Documenting Abraham Lincoln’s Changing Legacy through Musical Sources

Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) was the subject of both promotional campaign songs and musical critiques. The posthumous Lincoln repertoire, however, has flourish to a degree that sets him apart from other chief executives. Music for and about Lincoln—be it in vernacular traditions, like bluegrass, blues, country, folk, hip hop, and rock and roll, or in cultivate traditions, like art songs, cantatas, operas, and symphonies—accounts for a vast repertoire, well more than a thousand compositions. Composers from Lincoln’s death in 1865 to the present have contributed new works that both reflect and contribute to American memory of Lincoln and his legacy.

This workshop will draw from archival sources in the Newberry’s collection, especially those digitally available for classroom use, in order to guide discussions of the ways that musical works can help us examine changes in Lincoln’s legacy. We will then go beyond these specific sources, and even the Lincoln topic, in order to explore how diverse musical sources (sheet music, published and unpublished scores, audio recordings, video content, and public reception thereof) can be used as foundational data for individual students and whole classes to probe topics of historical memory.