Abraham Lincoln Lesson for Kids: Biography & Timeline

Instructor: Crystal Ladwig
In this lesson, we'll learn about Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. We'll discuss his family life, his journey to the White House, and his untimely death, then you can test your knowledge with a short quiz.

Who Was Abraham Lincoln?

Have you ever seen the Lincoln Memorial? It contains an enormous statue of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Above his statue, there's an inscription: In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever. Without a doubt, Lincoln is one of the most beloved figures in American political history. Let's talk about his life and discover why.

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Memorial

Early Life

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in a small city called Hodgenville, Kentucky. He had an older sister and a younger brother who died when he was a baby. This would be the first of many deaths Lincoln would face. One of the traits that makes Lincoln so admired is his rise from humble beginnings. Lincoln's family was quite poor. As a child, they moved frequently, living off of public land, and eventually settling in Illinois. Soon afterward, his mother died and his father remarried. His new step-mother and her three children joined the Lincolns in a tiny cabin.

Lincoln's step-mother influenced him greatly, as she encouraged him to learn and study. He was only able to formally attend school for about one year because he helped his father care for their family, though he was a self-learner his whole life. An avid reader, Lincoln borrowed books whenever he could. As a young man, Lincoln worked as a shopkeeper, postmaster, and, eventually, self-taught lawyer. In 1842, he married Mary Todd, and they soon began a family. Lincoln had four sons. Tragically, only one would survive to adulthood.

Public Service

In 1834, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. Lincoln also served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. As the only member of his party elected from Illinois, he decided not to seek re-election.

Years later, as debates over slavery heated up, Lincoln decided to rejoin public service. In 1857, he ran for U.S. Senate against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln realized that 'a house divided against itself cannot stand' and the country was incredibly divided over slavery. Throughout 1857, Lincoln and Douglas participated in a series of historic and heated debates. Despite a strong campaign, Lincoln lost, but his campaign and the Lincoln-Douglas debates gained him national attention. In 1860, he ran for President and won. And in 1861, Lincoln became the 16th president of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln in 1863
Lincoln

The Civil War

Before Lincoln could begin his presidency, seven Southern states seceded (or left) the Union to form their own country, the Confederate States of America. The Civil War began in 1861, and Lincoln considered Southern secession illegal and was willing to do whatever it took to reunite the country.

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