Favorite Things

Dedria A. Humphries Barker and her Abraham Lincoln books


Dedria A. Humphries Barker is a Lansing resident, former professor of English at Lansing Community College, public speaker and author. Here’s what she had to say.

My favorite thing is a lot different from other City Pulse’s Favorite Things, but here goes: right now, I am loving my book, “Mother of Orphans: The True and Curious Story of Irish Alice, a Colored Man’s Widow.”

I chose it because it is my latest achievement and because it has Abraham Lincoln in it. You know, at one point I thought Lincoln was kind of cute. My husband told me, no, that’s never been the case. I think he’s jealous.

There are so many books about Lincoln. One of the best is “The Unknown Lincoln,” by Dale Carnegie. My advertising professor gave it to me. I also like “Lincoln on Leadership.” It features quotes from Lincoln. Another wonderful book about Lincoln was “Team of Rivals,” by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Steven Spielberg made a great movie about Lincoln from her book. More recently, author George Saunders wrote “Lincoln in the Bardo.” It was experimental; parts were made up and parts were fact. I loved it.

In doing the research on him, it showed me how elections can, and continually, give opportunity for people to be noble. Americans need to remember that now during this era of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. Stay woke, and more and more examples will be visible every day.

Arguably the best and most important U.S. president, Lincoln presided during the Civil War. In fact, no sooner was he inaugurated than the southern states seceded, formed the Confederacy and launched the Civil War. And he was assassinated just as the Civil War was ending. Getting elected ended Lincoln’s life, pretty much, but it saved the U.S.  It seems so appropriate to be remembering Lincoln now, as Confederate statues and symbols are being removed from America’s public spaces.

And, that’s only one thing about him. What I appreciate most about him was his second inaugural speech. In that speech he asked for compassion and real help for veterans and the widows and orphans left behind by the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. That compassion directly affected my family.

The Union veterans’ group, The Grand Army of the Republic, took up Lincoln’s call for compassion seriously. They helped usher in a period of progressive social policies that helped families. One help to our family was my great-great-grandfather, who went to live in an Old Soldier’s Home because he was disabled, widowed and his daughters were working. Then as the nation moved away from the Civil War and into the industrial era, those homes established for the orphans of soldiers took on the duty of housing orphans left by workers killed in factory accidents and the children of widows. It was one of those homes for children that my great-grandmother took advantage of when she was widowed. A hotel maid, she was able to get room, board and books at the Clark County Children’s Home in Ohio for her three children. As a result, her oldest daughter, who became my grandmother, continued in school past fifth grade and graduated from high school in 1920. Over the next hundred years, that made all the difference for my family, and especially for me. I earned two college degrees. 

(Words by Dedria A. Humphries Barker. Edited by Rich Tupica. If you have a suggestion for Favorite Things, email skyler@lansingcitypulse.com)


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