lxxx, 244 pages ; 22 cm
"Originally published in 1942 and now reprinted for the first time, They Knew Lincoln is a classic in African American history and Lincoln studies. Part memoir and part history, the book is an account of John E. Washington's childhood among African Americans in Washington, DC, and of the black people who knew or encountered Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Washington recounted stories told by his grandmother's elderly friends--stories of escaping from slavery, meeting Lincoln in the capitol, learning of the president's assassination, and hearing ghosts at Ford's Theatre. He also mined the US government archives and researched little-known figures in Lincoln's life, including William Johnson, who accompanied Lincoln from Springfield to Washington, and William Slade, the steward in Lincoln's White House. Washington was fascinated from childhood by the question of how much African Americans themselves had shaped Lincoln's views on slavery and race, and he believed Lincoln's Haitian-born barber, William de Fleurville, was a crucial influence. Washington also extensively researched Elizabeth Keckly, the dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln, and advanced a new theory of who helped her write her controversial book, Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868). Firm in his conviction that the history of Lincoln's presidency must include the history of African Americans, Washington sought advice and support from the white establishment and obtained an introduction to his book by writer Carl Sandburg and a preface by Lincoln scholar James G. Randall. A new introduction by Kate Masur places Washington's book in its own context, explaining the contents of They Knew Lincoln in light of not only the era of emancipation and the Civil War, but also Washington's own times, when the nation's capital was a place of great opportunity and creativity for members of the African American elite. 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." This edition brings it back to print for a twenty-first century readership that remains fascinated with Abraham Lincoln."--Provided by publisher.
Includes bibliographical references.
Introduction by Carl Sandburg -- Prelude -- Recollections of the Ford Theater neighborhood -- Part one: Those who loved Lincoln -- Grandmother: her story of the three C's -- The beginning of the artist: "Booth's annihilation" -- Cousin Annie tells about the Keckley and Herndon books -- Uncle Ben, the preacher: Cartoon of "Riding around the circuit" ; His stories of King Solomon's wisdom ; The divine preparation -- Aunt Eliza -- Aunt Eliza's death -- Aunt Rosetta Wells: her stories of little Tad Lincoln and the White House -- Uncle Buck -- Aunt Mary Dines, the contraband singer: her stories of Lincoln's visits to the contraband camp ;Their exercises for him and his part in them -- Old Aunt Phoebe Bias: her story of the "big watch-meeting" before the Emancipation Proclamation -- Uncle Sandy: his story of the Ford's Theater ghosts -- Interlude: slavery in the East -- Part two: Those who served Lincoln -- William Slade: confidential messenger and friend -- Aunt Rosetta Wells: White House seamstress -- Cornelia Mitchell: White House cook -- Peter Brown: Butler and waiter at the White House -- William Johnson: Lincoln's first bodyguard -- Solomon Johnson: Lincoln's personal barber -- Part three: Those who remembered Lincoln -- Aunt Vina: her home and souvenirs of Lincoln ; Her description of Lincoln's funeral -- Aunt Elizabeth Thomas: heroine of Fort Stevens -- John Henry Coghill: living witness of Booth's capture and death ; His personal statement -- Tom Gardiner: how he knew the conspirators and Booth's plans ; Personal statement by him -- William J. Ferguson: the only witness of all the phases of Lincoln's assassination -- Part four: The Springfield revelation -- William de Fleurville: also known as William Florville and "Billy the barber" -- Part five: Elizabeth Keckley -- Elizabeth Keckley: companion and confidante of Mrs. Lincoln -- "Behind the Scenes": story of Mrs. Keckley's book -- Mary Todd Lincoln: love of the Negro for Lincoln's wife.
Online version: Washington, John E. They knew Lincoln. New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2018 9780190270971 (DLC) 2017026698