Stop Denigrating Abraham Lincoln!
Anti-racist writers race the SF Board of Ed & Neo-Confederates for gold in the silly stakes
I’m writing in response to an article by one of Medium’s best and most prolific anti-racist authors, and also the growing tendency of progressives in general to downplay Lincoln’s contributions to the liberation of slaves. The Medium article argued Lincoln wasn’t a white savior. Why the qualifier? We know he was white. It must be that he wasn’t a savior. Along with other recent anti-racist screeds, the article in question echoes decades of Lost Cause narrative:
The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t affect most slaves; Lincoln had gone on the record in his debate with Stephen Douglas arguing negroes weren’t entitled to complete equality with whites; he wrote to Horace Greeley that to maintain the Union he would free none of the slaves, and he advocated colonization for free men and women because, obviously, he believed them unworthy to partake in American life as free citizens.
In response to that Medium article, one prominent anti-racist writer opined that Lincoln also had no part in passing the 13th amendment, which freed all slaves, because he died before its passage. Said author went on, in an article of his own, to imply that John Wilkes Booth is a greater hero to US blacks because had Lincoln lived he would have denuded the country of black folks.
That’s a fair bit of de-contextualized wrongness to unpack here.
People tire of the white savior motif.
Professor Henry Louis Gate, Jr., for one, has done a great job demonstrating that much of the heavy lifting for the Underground Railroad was done by free blacks and escaped slaves, a significant departure from the usual image of benevolent whites.
Yet the fact remains that Abraham Lincoln’s primary and indispensable contribution to the demise of slavery was understanding that nothing, nothing positive happens for the slave unless the Union remains whole. Many prominent abolitionists such as William Lloyd…