It is a marker of how deeply uncertainty has been run into the American soul by the events of the past year that not even Abraham Lincoln has escaped the drapery of doubt and obloquy. A statue in Boston’s Park Square, celebrating his emancipation of millions of black slaves in 1863, has been removed as “degrading.” The San Francisco United School District voted to erase Lincoln’s name from a high school in the Sunset District (along with 43 other school-name changes), only to reverse itself in the face of public outcry. The most famous outdoor statue of Lincoln—Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s “Standing Lincoln”—is now up for review by the Chicago Monuments project.

Still, there are yet historians’ voices crying in this wilderness of political self-parody against the public obliteration of Abraham Lincoln, not the least of which belongs to James Oakes, whose The Crooked Path to Abolition tracks the difficult, wrenching path trod by Lincoln in particular and the anti-slavery movement in general toward the final abolition of human trafficking and the chattel ownership of human beings in the United States. Although Oakes, who teaches at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, will certainly not be mistaken for a political conservative, in 2013 he dropped a 500-page bombshell of historical honesty in Freedom National: The Destruction of

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