Readings and links on Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln for the research review.

Douglass, Frederick.  “Learning to Read and Write.”

Douglass, Frederick.  “Secession and War,” in which he recounts advising President Lincoln during the war on recruiting for the African-American brigades.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the famous 54th Massachusetts Brigade

Here’s the lecture of Professor Edna Greene Medford on Abraham Lincoln

Video: What is a virus? Virus as distinguished from bacteria.

This may be useful.  Knowledge is power.

Please reflect upon this information.  Does it change your thought process on the current health crisis?  What other sources of information can you pursue?

Research as inquiry means finding what you need to know to stay healthy and prosper.

Cheyenne T. writes about Lincoln, Hannah-Jones, and Professor Medford’s lecture.

“After viewing (Professor Medford’s lecture on video), it didn’t really change my viewing of Wilentz but it did make me look more closely into Hannah Jones’ writing in the “The 1619 Project”. In her writing, she holds Thomas Jefferson and James Madison accountable for their actions in the wrong treatment of African Americans but she also makes a point about Abraham Lincoln. She finds him guilty because within his proclamation he allowed ex slaves to join the union army and fight against their former owners. In her writing, she states, He believed that free black people were a ‘‘troublesome presence’’ incompatible with a democracy intended only for white people“. In this section of her writing, she goes into Lincoln’s actions to invite these former slaves and inform them that he was able to get congress to acquire funds to ship black people once freed to a whole other country. This doesn’t add up. Why would President Lincoln insist they fight in a war for their freedom in America just to be shipped to another country for their efforts? Knowing this, it made me question Professor Medford’s statement when she says that Lincoln did not want to originally include black men in the military because they wouldn’t be strong enough to stand up against their former owners on the battlefield. She then states “He found out very quickly that black men were anything but cowards and that they were spoiling for a fight”. I think he was very disappointed in what America has become and he knew that even with time African Americans will still be wrongly treated within America but he wanted to ensure that equality was written truthfully within the lines of the constitution.”

Perhaps this is what Wilentz means about the “relentless unforeseen.”  Despite Lincoln’s fear that free African Americans would never get along with whites in the U.S. after the Civil war, because whites would not accept them, once he took the action to free the slaves in the south during the war and at the same time started the African American brigades in the union army, inviting them to join these brigades, even though he didn’t know it at the time, full citizenship for African Americans would be necessary in the U.S. and perhaps he came to recognize this before he was assassinated.

The point is, once you have the African American military troops, the demand for citizenship and equality is unstoppable. No, it didn’t come immediately; there was continued debate before the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments; and after the 1865-1877 reconstruction period, the south reverted to a racist Jim Crow society.  Nevertheless the idea of asking the U.S. army veterans of the African-American brigades to leave the U.S. after the war was obviously untenable and in fact impossible.  Which is what happened.  They had no intention of leaving and stayed and continued to demand equal rights.

We do not know what is going to happen in the future.  But we must fight for our ideals and what we believe is right.

So for Hannah-Jones to just say that Lincoln didn’t believe in equality does not tell the whole story. Perhaps at one point he didn’t.  Professor Medford in her lecture says he changed his view during this time.

Perhaps it isn’t so much what a person or some people believe, but what we do to change the laws to create a more just society.

The main disagreement between Hannah-Jones and Wilentz

Hannah-Jones and Wilentz


Hannah-Jones, p 18.

Yet in making the argument against Britain’s tyranny, one of the colonists’ favorite rhetorical devices was to claim that they were the slaves — to Britain. For this duplicity, they faced burning criticism both at home and abroad. As Samuel Johnson, an English writer and Tory opposed to American independence, quipped, ‘‘How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?’’

Here Hannah-Jones criticizes the 1776 founders for claiming they themselves were slaves to the English king; meanwhile they either held African slaves themselves or allowed others (the Southern planter class) to hold slaves.

Yes, this was hypocritical, and it seems that those in this 1776 period were aware of it.

On the other hand, we can also see that there was no simple way in 1776 the break away colonists could have simply abolished slavery at this point. The southern colonies were committed to this economic method of agricultural production. So what did they do? Were they concerned with the injustice of slavery as the first priority? No. They weren’t. Should they have? Perhaps.

Does this make it true that the U.S. was founded on the basis of racism?

Wilentz says that at the time, the people in 1776 did not know what the future would be. This is the “relentless unforeseen.” His article discusses the abolition movement in the 1776 period. He claims that the U.S. revolutionary period was part of and perhaps the major movement towards abolition of slavery.

More and more in these pessimistic times, we are learning once again, and with a sense of justice, that the United States and its past are rooted in vicious racial slavery and the lasting inequities that are slavery’s legacy. We learn too little or not at all that the United States and its past are also rooted in the struggle against slavery, and in the larger revolutionary transformation of moral perception that produced that struggle. (Wilentz p.3)

the United States was defined, from the start, neither by American slavery alone nor by American antislavery but in their conflict (p.4)


But to those who believe that the United States was based on racism at the beginning and has always been racist and always will be,

Slavery, in this view, wasn’t simply an important part of American society at the founding and after; it defined a nation born in oppression and bad faith. While this view acknowledges the ideals of equality proclaimed by Jefferson and others, it regards them as hollow. Even after slavery ended, the racism that justified slavery persisted, not just as an aspect of American life but at its very core. (Wilentz p.5)

this (view) is vulnerable to an easy cynicism. Once slavery’s enormity is understood, as it should be, not as a temporary flaw but as an essential fact of American history, it can make the birth of the American republic and the subsequent rise of American democracy look as nothing more than the vindication of glittering generalities about freedom and equality founded on the oppression of blacks, enslaved and free, as well as the expropriation and slaughter of Native Americans. It can resemble, ironically, the reactionary proslavery insistence that the egalitarian self-evident truths of the Declaration were self-evident lies. (Wilentz, p.5)

Some of that cynicism is on display in The New York Times Magazine’s recently launched 1619 Project, enough to give ammunition to hostile critics who would discredit or minimize the entire enterprise of understanding America’s history of slavery and antislavery. (Wilentz p.5)

So this is the big difference between Hannah-Jones and Wilentz. Wilentz points out there was a significant anti-slavery mentality in the 1776 period. To just sweep that away, or dismiss it as hypocrisy, is unfair. It also tends to agree with the southern pro-slavery view, later the confederate belief system, which openly argued for slavery of an inferior race. The confederacy claimed that the true United States was a racist one.

“Selma” (2014)

“Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” (Wikipedia)