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John E. Washington’s They Knew Lincoln: Kate Masur in Conversation with Niala Boodhoo

  • Bookends and Beginnings (map)

Originally published in 1942, the book They Knew Lincoln is part memoir and part history, an account of author John E. Washington’s childhood among African Americans in Washington, DC, and of the black people who knew or personally encountered Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. On publication, a reviewer noted that the “collection of Negro stories, memories, legends about Lincoln” seemed “to fill such an obvious gap in the material about Lincoln that one wonders why no one ever did it before.” Yet after its first printing sold out almost immediately, the book was never reprinted and has remained difficult to obtain—until its republication this year by Oxford University Press in an edition edited by Northwestern history professor Kate Masur. Join us as Niala Boodhoo, host of the statewide public radio talk show The 21st, conducts a fascinating interview with Kate Masur about the story of this book—a newly revived classic of African American history.