Public Program- Louis Masur

Lectures and performances
Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 7:00pm

“Lincoln’s Last Speech and the Problem of Reconstruction”
By Louis P. Masur
Co-sponsored by the Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series at Becker College

On the evening of April 11, 1865, standing at a second-floor White House window on the North Portico, Abraham Lincoln delivered his last speech. An enthusiastic and restless crowd of several thousand came to listen despite the soaking rain, anticipating and indeed calling for a rousing victory oration. They were eager to hear their commander in chief sound the Confederacy’s death knell. But rather than dwell on the war that had so nearly destroyed the Union, he turned to how best to reunite the nation.

In this lecture, based on his latest book, Lincoln’s Last Speech: Wartime Reconstruction and the Crisis of Reunion, Louis Masur discusses Lincoln’s last speech and the evolution of the president’s thinking about Reconstruction. Key moments, such as the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction on December 8, 1863, and Lincoln’s pocket veto of the Wade-Davis bill in July 1864, came to define Lincoln’s position. Questions of social reconstruction, the plight of the freedmen and the debate over their place in society, were as important as the political. Hearing the president endorse limited black suffrage, John Wilkes Booth declared, “That is the last speech he will ever make.” What Lincoln said on April 11 would lead directly to his assassination three days later.

Louis Masur is distinguished professor of American studies and history at Rutgers University. A graduate of the University at Buffalo and Princeton University, he is a cultural historian who has written on a variety of topics. His most recent work prior to Lincoln’s Last Speech is Lincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union (2012) and The Civil War: A Concise History (2011). Masur’s essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. He has also written for the American Scholar, Chronicle of Higher Education, Salon, and Slate. Masur has been elected to membership of the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Society of American Historians and has received teaching prizes from Harvard University, the City College of New York, and Trinity College.

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