Speaker examines Lincoln’s journey to the Emancipation Proclamation

Local historian addresses Lincoln's journey to ending slavery as portrayed in Stephen Spielberg's movie.

Director Steven Spielberg's latest film, "Lincoln," tells the dramatic story of the final months of President Abraham Lincoln's life, in which both he and the House of Representatives struggled to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, forever eradicating institutionalized slavery in our nation.

The film retells the conclusion of a difficult and unsteady journey for Lincoln that was set in motion years before his presidency, culminated in the midst of the Civil War, and reached a critical milestone with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Learn how this unproven president transformed his paramount objective to save the Union, even if it meant slavery still existed, into an historic decision to free the slaves, with Lincoln historian Geoff Elliott on January 9 at 7:00 p.m., part of the Wednesday Night Speaker Series at Stow Presbyterian Church, 4150 Fishcreek Road. This event is free and open to the community.

Although Abraham Lincoln believed that slavery in the United States should be gradually eliminated, it was not a priority for his first term as president, nor was it his objective during the first years of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation was put forth, in part, for more pragmatic reasons: the South was using slave labor to aid the war effort, the North was refusing to accept the services of black volunteers and freed slaves, and some European governments were on the fence of which side to support. Presenter Geoff Elliott said Lincoln’s journey to the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment was an arduous one, “complete with starts and stops, with more than a few twists and turns along the way.”

“In the film Lincoln, portrayed brilliantly by actor Daniel Day-Lewis, explains to his cabinet the critical importance of passing the [13th] Amendment,” Elliott said, “since his Emancipation Proclamation (which declared "forever free" any slaves in rebel states, but not Union states) may be judged unconstitutional at the conclusion of the Civil War.”

Lincoln’s quandary in the film (and in history), was whether to allow Confederate states back into the Union and face a judicial reversal of the Emancipation Proclamation, or to extend the war and loss of life in order to first secure passage of the amendment by the Union states.

For Elliott, who has been fascinated with our 16th President since his childhood, such dilemmas are part of what makes Lincoln such an extraordinary historical figure. He said he was motivated to speak on Lincoln’s journey to the Emancipation Proclamation in January because it coincides with the document’s 150th anniversary, having been presented on January 1, 1863.

Elliott, who lives in Northeast Ohio, has studied Lincoln’s life and legacy for over 40 years. He is the author of The Abraham Lincoln Blog (http://abrahamlincolnblog.blogspot.com/), the most visited such site dedicated to Lincoln on the Internet. The blog has been used by U.S. embassy schools and the Smithsonian Institution as an educational resource. He hosts Facebook and Twitter accounts in which he “virtually portrays” Lincoln, and has lectured at libraries and other venues across Ohio.

The SPC Wednesday Night Speaker Series is designed to enlighten, educate and engage audiences on a variety of relevant and interesting topics. Upcoming speakers include: famed sportswriter and author Terry Pluto (Feb. 6); Prof. Jay Case, who will speak on the impact of Christianity’s move to other parts of the world (Mar. 6); and Lisa Ryan, co-founder of The Positive Thinkers Network, who will speak on the power of gratitude (Apr. 3).

For more information on the Stow Presbyterian Church Wednesday Night Speaker Series, call 330-688-6935 or email info@stowpres.org.

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