Kati Magda

Recent AU alumna’s enthusiasm for all things Abraham Lincoln has led to one published book, another on the way

Published on Feb. 02, 2023
History and Political Science

Kati Magda’s strong interest in Abraham Lincoln didn’t develop while she attended Ashland University, but it did intensify.

The 21-year-old, who graduated in December from AU with a bachelor’s degree in history that included a class just on Lincoln, recently published a book about the 16th president’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and is working on a second one about Lincoln’s thoughts on Christianity.

With its Christian heritage, Magda said going to AU was one of the inspirations for her second book.

“It was a topic I was drawn to after going to Ashland, a religious school,” said Magda who has three bookcases of Lincoln material and even his signature tattooed on her left bicep. “I’m trying to understand his writings that brought religion into them. Every book on the subject has a religious bias to it. I want a book about Lincoln and Christianity that isn’t coming from a religious perspective, which is kind of daring. Hopefully, it will be perceived well.”

Magda said she chose the Christianity topic because it is one of the few things that hasn’t been written much about Lincoln, whom she said is the third most-written-about person after Jesus and William Shakespeare.

That was the same reason she decided to publish “Exploring Booth.”

“When I reached out to some publishers about it, a lot of them said it would probably sell pretty well because Booth isn’t a well-written-about guy,” said Magda, who added that it didn’t take long for the first 200 books she published through Fulton Books to sell.

If she does write a third Lincoln-themed book, it won’t include Booth. Magda emphasized that she wants to eventually become known as a Lincoln historian, not a Booth historian.

“I’ve given Booth enough time,” she said. “While writing the Booth book I had to step back because he was such a complex person and sometimes you get too far into a mindset that it starts to haunt you.”

Actually, Booth started to haunt her when she was 9 years old after watching a documentary about Lincoln, which she also believes sparked her interest in the 16th president. Up until a few years ago, Magda said she would have nightmares about Booth.

To try to get over that fear, her high school history teacher at Mansfield Senior, Robert Watson, suggested she write what she read about Booth.

“I knew she was writing but I was surprised she actually wrote a book,” Watson said. “Many people say they want to write a book, but few are dedicated enough to do it and Katie is in that small percent. I am very proud of her.”

Watson also encouraged her to go to college and, since he lives in Ashland and is almost finished earning a doctorate degree in education from AU, helped support the daughter of a single mom while she attended the university.

“From time to time she would call my wife and come over for a meal to get away from the dorms to do homework or discuss a paper,” Watson said. “Katie is part of the family now.”

Having an open-door policy with his students, Watson often talked with Magda before and after class about typical high school issues and, of course, Lincoln and history.

“I have had a few students that also had a passion for history or government like Katie, but none have ever been so singularly focused on one topic as she is with Lincoln,” said Watson, who has been teaching at Mansfield Senior for 10 years.  

Because of her ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Magda said she hyper-fixates on things, which with Lincoln has developed beyond that into a passion.

The person Magda said who comes the closest to having as much passion for Lincoln is Jason Stevens, an AU history professor who teaches the Lincoln class every other year in the fall.

“He’s someone I love to talk about Lincoln with,” she said. “He’s definitely one of those people who loves Lincoln. You kind of have to be if you’re going to teach an entire course on him.”

Stevens said Magda sat in the front row of his class in fall 2021 and was always very engaged in class discussions.

“She already knew a lot about Lincoln, but I think the class helped her become more familiar with some of the important primary documents having to do with Lincoln’s political thought and statesmanship,” Stevens said.

As focused as she is on Lincoln, Magda does have other interests. Music is one of them. She works as a concert photographer in the area. She also works on a PR team for a local TV show.

Through the concerts she photographs, Magda met the brother of a drummer who was filming an independent movie about Lincoln’s assassination at the same time she was starting to write about Booth. He asked her to play the part of Booth, which she jokingly said she did too well because she broke her leg jumping from Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theatre during filming – same as Booth did when he shot the president in 1865.

Besides being able to film in Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., the movie shot at locations in Maryland, where the Booth family lived; and Los Angeles. At this point, she said the movie has just been shown at film festivals.

For her research, Magda also visited Ford’s Theatre several other times, as well as Maryland and Illinois, where Lincoln lived before becoming president and the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is located in Springfield.

When she isn’t traveling, Magda lives in Mount Gilead with her grandfather, a dog, cat and her Lincoln stuff all over the house.

Any plans for a third Lincoln-themed book?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to write my first book and I definitely didn’t think I was going to get inspiration to write a second book. I don’t want to say no because there are so many avenues about Lincoln I would like to go down.”

For more information about Magda’s books, contact her via the book's Facebook or Instagram pages.