16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln led the Union during the Civil War. Despite the fact that Lincoln was an articulate, eloquent writer, and an intelligent thinker, most American history textbooks give almost no account of his ideas or philosophy. Loewen argues that Lincoln, in spite of some racist views, grappled with his own racism throughout his life, so that by the time he began his second term as president he had largely “transcended” his own racism, and fought to free the slaves for moral as well as practical reasons. Loewen offers Lincoln as a prime example for the way that textbooks tend to ignore ideas and focus instead on people and events.
The timeline below shows where the character President Abraham Lincoln appears in Lies My Teacher Told Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Handicapped by History
...their historical heroes are, rarely choose figures such as Helen Keller, Woodrow Wilson, Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Christopher Columbus. Indeed, some students tell cruel “Helen Keller jokes”—not necessarily because they hate... (full context)
Chapter 5: Gone With the Wind
Almost every history textbook devotes a lot of space to the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, the important Democratic Party leader of the 1850s and 60s. However, textbooks... (full context)
Chapter 6: John Brown and Abraham Lincoln
Loewen now switches from John Brown—one of the most controversial figures in American history—to Abraham Lincoln—one of the most beloved. As with Brown, textbooks downplay the role of ideology in Lincoln’s... (full context)
...and thoughts of America’s most notable racial idealists: they portray Brown as a fanatic and Lincoln as a pragmatist. Although Brown and Lincoln are still celebrated as idealistic heroes around the... (full context)
Chapter 12: Why Is History Taught Like This?