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tv   Lincoln and African- Americans  CSPAN  February 12, 2022 3:49pm-4:55pm EST

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the living constitution. yeah, and what the insignificance of that is today versus 1850 when we were dealing with what you just talked about. i told you always a great book. i have a feeling they're going to be sold out. so don't don't carry on getting one. we will reconvene at 10 am for our next session. please join me again in thanking lucas morrell. the target american history tvs coverage of the lincoln forum continues but we hope that this afternoon's panel lincoln and african americans with our four distinguished panelists will give you a lot to chat about in your lines. so we will be a ble to learn from michelle crowell, who is the civil war and reconstruction
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specialist in the manuscript division at the library of congress where she oversees the papers of presidents from james k polk to theodore roosevelt. she author of several articles in book chapters on lincoln and the civil war and she serves on the board of the abraham lincoln association. she's president of the abraham lincoln institute in a secretary of the lincoln forum executive committee. edna green medford is well known remember i did my totals up of lincoln forums and edna is certainly the female winner of coming to the lincoln forum. she's a professor of history and associate provost at howard university the author of lincoln and emancipation and author with harold holzer and frank williams of the emancipation proclamation three views a highly sought-after speaker. she serves on numerous boards related to abraham lincoln and the civil war and is a longtime member and participant in the lincoln forum lucas morell is the john k boardman jr.
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professor of politics at washington and lee university. we also serves as chair of the politics department. he's the author or editor of five books including lincoln's sacred effort defining religions role in american self-government and lincoln and liberty wisdom for the ages. his most recent book is is lincoln and the american founding last but not least jonathan white is vice chair of the lincoln forum and author or editor of 13 books about abraham lincoln and the civil war including to address you as my friend african-americans letters to president abraham lincoln, which was published last month by un and a house built by slaves african-american visitors to the lincoln white house, which will be published on lincoln's birthday in february of 2022. let's welcome our panel.
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thank you so much catherine. we're gonna have a discussion about lincoln and african americans and i want to talk very quickly just about these two books that i one was just published about two weeks ago and then one will come out in the spring on lincoln's birthday. this is a collection of 125 letters from african-americans to lincoln and they wrote to lincoln seeing him as their president and even as their friend seeing a personal connection to lincoln and we'll talk about some of those letters as we go through the program and then in february, i'm publishing this book it sort of grew out of the first one. this is a history of visitors to the lincoln white house and many of those men and women were the same people and so this is a little collage of some of the men who visited lincoln. i couldn't find any images of any of the women who met with or who wrote to lincoln but some of
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these faces will look familiar and we'll talk about them. you see frederick douglass at the top right or top center. you see william fleurville next to him who will also talk about some of these men went on to become politicians and members of congress richard harvey kane would go on to be elected to congress from south carolina after the civil war and then some of these men well known the bottom left second one up is a guy named pastel randolph who was a spiritualist and sex magician who both wrote to lincoln and met with him and i have not yet figured out what a sex magician is further research further research. it'll be a new york times bestseller. i'm sure. yeah, don't google search that at work too late. when when these african-american men and women and again the book includes 125 letters slightly over a hundred of them are from men and about 21 of them come
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from women when they wrote to lincoln, they fell a personal connection to him. they they really believed that he was their president and that he would listen to what they had to say and i want to show you one letter from the library of congress collection of lincoln's papers. this is a former slave named hannibal cox. he sent lincoln home that he had copied out of the newspapers out of harper's weekly, and he wanted to show lincoln how he was learning how to read and write and so this is how he does it but you know that this man believed lincoln would see and hold this letter if you look at the bottom left hand corner. there's a small postscript where hannibal cox said i send this for you to look at you must not laugh at it. and the feeling of this man wanting his commander in chief to see how he is learning and growing and serving his country, but don't laugh when you look at this because i'm still in the process. i find letters like these to be
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remarkably touching. i want to tell very quickly one story. that will connect these two books together and then we're going to have conversation together and this is the story of two creoles from new orleans who brought a petition to lincoln at the white house on march 30 1864, and they handed it to him in his white house office. and they called for the free light-skinned wealthy black community of new orleans to be given the right to vote and they appeal to the declaration of independence and they point out that they are serving in the union army on the union for the union cause and that their ancestors had fought with andrew jackson during the war of 1812 at the battle of new orleans and they say that they should have the right to vote based on the fact that they are serving the country and that they pay taxes and in one line of this petition they say we are men treat us as such. the petition has 1,000 signatures on it and 28 of those
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are veterans of the war of 1812. lincoln welcomed these two men into his white house office. this is one of them and i couldn't find an image of the other but this is arnold bert. no, he welcomes them into the office and he says to them that his first job is to crush out the rebellion, but he said if giving black men the right to vote became. necessary to the to win the war. he said that he would support it. he said for i see no reason why intelligent black men should not vote. but he said that voting was not a military question and and the civil authorities in louisiana should be dealing with it, but he assured them that if they could show how their request would help restore the union it have his support. well bert, no and rudeno go back out of the white house and they sit down and they write out a new petition one week later on march 10th, and i i can't prove this but i think they brought it back to the white house on march 12th and gave it to lincoln and
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this new petition was very different rather than only calling for the right to vote for the elite light-skinned wealthy black community of new orleans they call for the right to vote for all black men of their city regardless of whether or not they were born into slavery. and they said that doing this would and this is their words give full effect to all the and feeling in the rebel states in order to secure the permanence of the free institutions and loyal governments that were being organized in the south. in other words the best way to subdue disloyal sentiment in the south was to create a new class of loyal black voters who could outvote x confederates when the war was over. they had crafted a rationale for black voting rights that met the what lincoln was looking for that giving black men the right to vote would help win the war and sustain the peace and lincoln listened to them and found this compelling and was
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persuaded by it and on march 13th. he sent a letter that's very famous to the governor-elect of louisiana named michael han suggesting that black men who were educated or serving in the army. he said should be granted the elect of franchise because giving them the right to vote and these are lincoln's words would probably help in some trying time to come to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom. i love this exchange between lincoln and these two black visitors and these two petitions that they had to him because it shows how lincoln was thinking about the new birth of freedom and that african americans would have to be included as part of the people. now this was 1864 and that's a very different lincoln in many ways from the lincoln who comes before the civil war. and so i want to take us back to the 1850s and start with lucas critics of lincoln often point to some very unfortunate lines
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that lincoln said in the lincoln douglas debates and one of them in particular from the first debate in 1858 lincoln said, he said i have no purpose to introduce political and socially quality between the white and black races. there is a physical difference between the two which in my judgment will probably forever forbid the living their living together upon the footing of perfect equality. how do we make sense of quotes like this when we think about abraham lincoln? yeah, those those are troubling especially to the modern ear and it were these were comments that he repeated in in charleston and i think in jonesboro to other debates of the seven and i think fundamentally one thing we need to think about which is rarely mentioned today and you guys are going to laugh when i say why we don't use the word statesmanship much today, and that was the last line in other words, of course not have you seen what we've got in our major parties,
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but one thing i'm trying to do with my students is to get them to gain a greater appreciation for the art of politics, which is not simply for lack of a better phrase moral grandstanding you have to gain consent in this country to get justice done and my great teacher harry jaffa once wrote in his great book crisis of the house divided which was about the lincoln douglas debates. is that the mark of statesmanship which is you know, to define his political prudence the mark of statesmanship is gaining as much justice as you can gain consent for it's not enough to be right and to announce that righteousness william lloyd garrison was unsurpassed in doing that. he wasn't worried about persuading people. he let god bring his conviction to people he wasn't running for political office but to get things done you have to get into office and pass laws accordingly. and so you have to pay attention in short to public opinion and the state of public opinion in
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illinois in the 1850s was pretty bad in terms of racial animus towards blacks as it was as if they were competing with indiana to see who could be more racist 1853. i think this was mentioned in a previous session, illinois passed a law. banning the immigration of black people into their state. i mean patently unconstitutional according to the federal constitution they went ahead and did it, indiana had a lot like that or oregon territory had a lot like that, missouri tried to get their constitution passed in 1828 1821 with a clause like that. and so that's the state of public opinion blacks can't serve on juries were whites are defendants. they can't vote. they can't serve in the militia. okay, so very few civil rights. no political rights. that's the population lincoln in 1858 is is seeking their support to send him to the senate appointed by the state legislature. so you can't neglect that political reality on the ground and the fact of the matter was
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his career in any hope for progress for civil rights and black rights for civil and political rights for black people in illinois. any hope for that was a political non-starter if you shot for the top in other words lincoln tried to do is at least shore up the conviction among a pervasively a bigoted white population shore up the conviction that their rights. as white people did not owe to their color or race. but to their humanity and it's their humanity that in their heart of hearts, they knew they shared with black people and so to the supreme to the great dismay of his own political consultants and team. he kept bringing up you would say what you just quoted but also say but that doesn't matter in terms of their rights as people. they have the same rights as enumerated in the declaration of independence, which is to say
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the same rights by nature the rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness if he couldn't get majority-wide opinion to back that pursuing the vote for black people would be, you know, a fool's errand and after all the vote was principally a state matter not a federal matter. so he said for douglas look you keep getting concerned. you keep freaking out thinking i'm pushing the black boat. why don't you stay here in illinois and run for the state legislature where you can make sure that will never happen while you're alive and the you know, you guys can send me to the senate so and just one more thing. so there's the political reality of the, you know, overwhelming white population of illinois. what is there like five six thousand black people in illinois in 1850 1860. there aren't a lot of black people there and lincoln of course can't curry the black vote. there is no black vote by law. so that's white but the white person lincoln was concerned about with steven douglas.
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and stephen douglas lincoln said over and over again. what was he doing to racial prejudice in illinois and in the country, he was reinforcing it. he was a categorical racist people call lincoln the only played the the race card in the debates if he did and i don't think he did but if he did douglas played the whole deck. frederick douglas, fred no not frederick douglas. that's a total. time that's another speech of mine. oh, by the way, those steven douglas's birth name two. s's. he dropped that around. they late 1840s early 50s. i wonder why frederick douglas. anyway, stephen douglas. was reinforcing white supremacy and lincoln was doing what he could to shake his population his his constituents loose of that by just reminding them of something they knew in their heart of hearts that black people had the same rights as white people because guess what they're people i'll point out
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that that 1853 law if an african-american moved into the state of illinois the free state of illinois got arrested and fined. i think it was $50 if they couldn't pay the $50 they would be auctioned off and someone could purchase their labor until the debt was paid and we think about the free state of illinois for is not really free in the way that we would normally think edna. i want to come over to you. we see changes in lincoln's policies and positions over the course of his political career. can you talk about that evolution? and how do we account for it? it's great that you started with the lincoln douglas debates of 58 because when we talk about that evolution over time, we usually start with the 1858 debates and what lucas just talked about what lincoln said about black people and their inferiority in that particular in more than one place in in
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that debate. we we normally dismiss both comments by saying that he was responding to a true racist to someone who was a white supremacist and he understood where he was. he realized that the local people were very much. in accord with stephen douglas, and so he wanted to convince them that his views were not that inconsistent with theirs and so he can be forgiven for some of the things he said against a shrewd politician. and there's some truth to that but it's more than that. we need to remember that lincoln was a son of the south he was someone who shared some of the same racial views as did the average southern white man and woman and northern white man and woman for that matter during this era the difference. however is i think lincoln's
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believed that the inferiority that he was seeing was a consequence of slavery that slavery that that institution degraded black people. it did not give them the opportunity of a fair chance in the race of life as he put it and so he was different in that way and so slavery he couldn't abide slavery because it didn't give people the opportunity that he felt everyone deserved. that doesn't mean that he felt that black people could be equal to him. at least not at that time and if we look at him over the period from 1858 to the end of the war. we see that he can relate very well to individual african americans. you know, he relates well to plurville, you know, they are friends. apparently he relates well to frederick douglass probably because they had similar backgrounds not in terms of
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slavery, but in terms of poverty in terms of them having this lifelong love of learning the ability to really express themselves and so forth so he had great appreciation for some individual black people, but if you look at where he was at the end of the war, he still wasn't quite there in terms of the masses because when he talks in that address on april 11th, 1865 where he's his last address where he's talking about extending voting rights to black men. who's he looking at? he's looking at those black men who served the union in the war and he's looking at those are the better educated now no one is talking about what white men's credentials are doesn't matter. you know, how they were born how poor they were whether or not they were literate and lincoln was certainly not saying these people should not serve but these black men had a different
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litmus test and so he's not quite there in terms of believing that black people now can be full-fledged american citizens. and so i think that he may have evolved over time, but when he died, he was not all the way there. you mentioned billy fleurville, so i'm going to come over to michelle and i'll actually i can put a picture of him up on the screen michelle. you have the wonderful job of being the keeper of the lincoln papers at the library of congress. can you tell us a little bit about that collection? how did it get there? why are certain letters there rather than at the national archives and then i've put up one from william fleurville here on the screen. can you tell us about him and his letter to lincoln? sure. well the core or the the totality of the abraham lincoln papers in the manuscript division at the library of congress really comes down to one word is generosity. because the lincoln papers as it currently stands is separated out into four different series
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that reflects the provenance of those materials, so i'll talk about series one last series two were lincoln materials that were called from the john nicollet papers at which was donated by nicola's daughter and i should say we don't usually call papers anymore. so this is a long long history of how manuscripts, you know different procedures for that series 3 and 4 are things that came from a variety of different sources some donated some, you know from different different avenues, but series one is really the bulk of the abraham lincoln papers and they came from robert todd lincoln's only surviving son and to the best of our knowledge. they were the materials that lincoln had in his own personal papers at the time of his death and they were essentially packed up by hay and nicolete in 1865 and then put into the care of david davis in bloomington, illinois where they resided
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until about 1874 when they were loaned to hay a nickel primarily knitting the secretary nicolet while hay and nicole were working on their their article for century magazine and their biography and just as an aside to make understand how amazing it is. things even still survive then nicolet had them until 1901 at his death. they went across town to washington to the trip or the state department. so john, hey had them and he was secretary of state and he had them until he died and then they went back to robert lincoln in chicago and then he moved to washington dc and vermont and because he worked for the pullman car company and had free transportation. they went from dc to vermont from dc to vermont from dc to vermont and and then finally in 1919 library of congress librarian of congress herbert putnam finally prevailed on robert lincoln to just put them somewhere safe, which was the library of congress and in 1923. robert deeded them gifted them to the library of congress for
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for the public some of you may know that at his at his request. there was a restriction on the papers that they were not to be opened to the public until 21 years after his own death. so i hate to say that people were probably wishing him ill at that point. but so they weren't open till the public until 1947, you know after after his death in 1920 26, so that's the that's how they get there. and and we wanted to just keep them separated so that you know if you're in series one of the abraham lincoln papers, that's part of the robert todd lincoln collection of the abraham lincoln papers, and that has the bulk of the papers and some of the richest materials including, you know, various speeches his farewell address to springfield actually, his is the two gettysburg addresses and the second inaugural address are actually technically in series 3 because they came from the surviving children of john hay
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who and the blind memorandum as well that came from helenically because they donated them to the library of congress. so that's why i wanted to start with the word generosity that if you think of the richness and the intellectual and not only financial value of the abraham lincoln papers, these were given the american people buy the those family members and included in that series one. is that letter from william floorville who wrote to lincoln on december 27th? 1863 and and we know he knew about gettysburg and and lincoln's illness because it sounds from the letter that that you know, this is billy the barber back in in springfield who was lincoln's barber and friend and probably confidantes as these things tend to go and he references mutual friends that he's spoken to he refers to, you know being sorry to hear about lincoln's illness, but you can also tell that they haven't spoken or been in communication for a while because he says i was so sorry to hear about
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willie's deathly that was back in 1862. then you also gives him news of home. so this is a friend writing to to and you know a friend who also happens to be president of the united states about the dog is fine and kicking and so-and-so is married and this and this and then the other but the two things that are very affecting about this letter or more than two things is that he starts off that the way he begins the letter is he says, you know having i having for you and irresistible feeling of gratitude for the kind regards shown and the manifest good wishes exhibited towards me and and also the his respect and understanding and gratitude for what he feels lincoln has done for african americans during the course of the war that he's very complementary and and very thankful for lincoln being in this particular position, and he's obviously seen 1864 coming up because he says i really essentially i really hope that you win a second term because you are the man who will be able
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to carry this this all forward. so this is you know very much a letter from from a friend. it's a friendly voice from home and i think where jonathan also wanted me to go with this is how how things end up in the personal papers versus somewhere else. know if this has been more of an official document than it might have ended up in the national archives. eventually. there's no national archives in lincoln's day. that's much later or if it needed to be acted upon by a cabinet member or another thing then he probably would have docketed on the back and sent it on to the appropriate department. so that's the difference usually between the national archives and library of congress is national archives contains the official record of the government and it's it's operations. whereas in the manuscript division. we tend to have people's personal papers. so a letter from billy the barber is going to be a personal communication to lincoln that that he obviously decided to keep or had set aside not knowing he was going to kind of diet in 1865.
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but so this is a a friendly voice from from home and i'm and giving you news of springfield so you can almost imagine lincoln sitting in the office thinking oh that guy and oh so and so is married and glad to hear about the dog and you know, just something kind of a reminder. of a place that he was familiar with and loved what's also striking about the letter compared to some of the others that you may see in jonathan's book and elsewhere and particularly in presidential papers is billy's not asking for anything and and that to be honest that is a that's a very big deal and you can imagine that was another relief to lincoln that billy's not asking for the postmaster ship of springfield because you know at our presidential papers are now all online and if you care to to go peruse them you'll see that presidents bulk of their their papers particularly when they're president are people asking them for jobs. it's it's a lot of patronage and you know in the garfield papers
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within the first week, you can already see him just you know, will these people never leave me alone? so billy's not asking for anything and he's complimenting him and basically giving him kind of a boost in terms of i feel that you're doing something good. for african-americans for the nation and you're the you're the man for the job and so that has to have been a nice a nice break for for lincoln that day you mentioned garfield. he ignored charles guitar and that didn't work out too. well for him. oh charles goodeau. that is a whole nother story. there are the library of congress has been digitizing dozens of civil war collections and they are available and it's democratizing research and any of us can go on. i found 21 letters from african americans to lincoln in this collection and it's because i could look through it online now lucas had a kind of funny faux pas earlier where he inadvertently mixed up steven
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and frederick douglass. keep bringing it up john and because they live so the reason that's so funny is if you follow lucas on twitter, his handle is lincoln douglas with two s's, not a freudian slip not but lucas i was wondering can douglas was very critical of lincoln for the first two years of the war and even into 1864. can you talk about douglas's criticisms of lincoln as president for this first few years sure and douglas had been following lincoln since the lincoln douglas debates, very aware of what a growing movement in the united states towards at least anti-slavery if not abolitionism, and there's a distinction between the two certainly in lincoln's mind, especially in terms of their understanding of the constitution and what congress in particular can do vis-à-vis slavery in the states. but that said i mean douglas can't say it more often enough douglas is an abolitionist and so for him.
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the lens through which he is judging and assessing lincoln's statesmanship during the war. i'm going into the 1860 election in particular is all through that lens. we need to arm the black man as soon as possible. turn the war into an abolition war and to the extent that lincoln resists doing that to the extent that lincoln simply wants to union as it was the constitution as it is as was a favorite saying at the time to that extent he fell short of what douglas's highest hopes were for this what he saw as a growing movement towards eventual emancipation. and so whether it's lincoln's first inaugural address where he quotes the republican platform and then his own opening debate speech at ottawa in 1858 where he says, i neither have the power nor the inclination to touch slavery where it exists the fact that lincoln was only willing to quote stop the spread of slavery douglas thought
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that's just half the job surely we can do better than that. and so and then of course massively disappointed, lincoln meets with a group of black leaders from the dc maryland area and in july of 1862 august of 62 when he's already got the emancipation proclamation drafted. but he and he makes your reporter is president is present. where he essentially says if it wasn't for the presence of blacks in the united states, we wouldn't have this war and douglas thought what how are you? could you possibly blame us for you shooting at each other and of course in and that speech lincoln utters a support for colonization black immigration voluntary from the united states. the word deportation is used but for lincoln, it was always voluntary lincoln is trying to get these local black leaders to get the ball rolling on seeing if he can get black immigration
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from the united states to become more popular and there were by the way black leaders who were in favor of colonization augustus, washington, i think wrote one of the best essays on this in the early 1850s, but when douglas was not one of the local black leaders who met with lincoln in 62 doesn't meet with lincoln till 63 and then 64 and then briefly in 65 douglas is fur lincoln blames black people for the war and he says because we're the cause of the war we should leave the country and all will be well douglas just has no patience for that, but that from my from for me and i teach douglas every year i electron douglas we'd have to add in some important speeches that come later especially after the war and especially his 1876 beach at the dedication of the freeman's memorial to get a more mature assessment from an abolitionist a rock rib abolitionist from douglas who in my opinion grows to appreciate the task that we can had on his hand and grew to
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appreciate even more the consent the the support that he needed. from especially white northerners and out west to win the war, but for that there would be no emancipation but early in the war and in fact throughout the war douglas is one of lincoln spears's critics. no doubt. yeah, lincoln and douglas met three times. they met in august of 1863 where douglas challenges lincoln on black pay and the protection of black pows, which we'll talk about in a second they meet they meet again in august of 1864 and then right after that douglas sends lincoln this letter michelle. can you talk about this second meeting with frederick douglass and the letter that douglas sent? right and and the letter that douglas sends is august 29th 1864. so if anybody wants to check it online, it's it's there. they meet in the white house and and the thing that you have to understand about the context because many of you will also be for familiar with the blind
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memorandum of august 2030 1864. and this is a period where lincoln has been renominated by the republicans, but things look very dire in terms of his reelection chances. so he he writes, you know, it doesn't look like this really this administration will be reelected and on one level. he's offering to cooperate with the next president to try to save the union because whoever the democrat would have been will not have been able to save it either emancipations off the table or there will be two nations and at the same time he's concerned that if he doesn't win reelection that those millions of enslaved people still within the confederacy who have not had a chance to escape to union lines or elsewhere will remain enslaved as a result. so he meets with frederick douglass and basically proposes a plan or asks. i don't there are there are enslaved people who don't know who may know about the emancipation proclamation, but don't realize the situation that
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we're in and how dire this may be. so can you talk to some people and find out how we get the word out? how do we encourage as many slaves to escape while they can and before, you know, just in case the worst happens and so the letter that you see on the screen, which is also in series one of the abraham lincoln papers is basically frederick douglass saying i've gone and talked with some people and we've come up with some general ideas and when you read the letter they really are very general ideas about let's send agents down and make sure that they keep good records and not necessarily as i was re-reading it. i was thinking, okay. so how are those agents actually getting there and who's gonna walk into and say hey, you're free. let's go, you know you and what army basically is what it amounts to but i think what's important about this letter and and obviously douglas, you know, he's thanked him for the interview that he agrees with
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lincoln. this is i think one of the times where you know, if you're doing kind of up and down charts of where douglas is with lincoln, this is hey, this guy has just suggested that we organize an effort to take slaves out of the confederacy and for a us president to do that. you know, that's that's both showing what what position he thought that he was in but also this is now frederick douglass and and abraham lincoln working together to try to get as many slaves out of the confederacy as possible. and so i think that's the most important thing about this document is is what it represents in terms of their relationship of where lincoln was of what he thought he had to do not so much what frederick this is you know council thought were a good way of sending agents into the confederacy. yeah, we often think about the emancipation proclamation as a military necessity. and the remarkable thing about this plan, which douglas likened
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to john brown. like how do you do it? it's gonna be like john brown which is ironic because hopefully with a better result with a better result. yeah and and douglas came away from this meeting with a new appreciation because this had nothing to do with military necessity for lincoln. this was about making freedom as broad and as permanent as possible before he was out of power and douglas later wrote. he said what he said on this day showed a deeper moral conviction against slavery than i had ever seen before in anything spoken or written by him and douglas said he treated me as a man. he did not let me feel for a moment that there was any difference in the color of our skins. the president is a most remarkable, man, and i love this moment as lucas said i think was lucas who said this? or no, you said michelle. this is one of the high points in their relationship one of the issues that was really contentious at the first meeting for douglas was the issue of soldier pay and then also this this confederate policy that the
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confederate said they would enslave or murder any black prisoners caught in arms against the confederacy edna. can you talk about lincoln's attitude towards the use of black soldiers how that changes over time and then also the the hurdles and the inequalities that they had to face. sure at the very beginning of the war african-americans volunteered their services. they really wanted to get into the fight because they believed that if they fought for the union for the nation as they saw it then no one could deny them the rights of full citizenship and it also proved that they were men that they were not property that they were not inferior, but they were were equal to all americans but in congress, we're not ready to have black men serve and the reason why they didn't was because they didn't want to make this a war about black people lincoln wanted the union preserved. he didn't at that point at least
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want emancipation to occur. also, he understood that by arming black men. he would lose certain states and he was very much concerned about that. but of course the war war on for much longer than lincoln and congress had anticipated and as northern white men got fed up with this long war in understandably so they didn't quite understand why black men weren't serving as well. and so lincoln and congress decided that if they were going to win the war then black men would have to be enlisted. and so it said that point that lincoln issues the emancipation of proclamation and i think it's for two reasons. it's to make certain that there that the union has enough men to fight for this cause but i think it also was an opportunity for lincoln to really get rid of the one thing that was causing the war and that was slavery by the
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time that the proclamation was issued. he understood that that was really what was causing the war and unless something was done about slavery, you know, the nation would find itself right back. was within a few years and so the emancipation proclamation does have a clause that authorizes the endlessment of black men in the army. they had already been in the navy but since the 1790s they were restricted from being in the army. the problem with with them after their enlistment was that they were not treated are equally they had been promised $10 a month, which was less than what white men at the same rank were getting in fact all black men. whatever the rack rank got the same thing $10 a month with $7. excuse me, three dollars deducted for a clothing allowance while white men were getting thirteen dollars a month
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with an additional three dollars for a clothing allowance our black men were getting broken down equipment. they were assigned to fatigue duty digging ditches in the and everything else they weren't initially allowed in the fight and black men were in the war to fight to show that they were men and so douglas was at the white house in 63 in august of 63 asking that lincoln intervene in terms of making certain that black men got equal pay and lincoln's response was i understand i agree, but you have to remember that it was hard enough just to get approval for black men to serve and so you have to be patient. this will come eventually and it did come just before the war ended and in the meantime, they were black men who simply refused to take any pay at all and that's a very serious thing
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for black men because they had families that were not supported there were some states that were supporting white families black families were not supported in the main and when i'm black man refused his pay whatever that pay was it means that his family was suffering enormously. there was also the issue of the confederacy treating captured black soldiers as if they were slaves and insurrection, so they believed that they had the right to shoot him down if they wanted to or to re-enslave them or in the instances where these people had never been slaves just to simply sell them into slavery and lincoln did respond very positive to positively to that he declared that if that policy continued he would retaliate against these confederate prisoners of war. that slowed down the process a little bit, but it didn't end it
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because keep in mind shortly thereafter. you have the port phillip or the airport of fort pillow. excuse me, four pillow incident where men under the command of nathan bedford forrest actually murdered black men and white men who were attempting to surrender. so it didn't solve the problem totally but lincoln certainly understood the value of black men to the service of the nation by august of 1863. when his friend conklin broke to him asking him to come to springfield to speak to a republican group lincoln wrote back and said he couldn't attend because the war was keeping him occupied, but he did send a letter and this is part of what the letter said looks could you hold that for me?
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this newfangled technology. i'm not sure i'm hoping to help be able. to pull this up and i'll put my specs on. thank you, lucas. just one second. i i'm always so impressed with the way he says this he says peace does not appear so distant as it did i hope it will come soon and come to stay and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. it will then have been proved that among free men. there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost and then there will be some black men who can remember that with that with silent tongue and clenched teeth and steady eye and well poised bayonet they
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have helped mankind on to a great to this great consummation while i fear there will be some white men unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech. they will have strobe to hinder it. i think these are very powerful words and it does convey what lincoln thinks of what black men are doing during this period and of course black men go on to when help to win many major battles and by the time that lincoln is writing this black men have already proven themselves because port hudson has occurred millikan's been has occurred was said morris island thing ford wagner yes ford wagner has occurred with the 54th as well. and so these are black men. who've proven themselves not only to be loyal to the union but to be brave and correct courageous and lincoln was not
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so certain that they could do that initially. in fact, he had said if we bring black men into the army, they will not be able to stand on the battlefield against their former owners. and they will run. and throw down their weapons along the way so this is a major transformation from where he was early in the war to 18 to the summer of 1863 once black men had served successfully in the union army. yeah, you know one of the earliest letters from an african-american to lincoln, that's held it the library of congress is a black new yorker who offers his services to help recruit soldiers and that is ignored in april of 1861. it's interesting. it's another letter where he's not asking for something but he's offering and this issue of pay was ubiquitous in the correspondence from african-americans. i have a whole chapter in the book of of this pay issue and then it runs throughout many other letters and for these soldiers they say, you know the
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bullets and the cannonballs have no respect of persons when it comes to who they hit and they're quoting there's this one letter. they're quoting the dred scott decision there where roger tony said that the a black man has no rights, which the white man is bound to respect and they're putting that back in lincoln to lincoln's face and saying these bullets have no respect. we we deserve equality and the letters from the mothers and the wives back home are just heart-wrenching to read you mentioned, fort pillow and i want to this will be the last question that i'll ask the panel and then we'll open it up to q&a. i want to ask michelle about this one letter that is written in the wake of fort pillow. this is at the library of congress. can you tell us about this? sure? okay, you'll have to kind of fall come follow me on this one. it's a little can be a little convoluted. so the white commander of black troops at fort pillow was major
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lionel f booth, so there were not that was another point of contention with black troops is that they were not give they were having they were under white commanders, you know, some non-commissioned officers, i think for that were african americans major line. roof was killed by a confederate sharpshooter at fort pillow along with some of his soldiers major booths widow. who is white as well went to abraham lincoln in may of may 19 1864 to advocate on behalf of the widows and children of her husband's fallen soldiers. so again, a little convoluted is what what all is happening here? so she she goes and says these vote these folks should be treated equally to any other dependent wives independent children a soldiers. so i'll read this really quickly. she's so abraham lincoln agrees with her and i'll explain a little bit once we get to the end of it and he writes an
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interletter of introduction for mrs. booth to take to charles sumner who is going to be very sympathetic to anything involving african-american rights. so his letter the other thing i want you to this and this is why it's important to have prime to have the original materials still as well as transcriptions because if you know lincoln's handwriting you'll see this is rushed handwriting. this is not carefully sitting down and thinking it this is another thing it is doing this day and it's rushed and you get a little bit of emotion in it. so it says the bearer of this is the widow of major booth who fell at fort pillow. she makes a point which i think very worthy of consideration which is widows and children in fact of colored soldiers who fall in our service be placed in law the same as if their marriages were legal so that they can have the benefit of the provisions made the widows and orphans of white soldiers. please see and hear mrs booth, you know, yours yours truly a
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lincoln and for the teachers in the group. this is a great little document to be able to unpack a lot of material in a kind of in something that your students may not know because the reason that he has to say widows and children. act is that for african-americans soldiers who had been enslaved before the war and had wives and children before the war black slave slave marriages are not legally valid. so if you are a widow of a union soldier who wants to apply for a pension for you and your soul and your children, you have to prove that you were the legitimate or the you know, the legal wife and children of that soldier, but you can't do that if your marriage was never solemnized was never made legal so you were widows and wives and children in fact, but not in law. and so this is what mrs. booth
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is pointing out that you know, essentially i can go get a pension because i've got a i've got a marriage certificate or i have it somewhere that i married lionel booth the widows of my husband's soldiers are denied that equal treatment in terms of pensions because they had nothing to be able to prove it other than the community acknowledgment that they were the wives and children and so that's the point that lincoln. making and he said i think this is a worthy point. they deserve to have the same benefits as every other, you know, widow and child of a fallen soldier but because of this legacy of slavery they are being denied it and when you start looking at the legal, you know congressional debate about some of this or the what happens in congress that same year in 1864 equal pay is starting to come up and there is a provision that for it's essentially if a
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soldier had been enslaved or it was in it wasn't in an area where legal marriages could not take place then as long as you can essentially prove community understanding and recognition that you were the wife of that soldier that will stand in as the proof that you were the wife and then you can apply for pensions. and so there's so much that's going on in there with the legacy of slavery and again kind of as as you know, professor. janey was talking about all these unanticipated things that come out of the war and i'll also mention that you know, if if you ever have a chance to do work in civil war pensions do it because there really fascinating records, but what you'll also find is that because slave marriages were not legal if a man was understood to be the husband of a woman on one plantation or one place and with soul one of the two was sold away and he or she took another
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wife after the war. sometimes you find competing widows. because they were both recognized as the you know, as wives and dependent children and not to be flippant, but you sometimes i remember sitting in the national archives thinking i can just imagine these white pension commissioners heads exploding trying to you know, just angle all of this, but they're incredibly rich records. so if you're interested in african-american history and genealogy because then they have to have people come in and give depositions and you know, oh, i remember this and and so it's a it's a wealth of information if you can do it, but it's it's also one of those legacies of slavery that hinders the equality of treatment and something that abraham lincoln was also recognizing was unfair and needed to be rectified. so all of that from that tiny little letter is is you know, it's one of those wonderful things to be able to look at and i love that when lincoln gave
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his second inaugural and he talks about him who was born the battle and for his widow and his orphan that is black widows and black orphans as well as white widows and white orphans, and you see that begin in this letter. well, we've got about 10 minutes for questions. there are mics on either in either aisle if anyone has any questions for the panel. should i start sure go right? hi eileen bradner, arlington, virginia. ah more of a comment, but i work closely with majority whip jim clyburn of south carolina in he was just telling me last week. he introduced a bill with congressman seth moulton which provides some gi benefits to
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african-american world war two veterans families. who were denied those benefits after world war two? so this is still going on. any any comments, they were denied educational and housing benefits after world war two. so whipped clyburn and congressman molten and senator warnick in the senate are trying to make amends to these families. does anyone want to come? no. well, you're mike. yes. sure. i know that some were denied benefits us some actually they were very fortunate and they were able to use those benefits. i remember my physics professor in high school who was a world war two veteran was educated because of the he received through gi bill. over here two creole letters
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that you have. yeah. that lincoln would have expanded as the creo writers had expanded in who can vote and that the 13th amendment giving the south more votes now that the three fish world and under replied would need all the black votes he can get out of them. yeah, so i i think lincoln comes to see that black voters are going to be a central to the reconstruction process lincoln all along says i'm fighting this war to prove that government of by consent works. i mean, that's what he says in the july 4th message 1861 to congress. that's what he throughout the war. now african-americans are going to be part of the people and he's only working behind the scenes beginning in march of 1864. it's not until as edna pointed out april of 1865 that he comes out publicly. you know it it's impossible to
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know how lincoln's views might have changed after his death. we just can't know but members of congress were certainly thinking about this and section three of the 14th amendment essentially tried to diminish representation of southern states in congress. if black men were not given the right to vote and essentially if the if the voting population is not what it should be then southern states lose representation in congress that didn't work. and so then they had to do the 15th amendment in 1870 to guarantee the right that the right of vote would not be denied on account of race color or previous condition of servitude. so, i don't know if that fully answers your point. but thank you. go ahead. hi, i'm ann mosley. i'm with the are for lincoln studies at the university of illinois at springfield and since you mentioned, illinois, i'm glad you brought up the black claws because i feel like in our state we don't talk about them enough and many students that go through our school system.
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are not educated on illinois black laws and that they even existed and so that's something that we're trying to bring back to actually discuss more so than people realize but my question is and i spoke to dr. morrell about this before i i came to listen to your panel and that is trying to create civil conversations with groups of individuals with diversity on campuses and asking them what they think about abraham lincoln and i actually asked the director of our diversity center on campus and asked him and he said you don't want to know my answer. um, and i said, well, i want you to feel comfortable talking to me it. and so please let me know news well, we don't believe that lincoln was the great emancipator and we feel like the emancipation proclamation proclamation didn't really do anything. so what i would like to ask our
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panelist is um in working on college campuses and dealing with the diversity issue and the comments that are coming up in regarding lincoln and his views. how do you suggest that different college campuses? speak with students about lincoln and their upbringing and how they developed their views on abraham lincoln. oh, i'll go for it. well one thing that i think that that you can do is because the great emancipator makes it sound like it's only abraham lincoln and i think it's so important that teachers or educators or people working, you know in your field. highlight how many other people were part of this that it isn't just lincoln woke up one day and said, oh, i think i'll figure the slaves today that it rick,
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you know, it was hundreds of years of people agitating to end slavery and people whose names we know and people whose names that we don't know and whites and african americans. there were a lot of people who were part of this and it also didn't end in 1865 either that it continued on that freedom. you know, you're a freedom freedom continues to evolve too. and so i think that's something that you can do in terms of you might not have had emancipit. you probably wouldn't have had emancipation during the civil war if it hadn't been for abraham lincoln, but he had to be pushed there and other people had to be brought along and and i think that's one thing that's that, you know lucas pointed to with frederick douglass as frederick douglass wasn't running for president so he could say what he felt and what he thought and that pushes things forward and lincoln can follow when he feels that it's politically, you know the ready to do it or for him. it's i can justify this on
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military necessity. so unfortunately, that is a really long conversation to have with someone. you know that it's not going to be a 30 second elevator ride, but i think if people understand that it's that there are many people as part of a long continuum of emancipation and freedom that maybe people can see lincoln's part in emancipation. not that he was responsible for it if that helps. and and if i may add they are also needs to be a broader conversation not just about lincoln, but about the civil war in general and what it was about why it occurred and what role various groups of people are playing in that war and until we are willing to sit down and talk about that. we're not going to get beyond this whole thing about whether or not lincoln was the great emancipator. we need to learn to talk to each other. my widows might to this is and
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you do know i teach at washington and that lee university. so i and and the good news is i've taught there. this is my 23rd year and i haven't been hung in effigy yet. so this is good. i bring lincoln to the land of lee i teach a seminar on lincoln every winter and so i wish i got more haters of lincoln so that it would be more interesting discussion, but i try to make it a fair fight, right we read the abolitionists. we read lincoln we read the pro confederate pro slavery side. in fact one thing i do when we get to lincoln any emancipation is point out that the answer is did lincoln free the slaves to display free themselves and the answer is and it's both and we have it from lincoln's own writing his own hand in the preliminary emancipation proclamation issued september 22nd, 1862 were announces a hundred days from now, right? he's gonna issue the emancipation proclamation depending on which portions of the country still in rebellion in that preliminary. speech republic mission, he says to the effect. i don't know the words exactly
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but in any efforts they may make for their freedom or liberation lincoln actually is inviting the enslaved to escape here's the thing. but for his army and navy in his authority as president of the united states that escape would be fruitless. it would be fruitless proof frederick douglass publishes his autobiography the first the narrative in 1845. do you know how long he's in the united states before he has to leave? a few months. why does he have to leave the united states? because he's a fugitive. he's an escape slave and now he's announced. he's an escape slave and his legal master back in maryland is not happy. frederick douglass may have translocated himself. he may have physically fled his legal owner but in the eyes of
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the law, he's an outlaw. he's outside of the law's protection. he goes to the united kingdom and for two years. he's there giving speeches selling copies of his autobiography and it's not until friends of his on both sides of the pond pay 150 pounds sterling 700 and some odd dollars in american cash. it's not until in the eyes of the law. he has been manated is he able to return to the united states in 1847 and live as a free man now, there's still a fugitive slave act, of course and in 1850, it makes it incredibly difficult for a free black person to be secure in his freedom for all the reasons we know but the point is you need the law. you need the government to do its job and so it's both lincoln as the great emancipator making it a part of the effort and as he puts it in the emancipation proclamation and act of justice so you have to have the action and the initiative of the
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enslaved. liberating themselves physically, but you also had to have the union army or navy after all and alan gelso does a great job of this in lincoln's emancipation proclamation his book where he talks about the emancipation proclamation the first chapter begins with the story about a slave who steals a boat. and rose his way to freedom because he has heard that lincoln's been elected. this is well before the emancipation proclamation, but he has some strange notion that this guy not james buchanan. but this new guy this new political party is on the side of the slave now. he's a couple of years ahead of the process, but but i'm showing you that it's got to be both for to happen. we are out of time, but please join me in thanking our panel.


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