Just Posted: “White Privilege” by publisher Dave Lawrence in Miami Stories

Abraham Lincoln

United States Colored Troops

Lincoln had to make a decision. The Union had been using African American men as menial laborers virtually since the Civil War started but as the war drained the North and there was no end to the bloodletting in sight the president needed more men. Should he arm black men and authorize them to kill white men? This was not an easy decision for the president. His wife was a southerner and no one really knew if these men would fight. In the end it was the need for more men that drove the decision. Lincoln took his black enlistees out of the latrines and gave them guns.

The South was outraged. This was contrary to the protocols of civilized war. Such a thing could never happen in Europe. It was at the very least, unchivalrous and uncivilized. The southern military refused to recognize black men as soldiers and adopted the practice, if not the policy, of not taking black prisoners of war. If a black man was captured he was to be killed. Certainly black soldiers knew this and some analysts of the time say it made them very ferocious fighters. A white soldier could give up and live but a black would be slain on the spot.[1]Dunn, p1.

Abraham Lincoln with the Abolitionist Sojourner Truth

President Abraham Lincoln wanted to send all blacks, slave and fee, to Central America. Even though Lincoln was opposed to slavery, he believed in racial segregation. The President did not believe that blacks and whites could live as equals in America.

On August 14, 1862, Lincoln met at the White House with a group of prominent black men from Washington, D.C. He was seeking their opinion regarding sending blacks to Central America to establish a colony. Congress had voted six million dollars to aide the President in the colonization of blacks….. anywhere.

The group listened respectfully to the President who told them he understood that blacks had suffered, “the greatest wrong inflicted on any people”, but he told them, “they still cannot live in freedom with whites.” Lincoln went on to describe the black presence in the United States as, “the root cause of the civil war.. our white men cutting one another’s throats, none knowing how far it will extend…..But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other.”

Lincoln then made his closing pitch, “It is better for us, therefore, to be separated…without the institution of Slavery and the colored race as a basis, the war would not have an existence.”

So spoke the Great Emancipator.

The End of the Civil War

The South was trying desperately to hold on until the presidential election of 1864. The hope of Southerners was that Lincoln would be turned out of office by war-tired Northerners who had buried too many of their sons in defense of slavery, and that the next president would negotiate a peace agreement which would leave the Confederacy and slavery intact. But by mid-July, Sherman and his army of 120,000 men were in front of Atlanta. By November, he was leading his troops out of that fallen city on his famous slash-and-burn march across the state.

The flower of the Confederacy had been plucked. Thousands of former slaves fell in behind as the enormous blue wave swept eastward to the sea carrying all that was before it. The backbone of the Confederacy was broken.

The North was energized by this victory, and Lincoln, who only weeks before had predicted his own defeat, was elected to his second term. On January 31, 1865, Congress enacted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States. Even before the war ended, Lincoln was assured of his legacy. He had emancipated the slaves.

The Civil War ended two months later on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. As their armies awaited the inevitable outcome, the two men met. Lee was in full dress, his sword on his side, while Grant wore his usual private’s uniform which was splattered with mud. Grant was generous, allowing Lee to keep his sword. His men could keep their horses and mules. The war was over. It was planting time. They could all go home.

As the Confederates left the field, Grant’s troops erupted in jubilation firing their cannons in celebration. The General ordered his men to stop, but it was too late. From Appomattox, Union artillery batteries boomed like rolling thunder across the defeated South. Slaves would call this “the time the big gun fired.” It took days for word of the surrender to reach Florida. Then celebratory cannon fire, starting at Jacksonville, boomed into the interior as the first notice to many that the war was over.

But within days of the victory, Lincoln was dead, having been felled on April 14th by the arch-assassin John Wilkes Booth at Washington’s Ford Theater. The Union collapsed into mourning. A flag-draped funeral train, blanketed in black bunting, slowly passed through all the Northern states so that the public could get a final view of the fallen president, who in death was already a mythical figure. It would be weeks before the train finally arrived in Springfield, Illinois, to lay Lincoln to rest. None were more grief-stricken than America’s former slaves.

Florida’s official surrender came with General Joseph E. Johnston’s capitulation of the Army of Tennessee to William Tecumseh Sherman on April 26. Several days later, Sam Jones, commander of the District of Florida, followed his superior’s lead. Tallahassee was occupied by Union soldiers on May 10, and a few days afterward, black soldiers of the Third United States Colored Infantry paraded their colors in the streets of downtown Tallahassee to the accompaniment of “John Brown’s Body,” the tune that had become so popular during the war. The revolution in Southern society was complete.[2]Dunn, A History of Florida Through Black Eyes.

Abraham Lincoln was a Racist

There are physical differences between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

– Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln-Douglas Debate, September, 1858)

Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist? (A lesson for upper grade students)

On September 18, 1858 at Charleston, Illinois, in his debate with Stephen Douglas for a seat in the United States Senate, Abraham Lincoln said,” I will say, then, I am not, nor have I ever been, in favor of bringing about in any way, the social and political equality of the white and black races.” He went on to say that he opposed blacks having the right to vote, serve on juries, hold office or intermarry with whites.

The man who would later issue the Emancipation Proclamation said in the debate with Douglas, “There are physical differences between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” In 1862 Lincoln met with a group of black ministers at the White House and told them his solution to the race problem, which was sending the former slaves to Panama. Lincoln told the ministers, “You need to leave. You will find a peaceful existence abroad, and we will find a peaceful existence here.”

Student Assignment: Google the Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Was Lincoln a racist? The answer is, yes, he was, at least early on, but his views on race evolved during his presidency. Lincoln especially felt that if black soldiers fought in his army, they could not be denied citizenship in their country. Lincoln felt strongly that every man should receive the fruits of his labor, and was therefore he opposed slavery.

Lincoln at the 1852 debate with Stephen Douglas

Racism was endemic in America, North and South. Even President-to-be Abraham Lincoln was spewing racist beliefs. On September 18, 1858 at Charleston, Illinois, in his debate with Stephen Douglas for a seat in the United states Senate, Lincoln said,” I will say, then, I am not, nor have I ever been, in favor of bringing about in any way, the social and political equality of the white and black races.” He went on to say that he opposed blacks having the right to vote, serve on juries, hold office or intermarry with whites.

The man who would later issue the Emancipation Proclamation said in the debate with Douglas, “There are physical differences between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

In 1862 Lincoln met with a group of black ministers at the White House and told them his solution to the race problem, which was sending the former slaves to Panama. Lincoln told the ministers, “You need to leave. You will find a peaceful existence abroad, and we will find a peaceful existence here.”

Lincoln shot

Within days of the victory, Lincoln was dead, having been felled on April 14th by the arch-assassin John Wilkes Booth at Washington’s Ford Theater. The Union collapsed into mourning. A flag-draped funeral train, blanketed in black bunting, slowly passed through all the Northern states so that the public could get a final view of the fallen president, who in death was already a mythical figure. It would be weeks before the train finally arrived in Springfield, Illinois, to lay Lincoln to rest. None were more grief-stricken than America’s former slaves.[3]Dunn, A History of Florida Through Black Eyes.

References

References
1 Dunn, p1.
2, 3 Dunn, A History of Florida Through Black Eyes.