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A New Look at Abraham Lincoln's Life, and Death, in Washington

Also: A question from Ethiopia about American presidents. And a new album from rapper Mos Def. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson.

Today, we play new music from Mos Def ...

And answer a question about some American presidents ...

But first, we visit the newly re-opened museum in Washington that honors just one former president.


Ford's Theatre


Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C, re-opened its museum last week. The museum not only honors the death of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president. It also celebrates his life. Visitors to the museum can learn about President Lincoln's important role in American history. Barbara Klein has more.


The museum at Ford's Theatre was created to show Abraham Lincoln's life, and death, in Washington, D.C. The exhibits include historical objects that explain his presidency, his famous speeches and his life in the White House.

Abraham Lincoln is remembered as the president who ended slavery in the rebel southern states during the Civil War. Headstones in the museum describe his feelings toward slavery. One headstone says that Lincoln believed the system of slavery was founded on both injustice and bad policy.

Visitors also discover a funny side to Abraham Lincoln who was known for his sense of humor. One of the museum's displays tells the story about when the president had a mild case of the infectious disease small pox. At the time, Lincoln was troubled by so many people seeking jobs in the White House. Because of his disease, Lincoln joked to his doctor: "Good, now at last I have something I can give everyone."

Visitors learn that President Lincoln's favorite pastime was going to the theater. He especially loved the comedies of William Shakespeare.

Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed at Ford's Theatre while watching a play with his wife in eighteen sixty-five. The museum shows objects related to the people who plotted Lincoln's murder.

You can see the gun that John Wilkes Booth used to kill the president. You can also see the clothes President Lincoln wore the night he was killed. He was wearing a special coat made by Brooks Brothers. Museum curator Gloria Swift explains what happened to that coat after President Lincoln's death.

GLORIA SWIFT: "The Brooks Brothers coat was given to the favorite doorman after Lincoln's death, at the White House, Alphonso Donn, who kept it in his family. But like many people of the day, it was a practice to snip out little mementos of events, and this particular coat suffered that same fate, in that Alfonso Don would clip pieces away from the coat and give it to people who came to visit and to see the coat. He gave it to them as a souvenir. So the coat you see today really doesn't resemble the coat as it originally was when Abraham Lincoln received it from Brooks Brothers."

Kym Elder is an official at Ford's Theatre Museum. She says people are greatly interested in Abraham Lincoln's death, the first assassination of an American president. She says many people wonder how the country's history would have been different if one gunshot on one evening had not happened.


The American Presidents

Our listener question this week comes from Ethiopia. Fekadu Banti is interested in the presidents of the United States. The twenty-second and twenty-fourth presidents have the same name. Is this one person or two presidents who share the same name? And why is the current president, Barack Obama, sometimes compared to the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln?

Well, first of all, the twenty-second and twenty-fourth presidents of the United States were the same person. Grover Cleveland first served from eighteen eighty-five to eighteen eighty-nine. He lost his re-election campaign in eighteen eighty-eight to Benjamin Harrison.

Grover Cleveland ran again and won election in eighteen ninety-two. He took office in January the following year. This is why Barack Obama is the forty-fourth president but just the forty-third man to serve in the office.

The earliest example of presidents sharing a name is the Adams family. John Adams was the second president of the United States, serving from seventeen ninety-seven to eighteen-oh-one. His son, John Quincy Adams, served from eighteen twenty-five to eighteen twenty-nine.

The Bushes are another father and son pair of presidents. George H. W. Bush served from nineteen eighty-nine to nineteen ninety-three. His son, George W. Bush, served from two thousand one until this year.

There have also been two presidents named Roosevelt. They were related but not as closely. Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House from nineteen-oh-one to nineteen- oh-nine. His distant cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, began his presidency in nineteen thirty-three and served until his death in nineteen forty-five.

And, finally, we come to Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln. Both are tall, thin men with big ears. Both settled in the state of Illinois as young men. Both became lawyers. They each served in the Illinois state legislature before serving one term in the United States Congress. Both are known for their excellent writing and speaking skills.

Barack Obama has called Lincoln his favorite president and his idol or hero. Mister Obama announced his candidacy for president of the United States on Abraham Lincoln's birthday in front of the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois. This is where President Lincoln gave a famous speech in eighteen fifty-eight. President Obama took the oath of office in January on the Bible that Abraham Lincoln owned and used at his first inauguration.

Finally, Abraham Lincoln freed the black slaves in the rebel southern states during the Civil War. Barack Obama is the country's first African-American president.

Mos Def



Rapper Mos Def is considered one of the most talented performers of hip-hop music. In recent years, he has performed more as an actor than a hip-hop artist. Recently, he returned to the recording studio and released his first album since two thousand six. Mario Ritter tells more about Mos Def and plays songs from his new album.


Mos Def first became popular as a rapper during the nineteen nineties. He released the album "Black on Both Sides" in nineteen ninety-nine. Music critics consider it one of his best collections of songs.

In the past ten years, Mos Def has become a successful actor in plays and movies. He performed in the Broadway play "Top Dog, Underdog." He has won praise for his roles in movies, including "Something the Lord Made," "16 Blocks", "Monster's Ball" and "Cadillac Records."

Recently Mos Def returned to his first love—music. His new album, "The Ecstatic," was released in June. Again fans and music critics have praised his talent as a writer and rapper. Listen as he skillfully delivers the words in the song "Casa Bey."


Mos Def was born Dante Terrell Smith in Brooklyn, New York in nineteen seventy-three. He grew up in an area of the city called Bedford-Stuyvesant. He tells about his life in "Bed-Stuy" in the song "Life in Marvelous Times."


We leave you with another song by Mos Def from his new album "The Ecstatic." This is "Quiet Dog Bite Hard."



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Marisel Salazar, Lawan Davis and Caty Weaver who was also the producer. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.