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Review: 'Looking for Lincoln'

February 10, 2009 |  6:03 pm

Lincoln1 Two hundred years after his birth, it's difficult to imagine there's anything new to say about Abraham Lincoln. The 16th and most universally beloved president has been analyzed, mythologized, deconstructed and reconstructed in pretty much every medium available to humanity. Books, films, poems and songs -- you name it, there's one about Abraham Lincoln. Every president in recent memory names him as a role model. Barack Obama was sworn in on the Lincoln Bible, his inaugural dinner echoed Lincoln's menu -- President Obama has done everything to pay the great man homage but wear a stovepipe hat.

But it is precisely this overwhelming amount of information, this breathtaking mountain of admiration and fascination that prompted Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.~aaas/faculty/henry_louis_gates_jr/index.html to take to the road in “Looking for Lincoln.” Stitching together interviews with scholars, biographers, Lincoln impersonators, memorabilia collectors, teachers, students, black radicals, supporters of the Confederacy and ordinary Americans, Gates reexamines the shrine we have collectively built for Honest Abe in the hopes of finding not only the real man but also the reason we built such an elaborate and seemingly unassailable shrine in the first place.

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Photo courtesy Huntington Library