have focused their research activities on government archives and original papers stored in libraries or in private collections, and who, overall, have scrupulously avoided partisanship.