A Clash of Images:
Great Egalitarian or Hard-Core Racist?
INTERPRETING THE THOUGHT and actions of Abraham Lincoln is a difficult enterprise. Ambiguities and contradictions abound. W. E. B. Du Bois, the greatest of African American intellectuals, made some references to Lincoln in the early twentieth century that provide a good introduction to an assessment of his ideas and actions relative to slavery and race. As late as 1913, Du Bois seems to have shared the hagiographic view of the Great Emancipator common to African Americans in this period. In his pageant The Star of Ethiopia, performed in that year to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation, Du Bois portrayed Abraham Lincoln as the great man who freed African