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Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided

Distributed by PBS Home Video, PO Box 751089, Charlotte, NC 28275; 877-PBS-shop OTHER
Produced by David Grubin
Directed by David Grubin
DVD, color, 6 hours
High School - Adult

Reviewed by Michael J. Coffta, Business Librarian, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   

The documentary derives its title from Lincoln’s famous declaration at the 1858 Republican State Convention, "A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln was referring to the schism between the northern and southern states of the Union, but the makers of this film extend this metaphor to Lincoln and his wife Mary. Abraham was the son of anti-slavery farmers while Mary Todd was born to slave owning Kentucky aristocrats. The film primarily discusses the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln, but this discussion is constantly interlaced with the life of his wife Mary. Though the marriage was undeniably troubled at times, the film examines the evolution of the separate and collective psyches of the two and examines how this development affected their actions and the history of the United States.

Though there are no dramatizations, the narrators take on the voices of the key players in this time period (i.e. the Lincolns, Stephen Douglas, etc.). The backdrop of this film includes photographs, illustrations, and footage from the present day locations of key events, and the writings of the Lincolns. The film is replete with commentary by historians who lead the story well.

Watching this documentary to completion will qualify anyone to have a lengthy, intelligent conversation with any Lincoln historian or U. S. Civil War historian. The details provided by this documentary are exhaustive. The viewer truly becomes acquainted with the mind and spirit of the “Great Emancipator.” Though this is principally a biographical history, there are well-balanced compliments of military and political history as well.

This documentary is without tantamount. One finds oneself captivated and compelled to view the film in its entirety. This film comes highly recommended for all audiences with an undergraduate education or higher.