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Lincoln Sermons Web Site Chronicles Public Reaction to His Assassination

This week 136 years ago, a crazed actor made his way into Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., and shot President Abraham Lincoln, who died in the early morning hours of April 15, 1865. The national outpouring of grief that followed was echoed in Sunday sermons across the Northern states, some of which were later published. Those varied and fragile texts now have their own web site at Emory.

The Lincoln Sermons Digitization Project at represents only a small selection of the sermons made on the occasion of Lincoln's death, but they do span diverse denominations and sentiments, says Elizabeth Morgan of Pitts Theology Library, where the sermons are housed.

The web site contains the full text of 57 sermons published in the days and months after Lincoln's passing; both TIFF images and searchable text files are available. These texts are historically significant, because during the mid- to late-19th century, sermons were frequently published, says Morgan. Thousands were probably delivered and printed in reaction to Lincoln's death, either individually published or reprinted in newspapers and magazines.

Morgan says that the sermons served as powerful tools for action and reaction for the public. Ideas expressed in the pulpit were discussed, argued about and often taken to heart. Morgan believes that sermons expressed and shaped the mood, behavior and beliefs of a large portion of the public. Given that context, the digitized sermons provide a view into the rhetoric that was helping to shape thought, action and response to the assassination.


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