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Looking for Lincoln

Looking for Lincoln


A highlight of the nationwide Lincoln Bicentennial celebration is this unprecedented two-hour documentary on the life and legacy of the man widely considered one of our best – and most enigmatic – presidents.  Looking For Lincoln, premiering Wednesday, February, 11, 2009 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), addresses many of the controversies surrounding Lincoln about race, equality, religion, politics, and depression by carefully interpreting evidence from those who knew him and those who study him today.

Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (African American Lives, Oprah’s Roots) travels from New Salem, IL, where Lincoln spent his young adulthood, fell in love and suffered with depression, to Springfield, where he married, became a lawyer and politician and first grappled with the slavery question.  In Gettysburg, PA, Gates visits the scene of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle and Lincoln’s most famous speech.  Gates also goes to Washington, D.C., where Lincoln presided over a country ripped apart by the war before his assassination on the eve of victory, and visits the Lincoln Memorial, which became, 50 years after his death, his most famous shrine.  

Along the way, Gates encounters a menagerie of characters who live with Lincoln every day, from re-enactors to relic hunters, as well as those for whom the study of Lincoln is a passion.  Among them – Pulitzer Prize winners Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner; presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; and Lincoln scholars Harold Holzer, vice chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; David Blight of Yale University; Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College; and David Hebert Donald of Harvard University.  Former Ebony magazine editor Lerone Bennett challenges Lincoln’s record on race; writer Joshua Shenk talks about Lincoln’s depression; and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik illuminates how Lincoln’s words changed the course of history. As Looking for Lincoln demonstrates, the Lincoln legend grew out of controversy, hurt feelings, greed, love, anger, clashing political perspectives, power struggles, and considerable disagreement over how our 16th president should be remembered.  

Educational Outreach

Looking for Lincoln will be accompanied by a far-reaching educational outreach component.  Working in cooperation with seven public television stations in key markets across the country, THIRTEEN will provide direct, hands-on training to more than 1,000 K-through-12 educators, guiding them in the use of the broadcast program, Web site, and print materials in standards-based classroom instruction. Each participating public television station will be partnering with a local museum, historical society, or university to maximize impact of the program in local communities. In addition, THIRTEEN is developing curriculum materials, lesson plans, a series of Web-based educational interactivities, as well as a Looking for Lincoln classroom poster to promote educational use of the series. The professional development workshops will take place at the following locations: Houston PBS, KCTS Seattle:, WHUT Washington, WVIZ Cleveland, Detroit Public Television, Springfield, IL, Rocky Mountain PBS, Educational Television, and Thirteen/WNET New York

Web Site

Launching January 26, 2009, the companion website for Looking for Lincoln (http://www.pbs.org/lookingforlincoln) will feature in-depth analysis of Abraham Lincoln and his legacy through interactive features like a timeline of Lincoln’s life, scholarly resources about Lincoln, maps of important Lincoln locations, media-rich lesson plans for teachers, and more.


Looking for Lincoln will be available on DVD through PBS Home Video at ShopPBS.com in spring 2009.


LOOKING FOR LINCOLN: The Making of an American Icon, by Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt, and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., was published by Knopf in November 2008. A sequel to the Kunhardts’s enormously successful Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, this extensively researched and lavishly illustrated volume picks up where the previous book left off, examining how our sixteenth president’s legend came into being, at a moment when the timeless example of his leadership is more crucial than ever.

Production Credits

Looking for Lincoln is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG in association with Ark Media.  Henry Louis Gates, Jr., William R. Grant, Peter Kunhardt, and Dyllan McGee are executive producers.  Senior producer is Barak Goodman.  Producers are John Maggio and Muriel Soenens. 

Funding Credits

Sole corporate funding is provided by State Farm®.  Major funding is provided by CPB and PBS.  Additional funding for education outreach is provided by the Motorola Foundation.