Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning with Lincoln

Forgive me for not posting for a few days. I've been busy learning with Lincoln -- and with so many others who forged the path before me.

Lincoln - the student or the teacher?
I'm currently working on my term paper for my class at Heartland College. My topic is Lincoln and his mentors. I spent this weekend doing lots of online research and reading in books about the teacher at New Salem, Mentor Graham. Though Lincoln was already an adult at New Salem, his schooling to that point had been less than a year.

Lincoln befriended the village teacher, Mentor Graham, or perhaps Graham befriended him. Either way, as Lincoln delved into his studies - of grammar, of surveying, of law - and read books on a wide range of topics, Graham was there. If the sources I'm reading are to be believed, the two also spent hours discussing many of the topics which would be important or confusing to Lincoln throughout his life - internal improvements, slavery, religion.

The primary book I read today, Mentor Graham: The Man Who Taught Lincoln, by Kunigunde Duncan and D. F. Nikols, was written in 1944, and much of it may be anecdotal, based on myth, stories told by minds that have reshaped them, and hearsay. Yet, I came away believing that there were two students here. I think Graham learned as much in many ways as his student did.

Lincoln Studies Center and Lincoln
Those of you who have been following my blog know how much I admire, laud and appreciate the work of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. Drs. Rodney Davis, Douglas Wilson and their colleagues do amazing research there and have made invaluable contributions to the study of Lincoln. One work alone, Herndon's Informants, is perhaps one of the most valuable tools for any Lincoln scholar's bookshelf. I could devote several posts to their work and likely will.

I found another valuable research tool this weekend, though. There is an ambitious young PhD candidate at Southern Illinois University, Samuel P. Wheeler. Wheeler has created a website titled Lincoln Studies: Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War, which is out of this world in getting students of Lincoln to the sources they need. His Research Links section takes you to nearly any online source possible without the access provided by colleges and universities to their students, including thousands of newspaper articles about Lincoln. Wheeler’s site,, was a big help to me this weekend. I know I’ll use it over and over again.

Can’t go wrong
Whether you’re seeking the experience Drs. Davis and Wilson have accumulated over nearly half a century, or the sources to which a budding scholar will guide you, remember two words – Lincoln Studies – and seek both as valuable contributions to your work in the world of Lincoln. I will.

1 comment:

Mary said...

I think it's so great that you have passion for this great man and are studying him to help others understand him better. Have fun with all of it, Ann!