National History Academy: Washington, D.C – President Lincoln’s Cottage, Ford’s Theater and MLK, Jr. Memorial
Today at NHA, our students returned to Washington, D.C. to learn about Abraham Lincoln’s life and his legacy in the Civil Rights Movement. Our students studied Lincoln’s place in history, and grappled with the same political questions that challenged Lincoln during his presidency.
Our first stop, Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House, allowed our students to learn about the political situation following the Civil War that led to Lincoln’s assassination. Students visited a small museum underneath the theater to provide historical context about the Civil War, Lincoln’s life, and eventual assassination. Students then sat in the theater and listened to a National Parks ranger explain an engaging account of the assassination and following manhunt for John Wilkes Booth.
Though Ford’s Theater primarily focused on Booth’s influence, our students also visited the Petersen House to see where Lincoln passed away. The home highlighted Lincoln’s lasting political influence, including an exhibit exploring how Lincoln fits into American historical memory. The students viewed a three-story tower of books written about Lincoln, which was a highlight for many students and a popular spot for photos. Seeing this tower in person further emphasized to the students Lincoln’s lasting impact in the 21stcentury.
Following our stop downtown, the students traveled to east D.C. to visit President Lincoln’s Cottage. The house served as Lincoln’s summer home during his presidency and recently opened to the public in 2008. Atypical of most house museums, our students explored a home with extremely limited furniture or art. Instead, Lincoln’s cottage focused on interpreting the political challenges Lincoln faced. In each room, our tour guides discussed the challenges Lincoln faced and required our students to discuss how they might handle similar issues.
At Lincoln’s Cottage, our students also were also taught a case study by Dr. Matthew Pinsker. A Lincoln scholar, Pinsker spoke with our students about his work rediscovering Lincoln’s legacy at the Cottage. The summer home was where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and other important documents, and the case study forced students to use the documents to determine political solutions. Our students were also able to speak with Pinsker about his career studying Lincoln and his work in applying augmented reality to history.
Culminating our exploration of Civil Rights history, our students returned to the National Mall to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The students could walk up to the large MLK statue overlooking the Tidal Basin and read engraved quotes from his writings and speeches. The visit to the memorial was moving for many students, and fully tied together the beginning of African American equality that Lincoln initiated.
Mary Zell Galen
Teaching Assistant/ Counselor