tv Abraham Lincoln African Americans CSPAN March 30, 2018 11:15am-12:12pm EDT
it's a human rights issue. >> and an issue that's very important to me is climate change. the notion that we're the only country in the world that is no, sir in the paris climate accords is a travesty. every other country in the world has recognized the detrimental impacts of climate change and has taken steps to address it. and currently, we have not stayed on course with the other countries. >> we are the richest nation in the world. yet we have citizens who go bankrupt trying to cover basic health care costs. and i think that is an outrage. and that we should be ashamed. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's "q & a." american history tv was recently at ford's theatre in washington, d.c., for the 21st annual symposium hosted by the abraham lincoln institute, and ford's theatre society. next, michael burlingame, author of "abraham lincoln: a life." he talks about the treatment of
african-americans and those he met during his travels. this is about 50 minutes. >> my name is gordon lightner. on the board of the abraham lincoln institute. and i am also very much an admirer of the scholarly works of our next speaker. michael burlingame holds the chancellor naomi b. lynn, distinguished chair at the university of illinois springfield, where he joined the faculty in 2009 after teaching for 33 years at connecticut college in new london. he was born and raised in washington, d.c., he wouldn't give me the exact date. but he did say it was slightly after the famously unfortunate event in this theatre. he is a graduate of princeton and johns hopkins universities. both of which he studied under david herbert donald.
his books include "abraham lincoln: a life." also known as "the green monster." [ laughter ] "the inner world of abraham lincoln." also called "shrinking lincoln." "lincoln and the civil war" and a dozen volumes of lincoln-related primary source materials, among them the diary of john hay, and the memoirs of stoddard, white house secretary. later this spring, southern illinois university press will publish michael's next book. which is entitled, "16th president in waiting: the springfield dispatches of henry villard 1860 to 1861." and there's more. he's also working on a book about the lynn consequencincoln and another about lincoln and
african-americans. last but not least, michael is not only a prolific researcher and writer, but he is a very flexible guy, as well. for those of you that have not heard, michael was kind enough to volunteer to take richard carwadine's place today, when he had to make a last-minute cancellation. so please join me now in a he t heartfelt thank you and welcome to dr. michael burlingame. [ applause ] >> well, good morning. it's still morning. okay. that reference to my age, i don't mean to joke about my age. i'm 76. but i prefer to think of it as 24 celsius. [ laughter ] feel free to use that.
i stole it from tom lehrer. about professor carwadine, he gave a speech on lincoln's humor, based on his book, which won the book prize of the organization for this year. he gave a speech in the holy land, that is springfield. [ laughter ] on the high holy days. that is february 12th. at the banquet of the abraham lincoln association. and that is on the website. you can see a video of it on the abraham lincoln association website, which i commend your attention. he is a very learned and very droll speaker. so i'm very sorry he can't be with us today. and i'll do my best to birpincht as best i can. now, writers on lincoln and race seldom focus on his relations with individual african-americans, or with groups of them, such as callers at white house receptions.
one who has done so, one scholar, is professor kate masseur of northwestern university, who recently concluded that lincoln, as president, quote, evidently did not take a strong stand for admitting them, that is african-americans, to more social occasions such as public receptions and new years day levies. now, a close examination of those receptions and levies reveals that lincoln sought to lift the racial ban, but encountered opposition from his spouse. now, in 1901, president theodore roosevelt famously sparked an outcry when he invited a black man, booker t. washington, to a white house dinner. a generation earlier, lincoln, less famously, created a similar outcry when he received african-americans at the executive mansion.
the best-known episode of the color line enforcement at lincoln's white house is the experience that frederick douglas had on march 4th, 1865. later, douglas memobly described how guards denied entrance to the reception on the second inauguration. how the president at once overruled the guards and how he hardly welcomed the famed black orator. and said, i saw you in the audience as i delivered my address. what did you think of it? and i have this fantasy that douglas was thinking, well, actually, mr. president, the biblical illusion you used was slightly miss applied and your syntax garbled toward the end. actually, he said, mr. president, it was a sacred effort.
though douglas did not mention in his account of that event, the presence of other blacks at the 1865 post inauguration levy was noted in the press. indicating that some other black people were admitted to that reception. the "new york herald," for example, noted that douglas, another negro man, and two negro women were in the east room and marched about with the rest of the company. and the "washington chronicle" contained a similar description. a correspondent of the democratic newspaper, "the new york news," wrote that in addition to douglas, several other negros called during the evening and paid their respects to the president. it was a strange spectacle to see black and white elbowing each other for an opportunity to crook the knee before the throne of the new-fashioned royalty. now, more african-americans might have been received, if it
had not been for the first lady who, according to a press report, was veryin dignant at the intrusion of the number of negros and gave directions to admit no more, and to eject those who had been admitted. that story prompted a democratic newspaper in columbus, ohio, to remark, mr. and mrs. lincoln are tenants at the white house upon the strength of the negros' popularity. and now they turn around and exclude him from its precincts. douglas' statement that, quote, no man of my race or color or previous condition had ever attended such a reception, except as a servant or as a waiter. but that's misleading. if douglas meant inauguration receptions, he was accurate. if he meant white house receptions in general, he was wrong. in fact, the color line had been
broken on at least three such occasions over the preceding 14 months. an examination of those three receptions indicates that there was no consistent policy regarding black guests at the white house for public functions. it also suggestios the presiden favored admitting frernls, but as i mentioned earlier, the first lady did not. in the 1860s, it was not entirely clear what rules there were, if any, regarding the admission of blacks to the white house on reception day. after his inauguration daikon front thanks in 1865, douglas learned that, quote, the officers at the white house had received no orders from mr. lincoln or from anyone else. they were simply complying with an old custom. now, there seems to have been at least an informal understanding that blacks could be admitted toward the end of a reception.
the first occasion when african-americans broke with custom seems to have been new years day, 1864. when, according to a newspaper account, a few of the freed africans were among those outside the white house watching diplomats and other eminent figures pass by on their way to the reception. of that handful of african-american onlookers, four men who were described as "of gentile exterior," and with "manners of gentlemen," entered the executive mansion and were presented to lincoln. one of those four, the reverend mr. henry j. johnson of ithaca, new york, described the president as, quote, a gentleman, straight and tall, modest, with pleasing features. who looked firm and determined. johnson noted that as great as the crowd was of gentle and noble men, those privileges were
granted to me without molestation or insult. democratic newspapers were incensed, including one in the state of maine. what a hideous travesty this is! what an abject and shameful truck willing to the shocking and unnatural doctrine of negro equality. what a terrible humiliation at any time. and what a shameless boast at a period when the nation is under going the horrors of civil war. engendered by this same, insane craving for negro equality, forbidden by the decrees of the all mighty. and indiana, a democratic editor, there could be no possible objection to mr. lincoln, of course, as a private individual in associating with negros. but when, as the representative of a great nation, he chooses to
inaugurate a rein, democrats have the right to enter their emphatic protest. another indiana paper sneered, "four niggers presented to the president who was no doubt highly pleased to make their acquaintance." yet another indiana paper ran an article headlined, "nigger at the white house. never before has cuffy's long heel been on the white house floor." alluding to the black guests at the new year's reception, a dayton, ohio, newspaper snidely noted that on february 3, 1864, and i quote, a negro major in full uniform was put off the street cars in washington. and made to walk. let him go to the white house for consolation. there, he will be received as
one gentleman receives another. three weeks later, that african-american major, alexander t. augusta, took up that newspaper's sarcastic challenge and went to the white house. dr. augusta was the director of the friedman's hospital. along with his assistant, surgeon and protege, dr. anderson abbott, also black, he attended a white house reception, where, according to a baltimore newspaper, they were kindly received. dr. abbott recalled that the commissioner of public buildings, benjamin brown french, greeted them -- that is he greeted him and dr. augusta -- with all the urbanity imaginable and conducted them to the president. upon catching sight of major augusta, lincoln advanced eagerly a few paces and grasped
his hand. as they exchanged greetings, robert lincoln, who had been standing nearby next to his mother, approached, and as dr. abbott remembered, quote, asked the question very hastily. the purport of which i took to be, are you going to allow this invasion? referring, doubtless, to our presence there. robert was almost certainly acting at the behest of his mother. lincoln responded, why not? without a further word, robert retreated to the first lady's side. the president then hardly shook hands with both dr. augusta and dr. abbott. now, the author of an 1864 biography of lincoln described that scene. quote, when two or three colored gentlemen availed themselves of the privilege to call upon him, the president gave no sign that he regarded them as different from other guests at the
reception. they were greeted with the same cordiality and freedom that he had bestowed upon white men. though it was highly unusual for blacks to appear at such events, yet mr. lincoln treated the affair as an ordinary occurrence, much to his credit and to his renown. four years later, a presidential secretary, william l. stoddard, recalled that occasion. quote, i shall never forget the cessation of two tall and very well-dressed africans. it was a practical assertion of negro citizenship for which few were prepared. the president received them with marked kindness, and they behaved with strict propriety, not seeming to court attention, but went on their way with great self-possession. a month thereafter, a
correspondent of the "chicago times," which was the premier democratic newspaper in the midwest, complained that, quote, filthy butt niggers now jostle white people and even ladies everywhere, even at the president's levies. worst still, the "times" correspondent observed, quote, the beastly doctrine of intermarriage of black men and white women is avowed and openly encouraged by the president of the united states. so we have two breaches. the new years day '64, and february of '64. a third breach of the white house color line occurred at the new years reception on 1865. that morning, the "washington chronicle," which was widely reviewed as a mouthpiece for the lincoln administration, announced that, quote, all of the people present in the district of columbia, every creed, climb, color and sex are
invited by the president to call upon him at the new years reception that day. a public invitation to everybody in d.c., regardless of color, sex, background, what have you. perhaps as a result of this invitation, many more blacks, including women, as well as men, attended the 1865 new year's reception than had attended the one in 1864. now, african-americans were admitted that day only briefly, however. according to a detailed report in a democratic newspaper, a large crowd gathered near the portico of the white house, including several hundred well-dressed black people. among them were some clergy and a few soldiers, as well as the creme de la creme of negro society in washington. when the front door opened, members of both races surged forward, much to the astonishment of the white people, who had expected the blacks to wait until the caucasian guests had left. alerted by jeers and curses,
police quickly moved to stop the african-americans who nonetheless persisted in their attempts to enter the executive mansion. despite the con stab larry's best efforts, at least 20 black people managed to gain admission. the lincolns greeted some of those blacks, but not many. a secondhand account of the affair described how the african-american guests were received. quote, when a colored woman presented herself, mr. lincoln shook hands with her. and mrs. lincoln gave the invariable bow. on the passage of the second one, mrs. lincoln looked aghast. and when the third colored woman appeared, mrs. lincoln sent word to the door that no more colored persons would be admitted to mingle with the whites. but if they would come at the conclusion of the levy, they should receive admittance.
now, some of the black people did so. and a journalist noted that after the white crowd departed, the blacks who had been waiting outside, quote, summoned up courage and began timidly to approach the door. the president welcomed this motley crowd with a hardiness that made them wild with exceeding joy. they laughed and wept and wept and laughed. exclaiming through their blinding tears, god bless you! god bless abraham lincoln. in the president's hometown of springfield, a scandalized democratic editor asked rhetorically, are not such scenes at the white house disgusting? when will the white people of this country awake to the sense of shame that the dominant party is bringing upon us by the establishment of social equality of the negro? the "milwaukee daily news"
deplored quote the fact that the negros flocked to the white house. so now we have three examples of black people coming to the white house. after the new years 1865 reception, the ban on black guests was reinstituted at white house levies, at least those given by mrs. lincoln. s so adjourner truth was turned away. a white woman who was present at that event recorded in her diary that the famous african-american grandmother abolitionist, quote, went with captain george cars, but the policeman would not allow her to go in to see the president and first lady. when i went in, she was sitting in the anti room waiting for the captain to comp out. when i said it was too bad, she said, never mind, honey. i don't mind it. it did not occur to me until too late that i should have gone directly in and told the
president, i would like to know what he would have said. i cannot think it was done by his orders. now, if this woman had gone in and informed lincoln, he may well have done what he did a week later, when he insisted that frederick douglas be admitted to the pre -- post inauguration reception. so, okay, that's february 25th. on february 27th, a british journalist told lincoln that two days earlier, sojourner truth had been denied admittance. the president expressed his sorrow and said he had often seen her, and it should not occur again, and that she should see him on the first opportunity. a promise which he kept by sending for her a few days afterward. now, sojourner truth met with the president earlier on at least one occasion. on october 29th, 1864, she made a white house visit which she described to a friend.
it was about 8:00 in the morning when i called on the president in company with mrs. lucy coleman. on entering his reception room, we found about a dozen persons waiting to see him. amongst them were two colored women, and some white women also. lincoln showed as much respect and kindness to the colored persons present as to the whites. when sojourner truth praised the president as, quote, the best president ever, he demured, modestly speculating that his predecessors in the white house would have done just as he had done if their circumstances had been like his. she added that, quote, she never was treated by anyone with more kindness and cordiality than she was by that great and good man. as she was about to leave, lincoln shook her hand and said he would be pleased to have her call again. she felt as if she were, quote, in the presence of a friend. as already mentioned, frederick
douglas and other african-americans broke the color line on march 4th, 1865, which angered some democrats. the "cincinnati inquirer" asked rhetorically, with negro officers in the army, negro lawyers in the supreme court and newt gingri negros at white house receptions, who can doubt that the negro race is looking up, other rather looking down on the white race from the elevated place it has attained under this administration? two days later, however, the color line was once again enforced. march 6th. this time, at the inaugural ball, which was held at the patent office. shortly before that gala event, "the washington chronicle," supposedly the organ of the lincoln administration, announced, quote, we are authorized by the committee of management to say that there is no truth in the story which has been circulated that tickets to
the inauguration ball have been sold to colored persons. after the ball, the "new york herald" observed, quote, the absence of negros was much remarked. they were so conspicuous during the inauguration ceremonies at the capitol and the reception afterward, and in the procession that everyone expected to see them dance before the president. contemptuously, the cleveland plain dealer, a democratic paper remarked, now is this not the coolest example of i am pugh tent hypocrisy ever perpetrate? so eminently worthy of the editor of the washington chronicle, john w. forney, and the men he serves. that is to say, the lincoln administration. these are the people that must be remembered. that is, lincoln and forney and others, who gloat with lavish delight over the admission of a negro to the bar of the supreme court. who have succeeded in commissioning negros as officers in the army to mess -- that is
to eat -- and associate with white officers and exercise the authority of their rank over white soldiers who are patronizing or rating kneeing reses and the like. oh shame, where is thy blush. tongue in blush, the new york world, the most democratic newspaper of they're rah, protested against the most shameful of attempt by mr. lincoln to keep negros away from the inauguration ball. of the republican organizers of the event, the ball, the world said, quote, to seek any sense of shame in them were like pelting a rhinoceros with roses. not a nice image. imagine rhinoceroses being pelted with roses. as i mentioned at the outset, professor kate masseur has criticized. that seems hardly fair to the president. after all, the inaugural ball committee, not lincoln, imposed the ban at the march 6th event.
the president regretted that sojou sojourner truth had been turned away on february 25th and vowed it would not happen again. through the "washington chronicle," the president hardly invited all washingtonians, regardless of color to attend the 1865 new years reception. in addition, he overruled the guards that attempted to block frederick douglas. the president, unlike his wife, showed no aversion to greeting african-american callers or listening to their appeals. many of his black visitors were clergymen. in april 1862, bishop daniel payne of the episcopal church met with lincoln who seemed to easy and urbane in manner. and he felt as though -- and as lincoln explained, he felt as though providence had guided him and enabled him to accomplish what he had accomplished. a journalist reported that,
quote, bishop payne had quite a long and profitable interview with president lincoln. payne assured lincoln that he was, quote, in the prayers of the colored people, and that the bishop personally had prayed that god would stand behind the government at washington as he stood behind the throne of david. the president in turn told bishop payne, quote, of his reliance on divvine providence and expressing a hardy wish for the welfare of the colored race. payne left the white house most favorably impressed and with a profound sense of lincoln's real greatness and of his fitness to rule a nation composed of almost all the races on the face of the earth. in august, 1863, a dozen african-american baptist ministers visited the white house, seeking permission to preach to units of the united states colored troops. lincoln heard them out, quote, then made some interesting remarks following which he gave the chairman a letter. to whom it may concern.
today, i am called upon by a committee of colored ministers of the gospel who express a wish to go within our military lines and minister to their brethren there. the object is a worthy one, and i shall be glad for all facilities to be afforded them. in june 1864, some of washington's black catholics sought presidential assistance in raising money to establish a chapel and a school for african-americans. a delegation of three blacks, led by the businessman, gabriel coakley, visited the white house and asked lincoln for authorization to hold a fund-raising lawn party on the executive mansion grounds. the president showed interest and told coakley, certainly, you shall have my permission. the president wished him and his friends success. on july 4th, hundreds of blacks entered the white house grounds, where a festive atmosphere prevailed, and a substantial sum of money was raised.
democrats were incensed. the albany artists ex claimed up until then nobody of citizen had been allowed to assemble there for purposes of diversion. even white saab aschool children are denied. a pennsylvania minister protested that within and around washington, quote, are thousands of wounded and languishing white men whose parched lips -- speaking of which -- [ laughter ] and fevered brows have not the rich, cold lemonade -- [ laughter ] >> no, not there. nor the balmy, cool shade they're afforded to that motley crowd of reveling niggers. a month later, the superintendent of washington's third colored baptist sabbath school sought permission for yet
another fund-raising event to be held on the executive mansion grounds. it was described as, quote, a demonstration of the appreciation of the colored people of the much-desired and highly appreciated privileges they are permitted to enjoy since the freeing of the slaves and the abolition of the black laws of the district of columbia. lincoln approved the request and over 400 african-americans attended the celebration during which the organizer of that affair, quote, thanked the president for granting the use of the grounds and for doing so much for the colored people. local democratic newspapers denounced both the event and the president. the grounds held by all patriots is something set apart and sacred, because invested with a national character where the erection of stands for negro merchants to vend fruits and cakes and drinks to negro customers. that's from "the washington constitutional union." negros' speeches were made.
now, mark you, these were negros who did these things. and they did it with a high approval and the warm commendation of our president. a paper in nearby georgetown similarly bemoaned the fact that, quote, the grounds of the house furnished by the people -- by the white people of the country -- were again polluted by the escapades of a negro picnic. the editors roundly criticized lincoln, his demagogism may lead him to affect and to induce others to believe in social equality, but his partisans are few in number, and no sensible man credits his sincerity or the sanity of his followers. in september 1864, several african-american clergymen from baltimore presented lincoln with an ornate bible as a token of respect and gratitude to him for his active part in the cause of emancipation. he responded with some unusually eloquent remarks. inspected the gift, expressed
himself highly pleased, and after a pleasant conversation, the party departed. the president taking each of them by the hand as they passed out of the room. other blacks called at the white house to make political appeals. in 1863, in august, frederick douglas, accompanied by a u.s. senator, met with lincoln to discuss several matters of state. months later, frederick douglas described his reception. upon arrival at the executive mansion, he found the stairway jammed with white office-seekers. and since he was, quote, the only dark spot among them, he expected that he would have to wait half a day. but as he said, in two minutes, after i sent in my card, the messenger came out and respectfully invited mr. douglas in. i could hear in the eager multitude outside as they saw me passing and elbowing my way through the remark, "yeah, damn
it, i knew they would let the nigger through." the president greeted him as he later put it, quote, just as you would have one gentleman receive another, with a hand and voice, well-balanced between a kind cordiality and a respectful reserve. douglas was immediately taken with the president, quote, i never met with a man who on first blush impressed me more entirely with his sincerity, with his devotion to his country, and with his determination to save it at all hazards. douglas described the interview as, quote, a man in low condition, meeting a high one. not greek meeting greek, exactly, but rail-splitter meeting nigger. he was impressed that the president called him "mr. douglas." in a letter describing this conversation, douglas wrote, quote, my whole interview with the president was gratifying and did much to assure me that slavery would not survive the war, and that the country would
survive both slavery and the war. he later said that while he was at the white house, quote, he felt big. in 1864, after douglas gave a lecture in which he described this interview, a philadelphia newspaperin dignantly predicted that, quote, with negro picnics on the white house grounds, and negro cronies in the white house itself, displaying their teeth at the presidential wit, white people will have to wait a long time for their turn. on march 12th, 1864, two educated young black men from new orleans, john baptist rene, an engineer, and a wine merchant and former officer in the union army, submitted to lincoln a petition signed by several hundred african-american residents of the crescent city. it asserted that, quote, we are men, and asked the president and congress to treat us as such. it also called for voting rights
to be extended to louisiana's blacks. it was reported that, quote, president lincoln listened attentively to our address and sympathized with our object. the very next day, lincoln wrote to the governor of louisiana, suggesting that the new constitution of his state, which would be adopted in the near future, should en franchise at least some blacks. on april 2nd, 1864, carolyn johnson of philadelphia, a former slave, presented lincoln and his wife a collection of waxed fruits and a stem table to express her gratitude for the president's emancipation policies. many have been led astray by bribes of gold, but you have stood firm, because god was with you, and if you are faithful to the end, he will be with you.
lincoln briefly responded, returning thanks for the beautiful present, referring to the difficulties with which he had been surrounded, and ascribing the wondrous changes of the past three years to the rulings of a wise providence. he concluded by telling mrs. johnson with tears in his eyes, you must not give me praise. it belongs to god.
two years later, lincoln consulted frederick douglas about the urgent, urgent necessity of encouraging slaves to run to union lines. douglas found lincoln's willingness to summon him remarkable. months after that meeting, frederick douglas wrote that the president, quote, knew that he could do nothing which would call down upon him more fiercely the voter than by showing them any respect as men. douglas added, some men added wh and dangers but oar to face ridicule. and daring to admit -- nay, in daring to invite a negro to an audience at the white house, mr. lincoln did that which we knew would be offensive to the cloud
and excite their ribaldry, that means their contempt. it was saying to the people "i am the president of the black people and the white and i intend to respect their feelings as citizens." many years later douglas wrote "in my three interviews with mr. lincoln, i was impressed with his entire freedom from popular prejudice against the colored race. he was the first great man that i talked to in the united states freely who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color and i thought that was still more remarkable because he came from a state, illinois, where there were black laws. lincoln showed no reluctance to great blacks cordially when he was away from the white house. in may, 1862, he visited washington's columbia college hospital where nurse rebecca m
pomery introduced him to members of the kitchen crew. and who are these, he asked, as the three african-american cooks came forward and rebecca said "this is lucy, formerly a slave from kentucky, she cooks the nurses' food." "how do you do, lucy," he asked as he extended his hand to shake hers." and who are these on your left? "this is garner and brown, they are serving our country for cooking for our sickest boys." "how do you do, garner, how do you do, brown?" he asked as he shook their hands. the blacks were amazed and joyful. the whites on the staff were amazed but not joyful. [ laughter ] nurse pomeroy quickly became aware of a feeling of intense disapprobation and disgust among the white officers who a moment before had been all graciousness. their conversation was afterwards reported to her. this is what the white officers
allegedly said. "anybody would know she was a massachusetts woman. for no one else would do such a mean contemptible trick as to introduce those damn niggars to the president." yes, said the surgeon in charge, it was in massachusetts that the first abolition egg was laid. even the hospital's patients felt insulted by the president's cordiality to black people. now lincoln often visited a contraband camp where former slave mary dines volunteered as an assistant teacher. she recalled the president was very fond of the hymns of the slaves and loved to hear them and knew most of them by heart. on one saturday he and the first lady attended a camp concert. as the black residents intoned hymns and patriotic airs, lincoln wiped tears from his eyes. during the final chorus of "john brown's body" he sang as loud as
anyone there. on another visit he asked to hear good old hymns. he sang with them. mary dines reported he was so tender hearted that his eyes filled up when he went over to bid the real old folks good-bye. he was, she said, no president when he came to camp, he stood and sang and prayed like the rest of the people. lincoln was cordial to the black employees at the white house. rosetta wells, a seamstress who did sewing and mending for the first family recalled that "he treated the servants like people and would laugh and say kind things to them." echoing her, the former slave elizabeth keckley told a journalist "i loved him for his kind manner towards me. he was as kind and considerate of his treatment to me as he was in any of the white people about the white house." the best example of lincoln's solicitude for black staff members is his treatment of william johnson, a valley/barber
who accompanied the first family on their journey from springfield to washington in 1861. at first johnson worked at the executive mansion as a porter but the other african-american employees, who were all light skinned, objected to his dark complexion so vehemently that lincoln reassigned him as a furnace keeper and handyman and tried to find him another post outside the white house. to secretary wells he wrote in mid-march, 1861, "the bearer that is william is a servant who has been with me for some time and in whom i have confidence as to his integrity and faithfulness. he wishes to enter your service. the difference of color between him and the other servants is the cause of our separation. if you can give him employment, you will confer a favor on yours truly." with lincoln's help, johnson landed a job at the treasury department and to enable him to earn extra money, the president facilitated his efforts to moonlight for others and johnson continued to work at the white house off and on. when johnson borrowed money to
buy a house, lincoln guaranteed the mortgage. in 1863, johnson contracted smallpox and was unable to sign his pay voucher. he was hospitalized and a journalist discovered the president counting out greenbacks. lincoln explained that such activity is something out of my usual line but president of the united states has a multiplicity of duties not specified in the constitution or acts of congress. [ laughter ] this is one of them. this money belongs to a poor negro, that is johnson, who was a porter in one of the departments, the treasury, and who is at present very badly sick with the smallpox. he is now in hospital and could not draw his pay because he could not sign his name. i have been at considerable trouble to overcome the difficulty and get it for him and have at length succeeded in cutting red tape. i am now dividing the money and putting a portion aside in an envelope with my own hands according to his wish. soon thereafter johnson died. lincoln bought a coffin for his burial, helped support his
family and paid off johnson's home mortgage even though the bank insisted that it would forgive the loan. lincoln helped his black assistant barber attendant solomon johnson with an appointment to the treasury department, the same post william johnson had held. a year later he recommended solomon johnson receive a promotion. let me close by saying as mentioned by theodore roosevelt breaking the white house color barier in 1901 when he had booker t. washington to dinner. a purely social event. now, no african-american was invited to dine at the lincoln white house but in the late summer of 1864 lincoln did invite frederick douglass to tea at the soldiers' home where the first family resided during the warmer months. in his autobiography douglass explained he declined because he had a speaking engagement that conflicted.
now the historian james oaks plausibly observed there is every reason to believe that lincoln invited douglass' to the soldiers home because he valued his opinion. douglass thought lincoln was friendly to him because of the similarity in which we fought our way up, both starting at the lowest rung of the ladder. all the evidence adduced here explains why douglas called lincoln, emphatically the black man's president, the first to show respect for their rights as men and the first american president who rose above the prejudice of his times and country. thank you for your attention. [ applause ] yes, sir? >> in the lincoln/douglass debates in 1858 -- i may not get my quote exact, but lincoln said something like he didn't believe in the social equality of blacks
and whites and if one race had to be above the other he'd prefer it be the white race. yet you've given us many examples of just a few years later lincoln accepting blacks socially. do you believe lincoln changed or was he being political during the debate? >> well, both actually. i believe he was being plit ball because if you came out in 1858 when you were campaigning against steven a. douglas for the senate and he was an outrageous racist. he played the race card shamelessly in that 1858 -- and not just in the debates which are familiar but all kinds of other speech which is aren't published but you can dig up in newspapers. he plays the race card shamelessly. i was in chicago visiting some friends and i said to them, look, i've never been to see steven a. douglas's grave and i've been told it's in a sketchy neighborhood. they said no, it's not sketchy,
i used to be an alderman. so he took me there and i thought in this day in age of statues being moved, i thought of all the statues should be removed in the north, steven a. douglas, such an outrageous race baiter but i was surprised to see it hadn't been moved or even spray painted or anything and that's partly because it sits atop a 60-foot column. [ laughter ] i thought maybe all those other controversial statues should be put on columns 60 feet above the ground. but back to your larger point, lincoln started the 1858 campaign with a speech in chicago in which he said in his conclusion -- and i paraphrase but pretty close -- let's stop all this quibbling about one race being inferior and one being superior and one being confined to inferior position and let's all unite behind that grand old declaration of independence and agree all men are created equal. well steven a. douglas hammers lincoln and again and again and again for that so lincoln feels
corner sod he goes to southern illinois where the race -- the intensity of racism was greater than central or northern illinois. so he gives that speech. makes that statement that black people shouldn't be voters or jurors and so forth. but lincoln clearly changes his mind so in 1858 he says black people shouldn't be allowed to vote. on april 11, 1865, he announces as some of you have heard me say, he announces publicly that black people should be allowed to vote, at least those who served in the armed forces and those who were very intelligent by which we assume he meant the literate and bear with me those of you who heard this before. lincoln was not murdered because of the manemancipation problem m
proclamation. it was because he called for voting rights. john wilkes booth heard that and three days later killed him. so lincoln was a marter to black voting rights, as much as james cheney, andrew goodman, martin luther king or any of the people murdered in the 1960s and they championed the civil rights movement of the 1960s. [ applause ] thank you. it's a good question but i think that's the most apt answer. >> thank you. i was struck by what you said about mary todd lincoln. that she was not on board to the extent president lincoln was and i was wondering is there any evidence that that evolved over
time or did president and mrs. lincoln work it out? did they agree to disagree or there evidence about her evolving in her thinking about african-americans? >> well, her best friend in the white house was a black woman, elizabeth keckley who not only made her dresses but also was her confident, somebody she could share a lot with. that was a close relationship until mrs. keckley published a book in 1868 in which she revealed unflattering things about mrs. lincoln after she cut her off. and another thing should be born in mind is that because she was a friend of mrs. keckley she contributed money to the freedman's relief association, something like that, to help the numerous fugitive slaves who flooded into washington and who lived in desperately poor conditions so there was so signs
of anti-racism but when it came to formal events she drew the line there. >> we're out of time. >> i'm sorry. i had my watch and i thought oh, i forgot to look at it. thanks for your attention. tonight american history steve in prime time. the abraham lincoln institute and ford's theater society hosted a symposium on abraham's lincoln life, career and legacy. including a discussion about president lincoln and his relations with his cabinet and congress in 1862. that's from university of new hampshire professor william harris. american history tv in prime time begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3. this sunday on 1968, america in turmoil, civil rights and race relations. our guests are former black
panter and emery law school senior university lech cher you are kathleen cleaver. and peniel joseph, history and public affairs professor at the university of texas at austin and author of "dark days, bright nights, from black power to barack obama." and of "stokely, a life." watch 1968, america in turmoil live sunday at 8:30 a.m. eastern on c-span's "washington journal" and on american history tv on c-span 3. for nearly 20 years in-depth of book tv has featured the nation's best-known non-fiction writers for live conversations about their books. this year as a special project we're featuring best-selling fiction writers, for a monthly program in-depth fiction edition. join us live sunday at noon eastern with walter moseley. his most recent book is "down the river unto the sea." his other books include "devil in a blue dress" which was made
into a major motion picture, "gone fishing" and "fearless jones" plus over 40 critically acclaimed books and mystery series. during the program we'll take your phone call, tweets and facebook messages. our special series, in-depth fiction edition with author walter mosley sunday from noon to 3:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 2. sunday night on q&a, high school students from around the country were in washington, d.c. for the annual united states senate youth program. we met with them at the historic may flower hotel where they shared their thoughts about government and politics. >> i'm passionate about daca. it's unfair that 700,000 men, women, and children's lives hang in the balance because our congress cannot find a solution. it's not a democratic issue, it's not a republican issue, it's a human's rights issue. >> an issue that is very important to me is climate change. the notion that we're the only
country in the world not in the paris climate askords a travesty. every other country in the world recognizes the detrimental impacts of climate change and we have not stayed on course with the other countries. >> we are the richest nation in the world yet we have citizens who go bankrupt trying to cover basic health care costs and i think that is an outrage and that we should be ashamed. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. monday on landmark cases, "griswold v. connecticut" where estelle griswold of planned parenthood challenged a connecticut law banning the prescription and use of birth control. the supreme court ultimately ruled the statute to be unconstitutional and in the process established the right to privacy that is still evolving today. our guests are helen alvare, a law professor at george mason university's antonin scalia law
school and rachel rebouche, the associate dean for research and law professor at temple university. watch "landmark cases" monday and join the conversation. our hashtag is "landmark cases" and follow us at c-span. we have resources on our web site for background on each case. the landmark cases companion book, a link to the national constitution center's interactive constitution, and the landmark cases podcast at cspan.org/landmarkcases. american history tv was recently at ford's theater in washington, d.c. for the 21st annual symposium hosted by the abraham lincoln institute and ford's theater society. next, stanley harrold talks about the influence of abolit n abolitionists on lincoln's political decisions. this is about 45 minutes. >> i have said it