Colored drawing of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Booth stands next to Abraham Lincoln in a theatre box and shoots a derringer at his head. In his other hand he holds a dagger. A man in a union army uniform stands to try to stop him.
Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-1155

Lincoln’s Assassination

On the morning of April 14, 1865 (Good Friday), actor John Wilkes Booth learned President Abraham Lincoln would attend a performance of the comedy Our American Cousin that night at Ford’s Theatre—a theatre Booth frequently performed at. He realized his moment had arrived.

By 10:15 that evening, the comedy was well into its last act. In the Presidential Box, President and Mrs. Lincoln and their guests, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris, laughed at the show along with the audience—not knowing that Booth was just outside the door.

  • How could such a thing have taken place—and in Washington, the fortified capital of the nation? How did Booth gain such access to the theatre? 
  • Why didn’t Lincoln’s security people stop him? 
  • Was it a lone act or part of a larger conspiracy? 
  • And, when all was said and done, what was the outcome—for those involved in the crime, for their victims, for the nation and even for Ford’s Theatre?

Conduct your own investigation below! As you look at the evidence, consider:

  • How does this evidence match—or not—with other evidence? Who gave the testimony?
  • What might the person’s motives be for saying what they did?
  • When did this person give the testimony? Was it soon after the event? Much later? How might that affect what they said?

Teacher’s Recources

John Wilkes Booth, a popular 26-year-old actor who was also a Confederate sympathizer and white supremacist, had been plotting for months to abduct Lincoln and give the Confederacy another chance. But three days earlier, hearing the president talk of his plans to bring the nation together—in particular, Lincoln’s plans to grant some African-American men the right to vote—Booth’s plans turned murderous.

Activity for Students

An activity for students—based on the content of this webpage—to complete on their own without requiring the assistance of a teacher or adult.

The Events of April 14th

Lincoln Carried Across the Street

Eyewitness Testimonies

Protect Our History

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Black and white photograph of Abraham Lincoln. Written on top of him is "When one man died because he believed in"