Remembering the real Abraham Lincoln
Professor of communication at University of Maryland Shawn J. Parry-Giles discussed Lincoln’s character from the viewpoint of the people who knew him in a lecture on April 24 in Rose Theatre at Southeast.
The event was put on by Communication Studies and Mass Media departments as part of the Emil C. Weis Lecture Series.
Some of the people Parry-Giles referenced included Lincoln’s old law partner William Herndon, past opponents for the presidency and even a quote or two from John Wilkes Booth, the man who later assassinated Lincoln.
She said while many remember Lincoln as a well-reserved gentleman, he was still a common man who spoke normally, made jokes and even was a bit crude at times. She added that this portrayal of Lincoln tends to be forgotten about or swept under the rug.
“We kind of want to know the real person. Who was the real Lincoln? But can we accept the fact that he was Lincoln from Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois who lived this more rugged kind of frontier life?” Parry-Giles said.
Many who knew Lincoln described him as a comforting person who made them feel at home.
“Some said that even though he wasn’t an attractive man, the longer you talked to him and were with him, you were warmed by his presence,” Parry-Giles said. “There was no pretense. They talked about how his eyes were soft and how he was engaging.”
Some regarded him as an unattractive, lanky man who used slang and made inappropriate jokes, Parry-Giles said. There was even several references comparing him to a gorilla and a frontier man.
Nonetheless, any information about Lincoln’s character, especially noted by people who knew him personally, is critical information to have, Parry-Giles said.
“Anybody that could come forward with a memory of Lincoln really helped democratize his image,” Parry-Giles said.
Student and president of the Collegiate Communication Organization Ciera Hessling said her perspective on Lincoln has shifted a bit since hearing the presentation.
“I didn’t know that President Lincoln was known as a vulgar man,” Hessling said. “I knew that he had issues with depression, but I didn’t know that he told stories that were a little racy. I thought that was interesting to learn.”