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Did Abraham Lincoln's Last Speech Inspire John Wilkes Booth To Action?

Alexander Gardner / Public Domain

After four long, lethal years, the Civil War seemed to hurtle to an end: two days after the confederate government evacuated its capital, Richmond, in early April, President Lincoln and his 12-year-old son Tad visited that smoldering city. In his tall hat Lincoln walked Richmond’s streets, a moving target, but no one fired at him. In less than a week came Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and two days after that a jubilant crowd gathered in front of the White House. Lincoln stood in the window over the north door, and spoke to them – words that may have sealed his fate. When Richard Striner, professor of history at Washington College in Chestertown, visited us last month, we asked whether that speech was the first time Lincoln had publicly expressed support for voting rights for freed blacks.

Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.