Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Lincoln documentary to premier at DU

As part of Colorado’s celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln, a University of Denver audience will get a sneak preview of the new PBS documentary Looking for Lincoln Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. in Davis Auditorium.

“The documentary examines the way Americans have shaped and reshaped Lincoln’s historical image to fit their own needs over time,” says Bill Convery, Colorado Historical Society state historian. “Lincoln scholar and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. investigates Lincoln’s complex and surprising personality and compares it to the iconic image of Lincoln as a ‘Great Emancipator.’”

After the screening, the audience can ask questions of Convery, along with DU Associate Professor and Lincoln scholar Susan Schulten and University of Colorado Professor of Afroamerican studies William King.

“The three of us will speak to different aspects of Lincoln’s legacy, such as the growth of the West, the evolution of race relations, the memory of Lincoln in civic life and the intellectual influence Lincoln continues to wield,” Schulten says. “It’s also an opportunity for the audience to bring to the discussion their own interests and questions about both the man and the myth.”

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Schulten to the state’s Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Schulten says Lincoln ranks as the most important and respected of America’s presidents.

“He gave everything he had to preserve the Union and destroyed slavery to further that end,” Schulten says. “His greatest contribution was to infuse the Constitution with a commitment to equality, which animated the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, he was so effective that many of my students initially assume that the framers designed the Constitution to protect equality. Yet nowhere in the original Constitution does that word appear. Whether we realize it or not, we live in the world that Lincoln wrought.”

Convery says Lincoln also had a hand in shaping Colorado. The sixteenth president, who considered himself a Westerner, signed several pieces of legislation that accelerated settlement in Colorado.

“Among his very last acts as president, he wrote a letter to Colorado’s miners, promising to provide them with more support after the war and encouraging them to continue developing the Rocky Mountains, which he called America’s ‘Great Treasure House,’” he says.

The Colorado Historical Society preview at DU is one of 28 such events around the state in the days leading up to the premiere. For a full list of events around the state, visit the Bicentennial Commission or the Colorado Historical Society Web sites. The documentary will air on the eve of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. on Rocky Mountain PBS.

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