Lerone Bennett, Jr., Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream

Article excerpt

I would urge all who have enjoyed Lerone Bennett's masterful text, Before the Mayflower, to read his new book, Forced Into Glory, which deals with the presidency and life of the "Great Emancipator", Abraham Lincoln. Forced Into Glory is a work of true scholarship which exposes a myth which has been cleverly concealed by well-meaning white scholars over the past century. Bennett reveals another side of one of America's most revered Presidents. He describes Lincoln's continuing support of "Black Codes" during Lincoln's legislative career in Illinois and the path he took, beginning in 1836, when he gave his support to the taxation of Blacks to pay for White schools, until 1855 when he led a movement to start a Black separate school in Springfield. Bennett points out that in 1849 Lincoln voted against an anti-slave trade resolution in the Congress and notes Lincoln's active support of the oppressive 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. Bennett also tells of Lincoln's call, in 1852, for compensated emancipation and the deportation of all Blacks in a draft of a Constitutional Amendment

The author tells us that in 1854, and again in 1860, Lincoln contended that the Negro race was inferior to the White race, and in 1858 he confessed that slavery had always been a "minor question" to him until the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act which produced "Bleeding Kansas." Bennett also describes Lincoln's hatred of miscegenation, or "Amalgamation" as he called it.

On September 18, 1858 in Charleston, Illinois, Lincoln told a cheering audience, "I'll say then that I am not now, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about, in any way, the social and political equality of the White and Black races...nor of making voters or jurors of them or qualifying them to hold office, nor to have them intermarry with White people...I will say, in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the White and Black races which I believe will forever forbid the two from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any White man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race."

Bennett points out that between 1854 and 1860 Lincoln said publicly, at least twice that America was made for White people and not for the Negroes, and eight times that he was in favor of White Supremacy and twenty times that he was opposed to equal rights for Blacks.

During his Presidency, Lincoln addressed African-Americans (with the possible exception of Frederick Douglass) as "boy" and autographed a picture for a Black heroine, "To Aunty Sojourner Truth", after her visit.

In 1862, Lincoln remained terrified of the idea of freeing four million Blacks who might "amalgamate" with Whites though flagrant miscegenation. Lincoln also feared the prospect of economic competition from a group who possessed more skills than poor Whites, and that job competition might become violent. Also at this time the border states rejected his plan of the government compensating slaveholders and deporting their freed slaves. Bennett also points out that most of Lincoln's generals (80 out of 110 Brigadier Generals) were from the Democratic Party who hated slaves and admired slaveholders and had no special inclination to attack them.

On July 22, 1862, Lincoln was supposed to give the Proclamation of Enforcement speech but lost his nerve and on the 28th he finally gave it, mainly to further explain the Confiscation Act. He neglected to mention the section of the Emancipation which did not free some slaves from Confederate territory that was under Union control. Secretary Chase noted that the Emancipation Proclamation was not even mentioned in any Cabinet meetings during the six weeks or so after late July.

However, in two "State of the Union" addresses, and in the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln did call for the deportation of Blacks and on another occasions called for their colonization. …