His Name Was Lincoln
Sunburst Communications has produced a superb two-disc set called His Name Was Lincoln (7th grade & up). The first disc, subtitled “Peace,” covers the years 1809-1861; the second, subtitled “War,” concentrates on 1862-1865. Both discs use well-balanced portions of multimedia to explore the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, and although the second disc is certainly the more dynamic, they work well together in providing a comprehensive overview. Each major chapter kicks off with a full-screen slide show (called Documentaries) and, while we usually have reservations about slide shows on CD-ROM, these presentations are so well-executed – and so thoroughly complemented elsewhere on the discs – that we’re willing to waive our usual complaints. Each (roughly) 15-minute segment, which combines audio with visuals, offers a thoughtful summary of a particular subject, and still finds time to provide enlightening details. Each chapter also offers a variety of multimedia resources, from “The Scholar’s View” (presented as video clips) to “Words of Lincoln” (presented as text) to “Voices From the Past” (narrated). There are occasional unique features, like “Lincoln And the Cartoonists” (text and images) and “Letters Home.” Cap it off with a timeline and suggested additional readings and you’ve got a valuable CD-ROM resource, neither too erudite nor too simplistic. The treatment of slavery’s role in the Civil War deserves particular commendation. His Name Was Lincoln paints Lincoln as a politician, not as a saint or a sinner, and reserves judgment wherever possible. For Civil War buffs it may not be exhaustive enough, but for everybody else – including those who have taken a class or two on the subject – it is just about perfect.
– November 1996, History & Mythology