The news of Abraham Lincoln’s death, just days after Union victory in 1865, astounded the nation. This master class will explore personal responses to this momentous event and what those responses meant for the project of Reconstruction that lay ahead. We will explore the reactions of African Americans and whites, Yankees and Confederates, soldiers and civilians, men and women (and children too), rich and poor, the well-known and the unknown. Uncovering shock, glee, sorrow, anger, blame, and fear, we will puzzle out a pivotal moment of national uncertainty and conflict that takes us far beyond the headlines to illuminate the nation’s first presidential assassination on a human scale. As Reconstruction loomed, Black freedom, the fate of former Confederates, and the future of the nation were at stake for everyone, whether they grieved or rejoiced when they heard the news. We will also consider the resonances of these multivocal responses in the present day.
Martha Hodes is professor of history at New York University. Her book Mourning Lincoln won the Lincoln Prize and was named an editor’s choice by the New York Times Book Review and a best book of the year by the Wall Street Journal. She is also the author of The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century and White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South. She has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Harvard University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Whiting Foundation, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and is a winner of NYU’s Golden Dozen Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2023, she published a memoir, My Hijacking: A Personal History of Forgetting and Remembering.