Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era: History and Memory in Late Twentieth-Century America

TitleAbraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era: History and Memory in Late Twentieth-Century America
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsSchwartz, Barry
Number of Pages410
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
CityChicago, IL

Throughout the Great Depression and World War II, Abraham Lincoln was invoked countless times as a reminder of America's strength and wisdom. But as Barry Schwartz reveals in Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era, those years represent the apogee of Lincoln's prestige. The decades following World War II brought radical changes to American culture, changes that led to the diminishing of all heroes, Lincoln not least among them. As Schwartz explains, growing sympathy for the plight of racial minorities, disenchantment with the American state, the lessening of patriotism in the wake of the Vietnam War, and an intensifying celebration of diversity, all contributed to a culture in which neither Lincoln nor any single person could be a heroic symbol for all Americans. Paradoxically, however, the very culture that made Lincoln an object of indifference, questioning, criticism, and even ridicule was a culture of unprecedented beneficence and inclusion, where racial, ethnic, and religious groups treated one another more fairly and justly than ever before. Thus, as the prestige of the Great Emancipator shrank, his legacy of equality continued to flourish.

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