Photo of Graham Peck
Wepner Distinguished Prof. Lincoln Study-Studies
Office Location
UHB 3062
Phone Number
Area of Expertise

I am the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. I am a Californian by birth, and a first-generation American, raised by parents who immigrated from England in the early 1960s. I received my B.A. in History from California State University, Hayward (now CSU East Bay) before journeying to the land of Lincoln, where I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. in American History from Northwestern University. I spent a year at Rhodes College in Memphis and seventeen years at Saint Xavier University in Chicago before coming to UIS in 2019.

I teach a variety of courses at UIS. The courses I teach regularly include HIS 206 American Immigration History, HIS 304 Illinois History, HIS 441 Civil War and Reconstruction, and HIS 450 Major Figures in History: Abraham Lincoln. Courses that I teach on rotation with other faculty include HIS 204 US History to 1877, HIS 301 Historian’s Craft, and HIS 501 Graduate History Colloquium (a graduate reading seminar for MA students).

My scholarship has focused on antebellum Illinois, and particularly on the careers of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. I have published three essays on Lincoln and Douglas in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, an essay on the early Illinois Republican Party in the Journal of Illinois History, and an essay on the antebellum party system in Practicing Democracy (University of Virginia Press, 2015). My book, Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Battle over Freedom (University of Illinois Press, 2017), received the 2018 Russell P. Strange Memorial Book of the Year Award from the Illinois State Historical Society and was a finalist for the 2018 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.


I have also written, directed, and produced two films with art professor Nathan Peck. Stephen A. Douglas and the Fate of American Democracy is a feature-length biographic film of Douglas. The film features performances by nationally distinguished Douglas and Lincoln reenactors, interviews with five historians of the Civil War, and hundreds of nineteenth-century images, including photographs of rare, archival documents from the Douglas Papers at the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center.

Lincoln & Douglas: Touring Illinois in Turbulent Times is a travel film that Nathan and I created during the Covid summer of 2020. We visited four of Illinois’ Lincoln-Douglas debate sites to capture performances by Lincoln and Douglas reenactors. But the turbulent social and political climate that summer soon changed the focus of the film. Black Lives Matter protestors were inspiring demonstrators around the globe to pull down statues of controversial historical figures. In Springfield, Illinois, they petitioned for the removal of a Douglas statue on the grounds of the State Capitol. Spurred by these issues, the film pivoted to interrogating the contemporary legacies of Lincoln and Douglas in light of the challenges to American democracy then taking shape. Both films are freely available for streaming on my website.

I have also co-directed an art residency and exhibit interpreting Lincoln’s legacies. In 2021, my UIS colleague Brytton Bjorngaard and I won a University of Illinois grant for Making Our History: Artists Render Lincoln’s Legacies. The project brought together 20 Illinois artists via Zoom to make original art on Lincoln’s contemporary legacies. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the Springfield Art Association, and the UIS Visual Arts Gallery featured the art in a fall 2022 exhibit in Springfield. The permanent digital exhibit includes twenty photographs of the works of art, twenty professionally produced short videos documenting the artists’ process and concepts, twenty essays providing historical context for the art, and innovative elementary, middle school, and high school teacher modules.

Do not hesitate to contact me about your interest in History or UIS!