Past Event

The Poet and the President: Whitman and Lincoln as Allies Across the Political Divide

A Road Scholar Program by Jason Stacy

In the decade before the Civil War, Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln – one a Democrat, the other a Republican – struggled with the existence of slavery and the overwhelming racism of their audiences. Although both have become icons of freedom, and though both thought slavery evil and Emancipation good, they justified these in terms more palatable to their audiences: in Lincoln’s case, the farmers and independent businessmen of Illinois and the leadership of the new Republican Party; in Whitman’s case, the white, working class residents of New York who read his newspaper editorials and, he hoped, his new and strange book of poetry, Leaves of Grass. In this presentation, Jason Stacy will analyze the ways in which both Lincoln and Whitman sought to make African American freedom palatable to a suspicious white population. It will also suggest that their definition of freedom is still useful in modern America. Jason Stacy holds a PhD in American History and teaches at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville. His is the author of the forthcoming, Containing Multitudes: Walt Whitman’s Three Personas in the New Market Economy.

The presentation will take place in the Library Meeting Room. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Molly Scanlan, 618.632.3783.