Gerald Prokopowicz | Did Lincoln Own Slaves? (Vintage)

book_lincoln.jpgAnd other frequently asked questions about Abraham Lincoln


In the bicentennial year of Lincoln‘s birth, there are a glut of books about his life hitting the shelves. If you don’t want to get dragged into every minute facet of his personal and political life, then an exhaustively researched 800-page biography like Carl Sandburg’s is probably a bit too much at once. And no matter how good Team of Rivals might be, there is far more to our 16th President than the choice and handling of his cabinet. How then to decide which Lincoln book to read? My suggestion is a little (250 pages) book titled Did Lincoln Own Slaves? by Gerald Prokopowicz. The answer, we find out, is no. He may have borrowed a slave on the weekends, though.

It’s impossible not to learn something from Did Lincoln Own Slaves? That question and hundreds of others were fielded by Prokopowicz during his nine years as Lincoln Scholar for the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Ind. There was no question too ridiculous for the author to include, and no answer is too long for someone to read. Read cover-to-cover, it spans the scope of Lincoln’s life from his boyhood through his timeless legacy, but it can just as easily be read random page by random page. This helps in making it an ideal book to read before bed or in the bathroom. While informative, you won’t get so much to think about that you can’t concentrate on something else, too.

Thanks to, or maybe because of, the wealth of information regarding Lincoln, the book’s simple question-and-answer format works surprisingly well. Most people know the general course of Lincoln’s life and the major events regarding it. The questions Prokopowicz chose draw a chronological path from Lincoln’s boyhood through his assassination and legacy. with specific chapters devoted to his skills as a speaker, his time in Springfield as a lawyer, Gettysburg, and other aspects of his life. Additional books regarding each chapter subject are noted for those looking to read more. The book is written in a light and breezy style. Many of the questions relate to trivial aspects of Lincoln’s life, and that helps in making it a fun book to read. | Daniel Russell

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