John Burt will review Abraham Lincoln’s historic decision in the Dred Scott case on Nov. 9

John Burt

On Nov. 9, the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department will reflect — in pictures and words — on Abraham Lincoln’s image in light of a historic Supreme Court ruling on slavery.

For this year’s Lillian L. Rolde Memorial Lecture, Special Collections has invited Professor of English and American Literature John Burt to discuss “Abraham Lincoln and the Dred Scott Decision” in a 1 p.m. event in Rapaporte Treasure Hall.

Accompanying the lecture will be an exhibit of Special Collections material incorporating Lincoln's iconic visage. The exhibit considers a period on the cusp of mass distribution of images, before proliferation foreclosed the more imaginative interpretations.

“Abraham Lincoln is an iconic figure in American history, and in 2009, 200 years after his birth, we wanted to delve into both his political and social legacy,” said Special Collections Librarian Sarah Shoemaker. “This year's Rolde Lecture also continues on the theme of our exhibit last semester in celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday.”

During his talk, Burt will consider how American political culture, which values compromise and deal making, faces moral issues that don’t seem to lend themselves to such processes. “Chief Justice Taney's opinion seemed to rule both Lincoln's position (the federal government can abolish slavery in the Territories if it so wishes) and Stephen Douglas' position (the territorial governments can decide the slavery issue for themselves) out of constitutional bounds,” Burt said. “Lincoln and Douglas both sought ways to evade the blow the opinion seemed to aim at them, while preventing each other from evading that blow.”

The Rolde Lecture Series is made possible by the Lillian L. Rolde Memorial Lecture Endowment Fund, named after the late Lillian Rolde, a one-time active member of the Brandeis National Committee and lifelong lover of books. The fund is intended to support the promotion of special collections at Brandeis University.

This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

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