The Abraham Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia has a book club. And this past weekend we finished reading Herndon’s Lincoln, the book that we’ve been discussing for the last nine months. In my earlier review I noted that this particular edition of the book was greatly enhanced by the incredible editorial annotation by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis. Even more invaluable was the input from the book members themselves.
I should emphasize that our Lincoln Group book club includes several historians, archivists, researchers, and all-around Abraham Lincoln scholars. We also had people who had little previous knowledge of Lincoln. Each of us brought our own preconceptions, backgrounds, and opinions, which when informed further by the personal insights of Herndon and others who knew Lincoln, made for lively and sometimes surprising discussions. Arising from the three-quarter-year analysis was a much deeper understanding of both the book and Abraham Lincoln. I think everyone in the group would agree that it was a worthwhile and special experience.
This last session was special in another sense as well. Because of a last minute scheduling conflict we were not able to use the room that has been our home base for the last nine months. Normally we meet on the 5th floor of the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership, across the street from the famous site of Lincoln’s assassination and next to the Petersen House, where Lincoln died.
Our backup plan was Ford’s Theatre itself, or more accurately, the conference room on the top floor of Ford’s Theatre. Bypassing the lines queued up for the matinee of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, we found the entrance to an elegant conference room tucked into the rafters of the theater. Here is the view from the top as the audience filed in for the performance.
George Healey’s famous painting of Abraham Lincoln loomed over our group as we discussed the final chapters. Imagine sitting in a room discussing the motivations of the man gazing in thoughtful contemplation over your left shoulder. No, we weren’t intimidated. Much.
Abe did photobomb the apparently requisite selfie at such grandiose events. Left to right are John Elliff, Richard Margolies (our esteemed discussion leader), Abe, Me, and Rodney Ross.
While a bit of Lincolnesque melancholy was felt with the ending of this past year’s discussion, a new birth of excitement was in the air because we had chosen the next book for discussion – The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln by noted Lincoln scholar, Michael Burlingame. Even more exciting is that, thanks to Rod Ross, Michael Burlingame has agreed to speak to our discussion group on November 1st. Check out the LGDC site for more details as they emerge.
For those in the Washington DC area with an interest in Abraham Lincoln, please consider our Lincoln Group book club. You don’t have to be a Lincoln expert to join; you just have to read the book. It doesn’t get much easier than that. And the rewards?
David J. Kent is an avid Lincolnophile and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies at Barnes and Noble bookstores, as well as online at B&N.com and Amazon.com.