Illinois Towns Will Star in C-Span's Historical Debate Re-Enactments

Article excerpt

IT WAS A RACE for Illinois' seat in the U.S. Senate. And as with most elections, the debates that took place on the campaign trail were political theater at its finest.

The contenders were Abraham Lincoln and Sen. Stephen A. Douglas. And for three months in 1858, Lincoln, a lawyer and ex-congressman, faced off in a series of seven debates with Douglas, the incumbent Democrat.

Lincoln had hoped to unseat Douglas, and thousands of people showed up for the U.S. Senate debates. And though Lincoln lost that election, the debates, which focused on state's rights and slavery, earned him national renown. Two years later, Lincoln was elected to the U.S. presidency.

So important were these debates to American history that C-SPAN, cable TV's public affairs network, has chosen to televise live, historical re-enactments of those debates to mark the channel's 15th anniversary. From Aug. 20 to Oct. 15, C-SPAN will televise "The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858" in the Illinois towns in which they originally occurred.

"We chose this event to commemorate our anniversary because these debates are known as the most important in American political history and they are the historical antecedant of C-SPAN," says Rayne Pollack, C-SPAN spokeswoman.

C-SPAN will sponsor the debates, which are being held weekend days as close to the original 1858 date as possible. Local actors in each of the seven towns will portray Lincoln and Douglas. In addition, the towns are scheduling historical events.

C-SPAN is running the "Lincoln-Douglas Preview Series" (noon on Saturdays, except on debate days) through the end of October. Each show will include footage from local sites as they prepare for the events. The re-enactments of the debates will air live from noon to 6 p.m.

For information on the C-SPAN debates, call (800) 577-8215. …

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