Abraham Lincoln

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'Ere the sun sets on this day, I did not want it to be said that not one son of Africa had stopped to acknowledge the contribution of Abraham Lincoln to our status, as freedmen and freedwomen.

There was a time, a far less cynical time, when Africans in America rejoiced at the mention of Lincoln's name. That's why there are so many Lincoln High Schools all over America, not to mention two Lincoln Universities, one in Pennsylvania, one in Missouri--all dedicated to the education of Africans in America.

However, ever since the early to mid-sixties, when historians like Lerone Bennett, Jr., began to raise questions in Ebony Magazine like "Was Lincoln A Racist"? We have been ambivalent about Lincoln. Some are downright hostile to Lincoln. Bennett's most recent book, for examples: Force into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream (Johnson Publishing, 2000).

Not me. I understand Lincoln's statesmanship. Lincoln was a man who did all he could to avoid regurgitating the American Dilemma: us. Forgive the crudeness of the metaphor, but I 'spect we've all been there. Accordingly, its use seals a sensation that Lincoln felt, as President of a nation about to spit out the children of Ham onto the newly-freed shores of North America. "And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." Jonah 2:10.

Lincoln led a nation ripped by Civil War, as a consequence of which he lost his own life. I'm sure he saw it coming. The death threats on his life were as heavy as those on the life of Dr. M.. L. King, and as a prophetic as those on the life of Christ. At any cost, at all costs, Lincoln wanted to avoid Civil War. He tried everything, including issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, giving the South 90 days to rejoin the Union, before he "freed" the slaves in the rebellious states. They not only thumbed their noses, but they wagged their tails. They fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, so contemptuous were the slaveholders. I mean, what's a President to do?

Some say that Lincoln, in his heart, was an imperfect man. Which of his traducers' hearts is perfect, I ask? There is a scripture that addresses this:

"And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart." 2 Chronicles 25:2.

That's the point! So long as Lincoln did that which was right in ther sight of the Lord, the rest is surfeit. Irrelevant. So, don't be tricked. Don't let these folks lump Lincoln together with Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and those other slaveholders, under the benign rubric "All Presidents' Day." Lincoln's day is special, Lincoln's day is sacred unto us. At least it ought to be, as it was to our forebears. Our sinecured cynicism should not rob us of our traditional notions of grace and gratitutde.

I, for one, applaud Lincoln, and with it his memory, on this his day.

Rev. Dr. Larry D. Coleman

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2003


Bravo, bravo, bravo!!! Many thanks Parson Coleman for a brilliant tribute to the greatest American President in the history of this country, Abe Lincoln. Lincoln is indisputably the greatest President simply because he provided the Presidential leadership during the worst crisis this country has ever faced, The Civil War. There was a time when all kids had to memorize Lincoln's epic Gettysburg Address but as pop icon Bob Dylan rightly noted, the times they are a- changing. Although Lincoln was ambivalent about freeing slaves to restore the Union, the fact that he DID proved to be the single most important act towards blacks in America receiving the full benefits of freedom, citizenship and suffrage. Revisionist historians like Lerone Bennett create unnecessary intelllectual mischief by devaluing Lincoln's historic accomplishments. Yet the very same disciples of Bennett's scholarship (Toni Morrison, Harry Belafonte, Tavis Smiley) will pontificate endlessly at private dinner parties, exclusive receptions and college lecture halls about the enormous contributions of America's first and only "black" President, gasp, Bill Clinton. Sometimes there is seemingly no limit to our misunderstanding of history and politics. QED

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2003

Shown below is an exerpt from Bishop Payne's autobiography on meeting President Lincoln.

'On Friday afternoon, April 11, 1862, Congress passed the bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. The following Monday night I called on President Lincoln to know if he intended to sign the bill of emancipation, and thereby exterminate slavery in the District of Columbia? Having been previously informed of my intention to interview him, and having on my arrival at the White House sent in my card, he met me at the door of the room in which he and Senator Washburn were conversing. Taking me by the hand, he said: "Bishop Payne, of the African M. E. Church?" I answered in the affirmative; so with my hand in his he led me to the fire-place, introduced me to Senator Washburn, and seated me in an armchair between himself and the Senator. At that moment Senator Carl Schurz entered the room and seated himself on the right of Senator Washburn. With these preliminaries, I will now state the substance of our conversation. I said: "I am here to learn whether or not you intend to sign the bill of emancipation?" He answered and said: "There was a company of gentlemen here to-day requesting me by no means to sign it." To which Senator Schurz replied: "But, Mr. President, there will be a committee to beg that you fail not to sign it; for all Europe is looking to see that you fail not." Then said I: "Mr. President, you will remember that on the eve of your departure from Springfield, Ill., you begged the citizens of the republic to pray for you." He said, "Yes." Said I: "From that moment we, the colored citizens of the republic, have been praying: 'O Lord just as thou didst cause the throne of David to wax stronger and stronger, while that of Saul should wax weaker and weaker, so we beseech thee cause the power at Washington to grow stronger and stronger, while that at Richmond shall grow weaker and weaker.' " Slightly bending his head, the President said: "Well, I must believe that God has led me thus far, for I am conscious that I never would have accomplished what has been done if he had not been with me to counsel and to shield." But neither Carl Schurz nor I could induce him to say "Yes" or "No" to our direct question.

'I had now consumed about three-quarters of an hour of his time, and felt that it was my duty to withdraw. So, putting into his hand copies of the Christian Recorder and our monthly magazine, I told him that if he could find a leisure moment to look over them he would be able to see what the A. M. E. Church was doing to improve the character and condition of our people in the republic. There was nothing stiff or formal in the air and manner of His Excellency-- nothing egotistic. He was a perfect contrast with President Tyler, to whom a friend introduced me in the White House, and in whose private parlor in the presidential mansion I had been invited to preach a funeral sermon over the corpse of his body-servant, who, with several of the Cabinet, was killed by an explosion of a gun on one of the war- ships. President Lincoln received and conversed with me as though I had been one of his intimate acquaintances or one of his friendly neighbors. I left him with a profound sense of his real greatness and of his fitness to rule a nation composed of almost all the races on the face of the globe.'

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2003

Rev Coleman and Ms. Brooks:

I sincerely appreciate your love for the man to whom you credit as your emancipator. I truly appreciated the words of Daniel Payne as reported by Ms. Brooks. Therefore it pains me to say to both of you Y'all been duped again.

Let's look at the words of You-all's great White Father

"My paramount object in this struggle to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would it; and I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."

Abraham "I Freed The Slaves" Lincoln 1862 Response to Horace Greeley in The American Tradition in Literature Vol 1 Bradley, Beatty and Long, editors (New York: W. W. Norton, 1962) p. 1567.

But just in case the good Rev. Dr. and Ms. Brooks still have doubts about Mr. Lincoln's sincerity with regard to the mission of this "great" man here's more:

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 black and white 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 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.

Qutoed in Charles Silberman, Crisis in Black and White (New York: Random House, 1964) p. 92-93

I am not quite so sure I agree that the Lord was on Abe's mind when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. He was just an Angry White Man trying to get back at other Angry White Men. God and God alone worked this situation out for Black people. And I for one am not about to hold ABE in any higher esteem than I hold any other president.

But you two go ahead and remain forever duped

-- Anonymous, February 17, 2003

Mr. Gibson:

I acknowledge and appreciate your well-reasoned response, even if being referred to as a "dupe" is somewhat less than flattering. Regardless, I charge it to your head, and not your heart. I also credit you for being gracious enough to cite quotations from Lincoln, which reinforce your view of him as a white supremacist.

Having said all of that, nothing that you have said, like nothing Lincoln said, can alter the fact that he DID issue the Emancipation Proclamation; that he DID free the slaves in the District of Columbia, prior to issuing the Emancipation Proclamation; that he DID, however reluctantly, wisely allow black troops to join the battle, which decision was decisive in the victory of the North.

Of course, he also DID give his life, in the hallowed cause that culminated in "our"--perhaps not your-- freedom, just five (5) days after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. No other president DID that, Sir, I assure you.

I further note, in closing, that "our," perhaps not "your," forebears were almost universally favorable in their assessment of Lincoln. Perhaps, they too were "dupes". Maybe, Mr. Gibson, anyone who does not agree with you is a "dupe."

That would be tragic. For your scholarship would make it appear that yours is a spirit worthy of redemption, not one lost in the fog of self-righteous omniscience.

I lift you in prayer.

Rev. Dr. Larry D. Coleman

-- Anonymous, February 20, 2003

Dear Mr. Gibson:

I read your entry and your comments are somewhat of a mystery to me. First, let me state, I never made any statement regarding my feelings toward President Lincoln. I simply entered a statement made by Bishop Payne from his autobiography. Those were Payne’s words not mine.

But since you found the need to respond to my entry based on Bishop Payne’s comments, I feel the need to express my sentiments. I am always moved when I see God work through men. It is humbling to know that God can take an imperfect man, with human frailty and move him to great works, in spite of himself. During Lincoln’s time, as you know, blacks were considered property, not men. The politicians did nothing to alleviate the suffering of its enslaved population or the free black population, including Lincoln. The North and the South grew rich from black labor. Most Americans knew in their hearts slavery was wrong, even though they tried to justify it. Thomas Jefferson understood there would be a time when America would pay with blood for the suffering of bonded Africans. He wrote “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. His justice cannot sleep forever.”

While American politicians debated the role of its blacks with various political compromises and Supreme Court decisions, God was working in the heart of an imperfect man. A man who believed that slavery was immoral, but who was not an abolitionist nor believed in the equality of the races. It was his goal to preserve the union and not free the slaves. In his first inaugural speech he stated the slavery issue will be left alone in the slave states. Even then, once he assumed the presidency the southern states seceded from the union. He was forced into war when the south fired on Fort Sumter. What amazes me most, that during this time is how God moved and used Lincoln to advance His will. The country was engaged in a civil war, the North was losing, Lincoln’s family life was not the greatest, and two of his children die from illness. God continued to work on this man and refused to leave him alone. Like the potter and the clay, God beats him, softens him up and molds him into His will and not the will of greedy men.

During this time, in his speeches you see movement in Lincoln’s position. He states, “If Negroes stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the strongest motive-even the promise of freedom. There have been men who have proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson. I should be damned in time and eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends and enemies, come what will.” Later, he writes, “Both sides read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.” Towards the end of his term he writes, “Fondly do we hope… fervently do we pray…that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God will that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3000 years ago, so still it must be said the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.” Lincoln met with wonderful black men such as Bishop Payne and Frederick Douglas and I am convinced God used these men to influence a president of the United States. I will not judge Lincoln because only God can do that. As stated before, I stand in awe of God and how he works in the lives of ordinary people. I love stories where men allow themselves to be moved by the Creator. God judges the man. I just like to watch Him work. He is beautiful!

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2003

Mighty fine rebuttals by Parson Coleman and Sister Brooks. Might fine indeed! Brother Harold's spicy wit and rhetoric always makes for good discussion. Consider the following from America's 20th century legendary folk humorist, Will Rogers - "Ohio claims they are due a President as they haven't had one since Taft. Look at the US, they haven't had one since Lincoln". Just a little levity to help us all cope with reality. QED

-- Anonymous, February 22, 2003

To the Rev. Dr. Coleman and to Ms. Brooks:

I certainly did not intend any insult to anyone in using the word dupe. The Oxford dictionary defines dupe as "a victim of deception."

Many of us are victims of deception when it comes to American History. While I concede nothing with regard to my position on Abraham Lincoln, I would continue to argue that Lincoln's action on behalf of the Black slaves was politically motivated by an element in the republican party in his day that stridently abolitionist.

I can see this type of discussion in another 100 or so years with our children holding up Ronald Reagan as a wonderful president because he signed the bill creating the holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That signing does not negate the actions that President Reagan took that significantly impacted affirmative action gains and has set the stage for the further reductions that have come.

When I use the word "dupe" it is not in ridicule for we all have been "duped" by our desire to truly believe in the American ideal. I might be wrong but I think it was Sojourner Truth who once said that she loved America but America did not love her.

We too love America, but time and time again America has not loved us. So Pastor Coleman and Sis. Brooks I applaud your efforts to recognize the actions of an outstanding politician and I applaud your keen observations that we as people of African descent benefitted from the "fallout" But look at Sister Brooks' original post carefully. Bishop Payne did not receive a direct answer from Lincoln and many of still do not receive direct answers from our elected officials when it comes to the issues that are important to us.

I thank you Pastor Coleman for your sincere prayers for my strength in the Lord. I refuse to believe that your intentions are anything other than sincere and I hope that in your prayers you would lift up all of us that none of us may be victims of deception.

I apologize for my usage of the word "dupe" I understand clearly how my usage may have appeared to disparge you. It is never my desire to depreciate or belittle any of my brothers and sisters who engage in discussion on this site and it is my ferverent prayer that you will forgive this trespass on my behalf.

Blessings and Peace.

-- Anonymous, February 24, 2003

The signs of a just man are honesty and humility. Brother Harold's clarification and apology represents a model mea culpa. QED

-- Anonymous, February 24, 2003

Brother Harold:

Not only do I wholly accept your apology for the unfortunate use of the word "dupe," I thank you for enirching the debate, for contributing to the "roil of the river," as Vincent Harding would say. Moreover, if, in my terrible and swift retort, I have offended you, my brother, I also most humbly apologize.

Let us continue to edify, encourage and lift up each other and one another in Jesus' name.

Rev. Dr. Larry D. Coleman

-- Anonymous, February 24, 2003

honest abe rox!!!!!!!!!!!!*he is the man who freed the African Americans! ~thank you for listening~

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2003

I am so glad that one day the Son of Man will be exalted. If you think ol honest abe freed the African Americans he needs to come back again and free them from the plague of AIDS, Discrimination, White Racism, Unemployment, Drugs, Crime and the rest of the ills that plague our community. This is the problem with saying that Lincoln freed the slaves. Yes, he signed the paper but when he freed the slaves he opened the door to Jim Crow and second class citizenship of which he was a staunch supporter. By the way did he promise the 40 acres and a mule. If so show me the money.

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2003

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