Lincoln the Racist
(Or: Steven Spielberg, Call Your Office)
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
"Who freed the slaves? To the extent that they were ever ‘freed,’ they were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment, which was authored and pressured into existence not by Lincoln but by the great emancipators nobody knows, the abolitionists and congressional leaders who created the climate and generated the pressure that goaded, prodded, drove, forced Lincoln into glory by associating him with a policy that he adamantly opposed for at least fifty-four of his fifty-six years of his life."
Lerone Bennett, Jr., Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’ s White Dream, p. 19
Let me introduce you to Lerone Bennett, Jr. who was the executive editor of Ebony magazine for several decades (beginning in 1958) and the author of many books, including a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King) and Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream. Bennett is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta and authored hundreds of articles on African-American history and culture during his career at Ebony. He spent more than twenty years researching and writing Forced into Glory, a scathing critique of Abraham Lincoln based on mountains of truths.
Forced into Glory, published in 2000, was mostly ignored by the Lincoln cult, although there were a few timid "reviews" by reviewers that have never done one-thousandth of the research that Lerone Bennett did on the subject. As a black man, he was spared the mantra of being "linked to extremist hate groups" by the lily-white leftists at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the preeminent hate group of the hardcore Left. He was also spared that hate group’s normally automatic insinuation that any critic of Lincoln must secretly wish that slavery had never ended. They mostly sat back and hoped that he would go away.
Lerone Bennett, Jr. contends that it is almost impossible for the average citizen to know much of anything about Lincoln despite the fact that literally thousands of books have been written about him. "A century of lies" is how he describes Lincoln "scholarship." He provides thousands of documented facts to make his case.
On the subject of Steven Spielberg’s new movie on Lincoln, which is entirely about Lincoln’s supposed role in lobbying for the Thirteenth Amendment that ended slavery, Bennett points out: "There is a pleasant fiction that Lincoln . . . became a flaming advocate of the amendment and used the power of his office to buy votes to ensure its passage. There is no evidence, as David H. Donald has noted, to support that fiction . . ." To the extent that Lincoln did finally and hesitatingly support the amendment, Bennett argues that it was he who was literally forced into it by other politicians, not the other way around as portrayed in the Spielberg film. (David Donald, by the way, is the preeminent Lincoln scholar of our day and Pulitzer prize-winning Lincoln biographer).
On the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation, Bennett correctly points out that "J.G. Randall, who has been called ‘the greatest Lincoln scholar of all time,’ said the Proclamation itself did not free a single slave" since it only applied to rebel territory and specifically exempted areas of the U.S. such as the entire state of West Virginia where the U.S. Army was in control at the time. (James G. Randall was indeed the most prolific Lincoln scholar of all time and the academic mentor of David Donald at the University of Illinois).
Lerone Bennett is understandably outraged at how the Lincoln cult has covered up Lincoln’s racism for over a century, pretending that he was not a man of his time. He quotes Lincoln as saying in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in Ottawa, Illinois, for example, that he denied "to set the niggers and white people to marrying together" (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 3, p. 20). In Forced into Glory Bennett shows that Lincoln rather compulsively used the N-word; was a huge fan of "black face" minstrel shows; was famous for his racist jokes; and that many of his White House appointees were shocked at his racist language.
Lincoln did not hesitate to broadcast his racist views publicly, either. Bennett quotes his speech during a debate with Douglas in Charleston, Illinois on September 18, 1858 (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 3, pp. 145-146):
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the 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."
Bennett documents that Lincoln stated publicly that "America was made for the White people and not for the Negroes" (p. 211), and "at least twenty-one times, he said publicly that he was opposed to equal rights for Blacks." "What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races," said Lincoln (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, p. 521).
Reading through Forced into Glory, one gets the clear impression that Bennett got angrier and angrier at the non-stop excuse-making, lying, cover-ups, and fabrications of the "Lincoln scholars." He never takes his eye of the ball, however, and is relentless in throwing facts in the faces of the Lincoln cultists.
As a member of the Illinois legislature Lincoln urged the legislature "to appropriate money for colonization in order to remove Negroes from the state and prevent miscegenation" (p. 228). As president, Lincoln toiled endlessly with plans to "colonize" (i.e., deport) all of the black people out of America. This is what Bennett calls Lincoln’s "White Dream," and more recent research of the very best caliber supports him. I refer to the book Colonization after Emancipation by Phillip Magness of American University and Sebastian Page of Oxford University that, using records from the American and British national archives, proves that until his dying day Lincoln was negotiating with Great Britain and other foreign governments to deport all of the soon-to-be-freed slaves out of the U.S.
The Lincoln cult, which has fabricated excuses for everything, argued for years that Lincoln mysteriously abandoned his obsession with "colonization" sometime around 1863. Magness and Page prove this to be the nonsense that it is.
In Illinois, the state constitution was amended in 1848 to prohibit free black people from residing in the state. Lincoln supported it. He also supported the Illinois Black Codes, under which "Illinois Blacks had no legal rights. White people were bound to respect." "None of this disturbed Lincoln," writes Bennett.
Bennett also points out the clear historical fact that Lincoln strongly supported the Fugitive Slave Act which forced Northerners to hunt down runaway slaves and return them to their owners. He admittedly never said a word about slavery in public until he was in his fifties, while everyone else in the nation was screaming about the issue. When he did oppose slavery, Bennett points out, it was always in the abstract, accompanied by some statement to the effect that he didn’t know what could be done about it. And as a presidential candidate he never opposed Southern slavery, only the extension of slavery into the territories, explaining that "we" wanted to preserve the Territories "for free White people" (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 3, p. 311). In Bennett’s own words: "One must never forget that Lincoln always spoke in tongues or in a private code when he was talking about slavery or Negroes. And although he said or seemed to say that slavery was wrong, he always qualified the assertion in the same speech or in a succeeding speech, saying either that slavery was wrong in an abstract sense or that it was wrong in so far as it sought to spread itself." He was a master politician, after all, which as Murray Rothbard once said, means that he was a masterful liar, conniver, and manipulator.
All of these truths, and many more, have been ignored, swept under the rug, or buried under thousands of pages of excuses by the Lincoln cult over the past century and more in books and in films like the new Lincoln film by Steven Spielberg. After spending a quarter of a century researching and writing on the subject, Lerone Bennett, Jr. concluded that "Lincoln is theology, not historiology. He is a faith, he is a church, he is a religion, and he has his own priests and acolytes, most of whom have a vested interest in ‘the great emancipator’ and who are passionately opposed to anybody telling the truth about him" (p. 114). And "with rare exceptions, you can’t believe what any major Lincoln scholar tells you about Abraham Lincoln and race." Amen, Brother Lerone.
November 10, 2012
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today. His latest book is Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government.