Whenever I think of American history being suppressed by modern day conservatives who don't want the truth about white supremacy to be told, the historian in me realizes that to a great extent, the truth about a great many people, places, and events has always been under told or the subject of outright lies.
For instance, American historical lore has often exalted President Abraham Lincoln as the "Great Emancipator," a beneficent man whose "righteousness" led to the freeing of Black slaves after nearly 250 years of bondage.
While Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, enacted on January 1, 1863, did theoretically free enslaved Blacks in states then in rebellion, the truth is that since most of those states were still firmly in Confederate control at the time, the Proclamation held absolutely no real weight.
Similarly, since the so-called "Border States" of Missouri, Maryland, Kentucky, and Delaware remained members of the Union, each continued to practice slavery—as did Washington, D.C.—thus rendering the Emancipation Proclamation even more hollow!
As for Mr. Lincoln, the towering figure who many Blacks kept pictures of in their homes for decades after the Civil War, one who had numerous primary schools, secondary schools, and two Black Colleges named in his honor, he was far less progressive regarding racial equality than has been historically told in most secondary and even some college text books.
Case in point: On August 14, 1862, then President Lincoln convened a meeting at the White House that included the leading Black ministers, Freemasons, and other civic leaders in Washington, D.C. where he revealed his plan for mass colonization of Blacks to Liberia, a nation on the West Coast of Africa that had been founded three decades earlier by the American Colonization Society, free Blacks, and some formerly enslaved Blacks. Curiously enough, Liberia's Capitol was named “Monrovia” in honor of former U.S. President (and slave owner) James Monroe.
According to famed historian Dr. Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, "the president's (Lincoln) political hero, Henry Clay, had been an active supporter of the (colonization) movement and had been a founder of the American Colonization Society." According to the "Christian Press Reader," a popular newspaper of that era, Mr. Lincoln's attitude was condescending and included his expression to the Black political and social figures who were gathered that August day that their role was not to debate the merits of his plan, but to return to their communities and drum up support for his back to Africa movement. Lincoln further told the assembled Black dignitaries that Black people were responsible for the Civil War as he admonished, "but for your race among us there could not be (Civil) war.”
To add further insult, Mr. Lincoln further stated:
"You and we are different races, we have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong, I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer from each other."
To be clear, Mr. Lincoln's mindset was not atypical for many Northern whites during this time as it is well documented that while Blacks faced the bitter pill of slavery in the South, many who escaped north found that they faced similarly racist hostility from a great many Northern whites who may have objected to slavery, but still fully believed in the inferiority of Black people.
Lest we forget…
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Chuck Hobbs is a freelance journalist who won the 2010 Florida Bar Media Award and has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.
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