Around the Press in 80 Books: Loathing Lincoln

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Copy and Publicity Coordinator Jenny Keegan writes about Loathing Lincoln.

Loathing Lincoln

At first blush, you might consider Abraham Lincoln to be among the least controversial of our nation’s presidents, following on George Washington with his wooden teeth and his (mythical) cherry-tree honesty. Abraham Lincoln: He kept the States united! He’s on the penny! He’s on the five! Some Chicago criminals tried to rob his tomb and hold his remains for ransom! (Insane but true. They had to move his remains regularly for the next ten years to stop anyone from trying it again.)

John McKee Barr’s Loathing Lincoln shows us the other side of that shiny copper coin, delving into the centuries of people who have, well, loathed Lincoln. In the early days after the Civil War, the reasons were clear: many Southerners blamed Lincoln for the deprivations they had suffered during the war, and they continued to deeply resent the North’s interference in the affairs of the South, while conveniently eliding their own culpability in the systematic, centuries-long oppression of black Americans.

Criticisms of Lincoln in the following decades came from both the right and the left. Thinkers like Hubert Harrison and W. E. B. Du Bois took Lincoln to task for his half-hearted support of abolition (though both still acknowledged Lincoln as “the greatest President the United States has had up to his time”). As Lincoln’s reputation reached its acme in the interwar period, more and more conservatives (mainly, but not exclusively, from the South) lined up to explain why Lincoln was overrated: “It is the manufactured Lincoln that it
is proposed to palm off on our people as ‘Second only to Jesus Christ,'” wrote an indignant Richmond attorney in 1930.

Loathing Lincoln is a fascinating, panoramic (wait, did I say that on the jacket? Oh well! Still true!) view of who has hated Lincoln in the last two hundred years and why. It’s a terrific read.

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