Dr. Jackie Hogan sees problems in interpretations of Lincoln’s legacy

November 13, 2012

By Emily Laidley '14

Nearly a year after the publication of her book — “Lincoln, Inc.: Selling the Sixteenth President in Contemporary America,” — Dr. Jackie Hogan, Associate Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department, has been busy speaking about the legacy and depictions of President Abraham Lincoln. 

Last month Dr. Hogan was the keynote speaker at the 14th annual Conference on Illinois History and a week later she presented a paper at the third annual Wepner Symposium on the Lincoln Legacy and Contemporary Scholarship hosted by the University of Illinois Springfield.

The Wepner Symposium examined the subject of emancipation this year, a theme that piqued Dr. Hogan’s interest because it allowed researchers to study President Lincoln from various academic approaches.

“It’s a multidisciplinary examination of Lincoln’s legacy. So there were not only historians, but a lot of political scientists and a lot of social scientists, such as myself, and a few others as well. We all have a different take on Lincoln and his legacy,” she said.

At the symposium, Dr. Hogan presented a paper entitled “Whitewashing the Great Emancipator: racial politics and the legacy of Lincoln,” which argued that today Lincoln’s narrative has been obscured or glossed over.

“I talked about the ways Lincoln’s complicated record on race and his complex statements about race are overly simplified to make him appear to be very racially enlightened, far ahead of his time, to make it look like he was advocating not only the emancipation of slaves, but also full social and political equality for blacks,” she explained. “And, in fact, he was not doing that.”

Dr. Hogan also addressed the use of Lincoln’s life story in schools, concluding, through research, that he is often used more as a moral paragon — Honest Abe — than a real historical figure.

“My idea there is that we’re trying to ‘Lincolnize’ our children,” she said, “make them into this kind of ideal moral model.”

Dr. Hogan spoke about different, but related, topics at the Conference on Illinois History where she focused on “the uses and abuses of Abraham Lincoln’s image today.”

“Even shortly after his death, people were using Lincoln’s image to sell themselves as political candidates, to sell ideas, and to sell products, but today,” she said, “I think that has reached an unprecedented level.”

Dr. Hogan also commented on the recent fantasy/horror movie “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” which pits America’s sixteenth president against vampires who launch the American Civil War as a plot to keep the slave trade alive. Dr. Hogan, who saw and reviewed the film, said it denies the true history of the time and allows audiences to ignore the injustices and cruelty of slavery.

“I found the movie in particular very disturbing because of the explanation that in fact humans were not responsible for slavery, we were not responsible for the civil war,” she said. “I do think in a sense it was a kind of denial of responsibility of racism and slavery and the civil war, heaping that responsibility onto a supernatural creature.”