tv Abraham Lincoln African Americans CSPAN March 30, 2018 3:21pm-4:18pm EDT
congress cannot find a solution. it is not a democratic issue. it is not a republican issue. it's a human rights issue. >> an issue important to me is climate change. the notion that we are the only country in the world that is not in the paris climate accord is a travesty. they've 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 healthcare 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 fords theater in washington, d.c., for the symposium hosted by the abraham lingeron instud aitute and ford theater society.
michael burlingame author of "abraham lincoln, a life" and he talks about those he met during his travels. this is about 50 minutes. my name is gordon lidenner, and i'm 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 pack ult ney 2009 after teaching for 33 years in connecticut college in new london. he was born and raised in washington, d.c. he would aren't gi he wouldn't give me the exact date, but he did say it was slightly after the famously unfortunate event in this theater. 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. the other 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, the letters of john g. nicolai and the memoirs of william stoddard, all of whom were white house secretaries. later this spring, southern illinois university press would publish michael's next book which is entitled 16th president in waiting, the springfield dispatches on henry willard, 1860 to 1861 and there's more. he's also working on a book
about the lincoln's marriage and as we will learn today another about lincoln and african-americans. left, 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 carmadine's place today and dr. carmadine had to make a last-minute consolation so join me now with a heartfelt thank you and welcome 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. no, about professor burlingame, he gave a speech on lincoln's humor based on his book which has won the book prize of our organization for this year. he gave a speech in the holy land, that is springfield, on the high holy days and that is february 12th, and 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 command to your attention. he is a very learned and droll speaker. i'm very sorry he can't be with us today, and i'll do my best to pinch hit 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 missour of northern university when recently concluded that lincoln as president, quote, evidently did not take a strong stand for admitting them, which is african-americans, to more social occasions such as public receptions and new year's day levies. now, a close examination of those receptions and levies reveals that lincoln saw it to lift the racial ban, but encountered a position from his spouse. 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 was the experience that frederick douglas had on march 4, 1865, and later, douglas memorably described how guards denied him entrance to the reception following lingeron's second inauguration and how the president at once overruled the guards and how he hardly welcomed the famed black orator, and said as you probably know, douglas, i saw you out there in the audience as i delivered my address. what did you think of it? >> and i have this fantasy that douglas was thinking, actually, mr. president, the beb lickal illusion y
biblical, and otherwise it was a sacred effort. >> mr. president was a secretary red effort. douglas did not mention in his account of that event, the presence of other breaks 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, that douglas, a negro man and two negro women, and a correspondent, the new york news, wrote in addition to douglas several other negros called throughout 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 very indignant at the intrusion of a number of negros, and gave directions to admit no more and to eject those who had been admitted. that story prompted a newspaper to remark, mr. and mrs. lincoln are tenants of 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 lat 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 suggests that the president favored admitting african-americans, 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 confrontation 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. 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 wro african-americans broke with custom seems to have been new year's day, 1864 when according to a newspaper account a few of the freed africans were watching a number of figures. of that handful of african-american onlookers, four men who were described of as of genteel 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 ithica, 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 trunkeling 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 undergoing the horrors of civil war engendered by this same, insane craving for negro equality forbidden by the decrees of the almighty. in indiana, a democratic editor touted there could be no possible objection to mr. lincoln, of course, as a private individual in associating with
negros, but ran as the representative of a great nation, he chooses to inaugurate a reign of social equality between the white and black races, democrats have the right to enter their emphatic protest. another indiana paper sneered. >> four niggers were happy to made their acquaintance. another headline, nigger at the white house and never before had the heels trotted the white house floor. alluding to the black guests at the new year's reception, a dayton, ohio, newspaper slightly noted that on february 3, 186 h1864 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 public buildings, benjamin brown french greeted them, that is he and greeted he and dr. augusta with all of the urbanity imaginable and conducted them to the president.
upon catching sight of major augusta, he 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 hand 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 avail
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 events, mr. lincoln treated the affair as a natural occurrence, much to his renowned. william stoddard recalled that occasion, quote, i shall never forget the sensation of the appearance of two tall and very well dressed africans among the crowd of those who came to pay their respects. 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
and went on their way with great self-possession. a month thereafter, a correspondent of "the chicago times" which was the premiere democratic newspaper in the midwest complained and i quote, filthy, butt niggeres jostled white people and ladies everywhere, even at the president's levies, where still the times correspondent observed, quote, the beastly doctrine of intermarriage of black men with white women is openly avowed and endorsed and encouraged by the president of the united states. so we have two breaches, the new year's day, '64 and then february '64. a third breach of the white house color line occurred in the new year's reception in 1865. that morning the washington chronicle which was widely reviewed as a mouthpiece for the lincoln administration announced that, quote, all the people
present in the district of columbia, every creed, kind, color and sex are invited by the president to call upon him at the new year's reception that day. it was a pub luck individual for everybody in d.c., perhaps as a result of this invitation, many more blacks as well as men and men attended the 1965 reception than had attended the one in 1864. 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 and the creme de la creme of negros in washington. when the front doors 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 their attempts to enter the executive mansion. despite the constables, they 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 unvariable 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 heartiness that made them wild with exceeding joy. they laughed and wept and wept and laughed exclaiming through their blinding tear, god bless you. god bless abraham lincoln. in the president's hometown of springfield a scandalized 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, yoet, the fact that negros flocked to the outer rooms of the white house, so we have three examples of black people coming to the white house. after the new year's 1865 reception, the ban on black guests was reinstituted at white house levies at least those given by mrs. lincoln. s sojourner truth was in 1965. a woman that was present at that event recorded in her diary that the famous african-american grandmother abolitionist went with captain joe car, but the policemen would not allow her to go in and see the president and first lady. when i went in she was sitting in the ante room waiting for the captain to come 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 had been admitted into the pre-inauguration reception. that's february 25th. on february 27th, a british journalist told lincoln that two days later, sojourner truth had been denied admittance to the executive mansion. the president expressed his sorrow and said that he had often seen her and it should not occur again and that she should see him on the first opportunity, a promise that he kept by sending for her a few days afterward. no, sojourner truth met with him
on at least one other occasion. 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 the best president ever, he demured speculating that his predecessors would do what he had done had the circumstances been like his. she added, she was never treated by anyone with more kindness and cordiality than by that great 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 though, she were, quote, in the presence of a friend. as already mentioned, frederick douglas and other african-americans broke the color line on march 4, 1865 which angered some democrats and the cincinnati enquirer asked rhetorically with negro officers in the army and negro lawyers and the supreme court, and negros at white house receptions, who can doubt that the negro race is looking up and rather looking down on the white race from the elevated place it has attained under this administration. two days later the color line was once again enforced on march 6th. this time at the inaugural ball which was held at the patent office. shortly before that gala event, washington, supposedly the lincoln administration announced, quote, we are authorized by the committee of
management to say that there's no truth in the story which has been circulated the tickets to the inauguration ball had 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 capital and the reception afterward and in the procession that everyone expected to see them dance before the president. contemptuously, the cleveland plane dealer remarked, is this not the coolest example of hypocrisy that was ever perpetrated? so imminently 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, it must be remembered that is lincoln 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 negresses, and o, shame, where is thy blush? >> tongue in cheek, the new york world, the most prominent newspaper of that era, protested the shameful attempt of keeping negros away from the inauguration ball. as the republican organizers of the ball, the world said, quote, to seek any sense of shame in them were like pelling a rhinti rouse with roses. as i mentioned in the outset the professor had criticized the lincolns for enforcing the color line at the white house, but
that seems hardly fair to the president. after all, the inaugural ball committee and not lincoln imposed the ban at the march 6th event. the president regretted that sojourner truth had been turned away on february 25th and vowed it had not happened again. through the washington chronicle, the president hardly invited all washingtonians regardless of color to attend the 1865 reception and he attempted to guard frederick douglas on march 4th. 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, and april, 1862, bishop daniel payne of the african methodist episcopal church met with lincoln who seemed to the bishop, quote, easy and you are bane in manner and that he felt as -- as lincoln explained that he felt
as though providence had guided him and enabled him to accomplish what he had accomplished. >> a journalist reported that bishop payne had's visit with president lincoln. >> he was 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 divine providence and expressing a hearty wish for the welfare of the colored race. payne left the white house most favorably impressed and with the profound sense of lincoln's real greatness and of his fitness to rule the nation composed of all of 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 unit of the united states colored troops. lincoln heard them out, quote,
and 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 expressed a wish to go between the military lines a lines and minister to the brethren there, 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 cokely visited the white house and asked lincoln for authorization to hold an independence day fund-raising lawn party on the executive mansion grounds. the president showed interest and told cokely, certainly, you shall have my permission. the president wished him success
and hundred of blacks entered the white house grounds where a substantial sump money was raised. democrats were incensed. they exclaimed that up ar gus ep till then, nobody of citizens had been allowed to assembly there. a pennsylvania newspaper 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 -- no, not there. nor the balmy cool shade there 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 as something set apart for sacred -- and sacred because invested with a national character were prostituted and disgraced by the erection of stands for negro merchants to vend fruits and cakes and drinks to negro customers.
that's from the washington constitutional union. negro speeches were made. now, mark you, these were negroes 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 demagoguism may lead him to effect 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 ar ornate bible as a token of respect and gratitude 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 douglass accompanied by a u.s. senator met with lincoln to discuss several matters of state. months later, frederick douglass 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. douglass 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. douglass 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. douglass described the interview as, quote, a man in low condition meeting a high one, not greek meeting greek exactly, but railsplitter meeting nigger. he was impressed that the president called him mr. douglass. in a letter describing this conversation, douglass wrote, quote, my whole interview with the president was gratifying. it 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 douglass gave a lecture in which he described this interview, a philadelphia interview indignantly 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, jon bap tees renee, an engineer, and e. ar knot bert know, 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 ask the president and congress to treat us as such. it also called for voting rights to be extended to louisiana's blacks. rude neigh reported that, quote, president lincoln listened attentively to our address and sympathized with the option. the 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 enfranchise at least some blacks. on april 2nd, 1864, carolyn johnson of philadelphia, a former slave, presented lincoln and his wife a collection of wax fruits and a stem table to express her gratitude for the president's emancipation policies. accompanied by her minister, she called at the executive mansion and said, mr. president, i believe god has hewn you out of a rock for this great and mighty purpose. many have been led astray by bribes of gold or silver or presents, 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 describing the wondrous changes of the past three years to the rulings of an all-wise providence. he concluded by telling mrs. johnson with tears in his eyes, you must not give me praise. it belongs to god. later that april, in 1864, louis h. putnam, a black new yorker long active in the col onization movement called on lincoln to discuss african-american troops. the president referred him to secretary of war edwin m. stanton with a note. please see l.h. putnam, whom you will find a very intelligent colored man, and who wishes to talk about our colored forces and their organization. in february 1865, another black visitor, martin r. delaney, a
physician, newspaper editor, and champion of colonization, also came to advise the president about african-american troops. delaney submitted a plan to raise an all-black army and later recalled that lincoln met him with a generous grasp and shake of the hand. he noted that the president was serious without sadness and pleasant with all. as delaney outlined his plan, lincoln was a patient audience. after hearing him out, the president sent delaney to secretary of war stanton with a note. quote, do not fail to have an interview with this most extraordinary and intelligent black man. later that month, delaney was appointed a major, thus becoming the highest-ranking black line officer in the union army. occasionally lincoln invited african-americans to the white house to discuss public affairs. in august 1862, he met with five leading members of washington's black community to enlist their support for colonization. among other things, he told
them, your race are suffering in my judgment the greatest wrong inflicted on any people. shortly before that meeting, he conversed with joseph jenkins roberts, a virginia-born african-american who had served as president of liberia. two years later, lincoln consulted frederick douglass about the urgent necessity of encouraging slaves to run to union lines. douglass found lincoln's willingness to summon him remarkable. months after that meeting, frederick douglass wrote that the president, quote, knew that he could do nothing which would call down upon him more fiercely the rye baldry of the vulgar than by showing them any respect as men. douglass added, some men there are who can face death and dangers but have not the moral courage to contribute a prejudice or to face ridicule. and daring to admit, nay, and
daring to invite a negro to an audience to the white house, mr. lincoln did that which he knew would be offensive to the crowd and incite their ribaldry. it is saying to the country, i am the president of the black people as well as the white, and i mean to respect their rights and feelings as men and as citizens. many years later douglass 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 also showed no reluctance to greet blacks cordially when he was away from the white house. in may 1862, he visited
washington's columbia hospital where nurse pomeroy presented him to the officers and staff and then to members of the kitchen crew, black members. and who are these, he asked, in a kindly voice as the three african-american cooks came forward. and rebecca pomeroy said, this is a lucy, formerly a slave from kentucky. how do you do, lucy, he asked, as he extends his hand to shake hers. this is garner and brown, they are serving their country by 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. nurse pomeroy quickly, quote, became aware of a feeling of intense disapp row base and disgust among the white officers who a moment before had been all
graciousness and suavity. their conversation was afterwards reported to her. anybody would know she was a massachusetts woman, they said, for no one else would do such a mean, contemptible trick as to introduce those damn niggers 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 visitored a contraband camp where mary dines. she recalled the president was very fond of the hymns of the slaves and knew some of them by heart. he and the first lady attended a camp concert. as the black residents intoned hymns, lincoln wiped tears from his eyes. during the final number, john
brown's body, he joined in the chorus and sang as loud as anyone there. once or twice he choked up. on another visit, he asked to hear some more good old hymns. when the african-american obliged, he sang along with them. mary dienz reported that he was so tender hearted 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 just like the rest of the people. lincoln was cordial to the black employees at the white house. rose etta wells, a seamstress, recalled that, quote, he treated the servants like people and would laugh and say kind things to them. echoing her, the informer slave elizabeth keckly, mrs. lincoln's dress maker, told a journalist, i loved him -- that is the president -- for his kind manner toward me. he was as kind and considerate in his treatment of me as he was of 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 valet slash barber who accompanied the family in 18 6 1. 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, help, johnson landed a job at the treasury department and the president.
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. while he was hospitalized, a journalist observed the president counting out some green backs. the president of the united states has a multiplicity of duties not specified in the constitution or acts of congress. 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 at length succeeded in cutting red tape.
soon thereafter, johnson died. lincoln bought a caoffin for hi burlial and paid off johnson's home mortgage even though the bank insisted it would forgive the loan. lincoln helped his black assistant barber solomon johnson. a year later he recommended that solomon johnson receive a promotion. well, let me close by saying as mentioned above, theodore roz develop famously broke the white house color barrier in 1901 when he had booker t. washington to dinner at the executive mansion. a purely social event. 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 oakes plausibly observed there is every reason to believe that lincoln invited douglass to the soldiers home because he enjoyed dougla douglass' company as much as he enjoyed his opinion. all the evidence adduced here helps explain why douglass called lincoln emphatically the black man's president, the first to show any respect for their rights as men and the first american president who rose above the prejudice of his times and his 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 prefer that it be the white race. yet you've given us many examples of just a few years later, lincoln accepting blacks socially. >> that's true. >> do you believe that lincoln changed? >> yes. >> or do you believe he was being political during the debate? >> well, both actually. i believe that he was being political because if you came out in 1858, when you were campaigning against stephen a. douglas for the senate, and stephen a. douglas was an outrageous racist. he played the race card shamelessly in that 1858 -- and not just in the debates, which you're familiar, but in all kinds of other speeches which aren't published. douglas plays the race card shamelessly. i was recently in chicago visiting some friends, and i said to them, look, i've never been to see stephen a. douglas' grave or his monument, and i've been told it's in a pretty
sketchy neighborhood. they said, no, no. i used to be an alderman there and they're okay. so they took me there. i thought in this day and age of statues being removed, i thought of all the statues being removed, stephen a. douglas, such a race baiter. i was surprised to see it hadn't been moved or spray painted. that's partly because it sits atop a 60 foot column. i thought maybe those other controversial statues should be put on a column 60 feet above the ground. lincoln started the 1858 campaign with a speech in chicago in july of that year, 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 let's all unite behind that grand old declaration of independence and agree that all men are created
equal. stephen a. douglas hammers lincoln again and again for that. so lincoln feels cornered, so he goes to coles county, which is in southern illinois, where the race -- the intensity of racism was greater than central or northern illinois. and so he gives that speech or makes that statement at the beginning of his speech that black people shouldn't be allowed to be voters or jurors or intermarry with whites or so forth. but then lincoln clearly changes his mind. so in 1858, he says black people should not be allowed to vote. on april 11th, 1865, he announces -- as some of you heard me say on more than one occasion -- he announces publicly for the first time that black people should be allowed to vote, at least who had served in the armed forces and those who are intelligent, by which we assume he meant the literate. lincoln was not murdered because he issued the emancipation
proclamation. here on my tie with a little lunch, i see. he was murdered because he called for black voting rights. because john wilkes booth heard that. and three days later, he killed him. i think lincoln should be regarded as much as a martyr to black voting rights, civil rights, as martin luther king or medgar evers or andrew goodman or any of those people murdered in the 1960s. [ applause ] so it's a good question, but i think that's the most apt answer. yes? >> thank you. i was struck by what you said about mary todd lincoln. >> yes. >> that she was not onboard to the extent president lincoln was. i was wondering is there any
evidence that evolved over time, or did president and mrs. lincoln work it out? did they agree to disagree or is there any evidence about her evolving in her thinking about african-americans? >> as i mentioned in passing, her best friend in the white house was a black woman, elizabeth keckly, who not just only made her dresses but also was her confidant, somebody she could really share a lot with. and that was a close relationship until mrs. keckly published a book in 1868 in which she revealed some unflattering things about mrs. lincoln after she cut her off. and also another thing should be borne in mind, because she was a friend of mrs. keckly, she contributed money to the freedman's relieve association, something like that, to help the numerous fugitive slaves who had flooded into washington and lived in desperately poor
conditions. so there were some signs of anti-racism, if you will, on her part. but when it came to formal events like admitting people at the white house, well, she drew the line there. yes? >> we're out of time. >> oh, i'm sorry. i had my watch here, and i thought, i just forgot to look at it. well, thanks again for your attention. [ applause ] >> tonight, american history tv is in prime time. the abe ra him lincoln institute and ford's theatre society hosted a symposium on abraham lincoln's 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-span3. >> this sunday on 1968, america
in turmoil, civil rights and race relations. our guests are former black panther and emory university law school senior lecturer kathleen cleaver and paneel 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-span3. >> for nearly 20 years in depth on book tv has featured the best nonfiction writers for live conversations about their books. this year as a special project, wear featuring best selling fiction writers. join us live sunday at noon eastern with walter mosley. his most recent book is "down
the river unto the sea." his other books include "devil in a blue dress," gone fishing and fearless jones. plus over 40 critically acclaimed books and mystery series. during the program, we'll be taking your phone calls, tweets, and facebook messages. our special series, in depth fiction addition with author walter mosley sunday live from noon to 3:00 p.m. eastern on book tv on c-span2. >> 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 mayflower hotel where they shared their thoughts about government and politics. >> i'm really passionate about daca. it is unfair that 700,000 men, women, and children's lives hang in the balance because our congress cannot find a solution. it is not a democratic issue. it is not a republican issue. it's a human rights issue.
>> and an issue that's very important to me is climate change. the notion that we are the only country in the world that is not 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. >> monday on landmark cases, griswold v. connecticut. planned parenthood challenged a connecticut law banning birth control. in the process, a right to privacy was established that is evolving today.
our guests are helen alvare and rachel rebouche, the associate dean for research and a law professor at temple university. watch "landmark cases" monday, and join the conversation. our hashtag is #landmarkcases and follow us at c-span. we have resources on our website 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 c-span.org/landmarkcases. >> american history tv was recently at ford's theatre in washington, d.c. for the 21st annual symposium hosted by the abe raham lincoln institute. next, stanley harold