Holzer shares insights during first Frank and Virginia Williams Lecture on Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies at MSU

Prominent Abraham Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer delivers the inaugural Frank and Virginia Williams Lecture on Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies at Mississippi State University.  (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss—Harold Holzer, a leading authority on Abraham Lincoln, shared insights on the public perceptions of Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant during the inaugural Frank and Virginia Williams Lecture on Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies at Mississippi State University.

The Thursday [Nov. 30] lecture was held at MSU’s Old Main Academic Center. Holzer, the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, gave a presentation titled “The General vs. the President: Lincoln, Grant and the Battle for Civil War Memory.” The lecture was among several events held to celebrate the grand opening of the new addition to MSU’s Mitchell Memorial Library, which houses the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and the Frank J. and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana.

“I’m very honored to be the first Frank and Virginia Williams lecturer here at Mississippi State University,” Holzer said.

The author/editor of more than 50 books, Holzer is a prolific writer, lecturer and frequent television guest. He has written more than 560 articles and reviews in scholarly journals and for the popular press. Holzer was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to co-chair the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, a post he held for 10 years. George W. Bush awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008. In 2013, Holzer wrote an essay on Lincoln for the official program at Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

On Thursday, Holzer discussed the iconography of Grant’s and Lincoln’s images during and after the Civil War as their stature in the American political pantheon rose to a heroic level, similar to the many popular images of George Washington as “Father of His Country.”

“There are so many stories in these pictures – and behind them,” Holzer said.

He explained that both men were savvy manipulators of their own visual status and leveraged it for political support.

The Williamses, sponsors of the lecture series, recently gifted their extraordinary private Lincoln and Civil War collection amassed over the past 50 years to Mississippi State University. The Frank J. and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana boasts rare historical memorabilia; priceless artifacts; original, signed documents; ephemera; books published over a span of 150 years; and both original one-of-a-kind and early mass-produced artwork relating to Lincoln and the Civil War era.

“I’m a Bulldog now,” said Frank Williams during his introduction of Holzer.

The Rhode Island native and former Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and Holzer have been friends and collaborators for more than 40 years.

For more on the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana, see http://library.msstate.edu/williamscollection/about/.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.