tv Abraham Lincoln African Americans CSPAN March 31, 2018 4:53am-5:48am EDT
live coverage with civil rights leaders, both past and present. marian wright edleman, diane gnash, mallory. live next tuesday and wednesday, on c-span and american history tv on c-span 3. 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, michael burlingame, author of abraham lincoln: a life. he talks about the president's treatment of african-americans visiting the white house, and those he met during his travels. this is about 50 minutes. my name is gordon leidner, 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 ni chancellor -- 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 theater. he is a graduate of princeton and johnson hopkins universities, at both of which he studied under david herbert donald. his books include "abraham lincoln, a life," also known as the green monster. "the inner world of abraham
lincoln," also called shrinken lincoln." lincoln and the civil war," and primary source materials, among them the diary of john hay, the letters of john g. -- and the memoires of stoddard. later this spring, southern illinois university press will publish michael's next book, entitled "16th president in waiting, the springfield dispatches of henry villard," and there's more. he's also working on a book about the lincolns' marriage, and as we will learn today, 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
carmadine's place today. so please join me now in a heartfelt thank you and welcome to dr. michael burlingame. [ applause ] well, good morning. this is 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. feel free to use that. i stole it from tom lairer. about professor carmadine, he gave a speech on lincoln's humor, based on his book.
he gave a speech in the holy land that is springfield on the high holy days, that is february 12th. at the began get of the abraham lincoln association, and that is on the website, see a video of it on the abraham lincoln website, which i commend your attention. he is a very learned and rock and roll speaker. so i'm very sorry he can't be with us today. 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 mazur of northwestern university who recently concluded that lincoln has 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 year's 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 douglass had on march 4th, 1865,
later douglass memorably described how the entrance was guarded, and how the president overruled the guards and how he heartily welcomed the famed black orator. well, douglass, i saw you out there in the audience as i delivered my address. what did you think of it? i have this fantasy, that douglass was thinking, actually, mr. president, the syntax was garbled there toward the end, but otherwise a sacred effort. actually, he said, mr. president, it was a sacred effort. though douglass 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 douglass, 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 douglass, 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 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 democratic newspaper in columbus, ohio to remark, mr. and mrs. lincoln are tenants at the white house upon the strength of the negro's popularity, and now they turn around and exclude him from his precincts. douglass's 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 douglass 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 if 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 roles there were, if any, regarding the admission of blacks to the white house on reception day. after his inauguration daik day confrontation in 1865, the office of the white house received no orders from mr. lincoln or anyone else, they were simply complying with an old custom. there was 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 year's 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 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 ithaca, new york described the president as, quote, a gentlemen straight and tall, modest, with pleasing features, who looked firm, and determined. johnson noted that as great as the crowd was of gentle and noblemen, 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 --
to the shocking and natural doctrine of negro equality, what a terrible hue -- when the nation is undergoing the horrors of civil war. negro equality, forbidden by the decrees of the almighty. in indiana, a democratic editor tut tutted, oh, 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 reign of social equality, between the white ask black races, democrats have the right to enter their emphatic protests. another indiana paper sneered, four niggers were among the
throng, no doubt highly pleased to make their acquaintance. yet another indiana paper ran an article headlined, nigger at the white house, never before has the long heel trod the white house floor. alluding to the black guests at the new year's reception, a dayton, ohio newspaper snidely noted that on february 3rd, 1864, and i quote "a negro major in full uniform was put off the streetcars 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 freedmen'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 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 heartily shook hands with both dr. augusta, and dr. abbott. the author of an 1864 biography of lincoln described the scene "when two or three colored gentlemen availed themselves to call on the president, he regarded them as no different than other guests at the reception. they were greeted with the same cordiality and freedom he had bestowed upon white men, though
it was highly unusual for blacks to appear, mr. lincoln treated the affair as an ordinary occurrence, much to his credit and renown." four years later, a presidential secretary, william stoddard recalled the occasion "i shall never forget the sensation produced at a levy of the appearance of africans among the crowd who came to pay 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, 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 "filthy buck niggers, jostle white people, even at the president's
levies." we're 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. two breaches, new year's day '64, and then february '64, a third breach of the white house color line occurred at 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, climb, color and sex are invited by the president to call upon him at the new year's reception that day, just 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, then 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 at 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 doors, both races surged forward, much to the astonishment of white people who expected the blacks to wait until the caucasian guests 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 -- 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. "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 "summoned up courage and began timidly to approach the
door. the president welcomed this motley crowd with a heartiness, they laughed and wept, and wept and laughed, exceeding through blindness of 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 fact that negros appear -- 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. -- a white woman who was present at the event recorded in her diary that the famous african-american grandmother abolitionist "went with captain george cars, but the policeman would not allow her to go in and see the president and first lady. when i went in, she was sitting in the anteroom waiting for the captain to come out. when i said it was too bad, she said never mind, honey, it did not occur to me until too late that i should 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. 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 douglass be admitted to the post inaugural reception. on february 27th. a british journalist told lincoln that two days earlier truth had been denied admittance. lincoln said he had auchb often seen her, and that she should see him on the first opportunity, a promise which he kept for 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. on the 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 demurred, modestly speculating 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 douglass and other african-americans broke the color line on march 4th, 1865, which angered some democrats. the cincinnati enquirer, negro
officers in the army, negro lawyers in the supreme court, and negros at white house receptions, who can doubt that the negro race is looking up, or 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 to some -- march 6th, this time at the inaugural ball held at the patent office. shortly before that gala event the washington chronicle, washington's supposedly the organ of the administration, announced we are authorized by the committee of management to say 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 herald -- negros was much remarked, so
conpi con -- in the procession that everyone expected to see them dance before the president. contem contempt y contempt -- impudent hypocrisy ever perpetrated, so eminently worthy of the editor of the washington chronicle, john w. forknee and the men he serves. the lincoln administration. these are the people that must be remembered, lincoln and forknee and others who gloat at lavish delight. 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 rank over white soldiers who are patronizing or raiding negresses
and the like. the new york world, the most prominent newspaper in the era, shameful of 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, a nice image, rhinoceroses being pelted with roses. at the outset, mazur criticized the lincolns. after all, the ninaugural ball committee imposed the ban at the march 6th event. the president regretted that sojourner truth was turned away on february 25th and vowed it would not happen. the president partly invited all
washingtonians, regardless of color, to attend the reception. he overruled the guards who attempted to block douglass on march 4th. he showed no aversion to african callers or listening to their appeals. many black visitors were clergymen. payne met with lincoln who seemed to the bishop, quote, easy and urbane in manner. and that he felt as though -- as lincoln explained, that he felt as though providence 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 he was, quote, in the prayers of the colored people and that the bishop personally 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 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 were at the white house seeking to preach to colored troops. lincoln heard them out and made interesting remarks, following 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 brethren there. the object is a worthy one, and i shall be glad 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 businessmen gabriel copeley visited the white house and asked for authorization to hold a lawn party on the executive mansion grounds. the president showed interest and told cokelee, 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 argus exclaimed nobody had been allowed to gather there for purposes of
diversion. a pennsylvania newspaper protested that within and around washington, quote, are thousands of wounded and languishing white men whose parched lips, speaking of which -- 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 negros who did these things, and they did it with the high approval and 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 editor's roundly criticized lincoln, his demagoguism may lead him to effect and 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 or nate bible as a token of respect and gratitude for him for his active part in the cause of emancipation. he responded with 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 rivarrival at the executiv mansion he found the stairway jammed with white office speakers, and he was the only dark spot among them. he expected 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, dammit, i knew they would lit the nigger through." the president greeted him just as you would have a gentleman
receive another. 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 entirely with his sincerity, devotion to the country and determination to save it at all hazards. a man in low condition meet ago high one, not greek meeting greek exactly, but rail splitter meeting nigger. he was impressed the president called him mr. douglass. in a letter describing the conversation, he wrote, quote, my whole interview with the president was gratifying, doing much to assure me that slavery would not survive the war, and that the country would survive both slif slavery and the war. while he was at the white house. he felt big.
in 1864, douglass gave a lecture describing the interview. a newspaper -- negro picnics on the white house grounds and negro cronies on 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, new orleans, 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. the report was, 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 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 huned you out of a rock for the great and mighty purpose. many were led astray by bribes of gold or silver or presence, but you have stood firm because god was with you. if you are faithful to the end, he will be with you. lincoln briefly responded, returning thanks for the beautiful present, referring to difficulties with which he had been surrounded, and ascribing the wondrous changes of the past
three years. he concluded by telling mrs. johnson with tears in his eyes, you must got give me praise. it belongs to god. later that april in 1864, lewis h. putnam, a black new yorker 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. put nam who wishes to talk about our colored forces and their organization. in february of 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. 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 the 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 frederick --
lincoln consulted frederick douglass about the urgent necessity of -- douglass found lincoln's willingness to summon him remarkable. months after the meeting the president, quote, knew he could do nothing which would call down upon him more fiercely the vulgar and by showing them any respect as men. douglass added some then there are who can face death and dangers, but have not the moral courage to face ridicule, and daring to invite a negro to an audience at the white house. mr. lincoln did that which he knew would be offensive to the crowd and excite their ribaldry, that is contempt. it was saying to the country, i am the president of the black people, as well as the white, and i mean to -- their rights and feelings as men as citizens.
many years later douglass wrote in my three interviews with mr. lincoln, i was impressed when 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 office. in may of 1862 he visited washington's columbia college hospital where nurse rebecca pomroy presented him to 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 pomroy said
this is lucy. she cooks the nurse's 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 this is brown. they are serving the 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 pomroy quickly became aware of intense ab-ro ba r-- t conversation was reported to her. the why is officers allegedly said anybody would know she was a massachusetts woman, they said, for no one else would do such a mean contemptible trick as to introduce the damn -- even
the hospitals patients were -- lincoln often visited a contraband camp. she recalled that the president, quote, was very fond of the hymns of the slaves and loved to hear them and even knew most of them by heart. on saturday, one saturday he and the first lady attended a camp concert as the black residents intoned hymns, lincoln wiped tears from his eyes. john brown's bod, he joined in the chorus and sang ads loud as anyone there. once or twice he choked up. he asked to hear more good old hymns. when the african-americans obliged, he sang along with them. he was so tender hearted his eyes filled up when he went over
to bid the old folks good-bye. lincoln was cordial to the black employees at the white house. a seamstress who did sewing and mending for the first family, he treated the servants like people and would laugh and say kind things to them. echoing her, mrs. lincoln's dressmaker and confidant told the journalist, i loved him for his kind manner toward me. he was as kind and considerate in 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/barber who accompanied the family on their journey to washington in 1861. at first, johnson worked at the executive mansion as a porter. 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 in mid-march, the bear 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. the difference of color between him and the other servants and the cause of separation. if you can give him employment, you will have the president's -- 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. while he was hospitalized, a journalist discovered the
president counting out greenbacks. lincoln explained this is out of my usual line, but the president 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, a porter in one of the departments, the treasury, and who is at present badly sick with the smallpox. he is now in hospital and could not draw his pay and could not sign his name. i have considered the trouble to get it for him. i am dividing the money and putting a portion aside in an envelope according to my own hands. soon thereafter johnson died. lincoln bought a coffin for his burial, paid off johnson's home mortgage, even though the bank insisted 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 held. a year later he recommended that solomon johnson receive a promotion. well, let me close by saying, as mentioned about theodore roosevelt famously broke the color barrier when he had booker t. washington, a purely social event. no african-american was invited to dine at the lincoln white house. but in the late summer of 1864, lincoln invited frederick douglass at the first home where they resided during the warmer months. he declined because he had a speaking engagement that conflicted. the historian james oaks observed there was every reason to believe that douglas was invited to the soldier's home.
douglass thought lincoln was friendly to him because of the similarity we both fought our way up. all the evidence adduced here helps explain why douglass called lincoln emphatically the black's president. 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 preferred 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 steven a. douglas for the senate, and steven douglas was an outrageous racist, he played the race card shamelessly in 1858 and not in the debates, but all kinds of other speeches that aren't published. douglas played the race card shamelessly. i was recently in chicago visiting with friends and i said to them i've never been to see steven a. douglas's grave or monument. i've been told it's in a sketchy neighborhood. that i said no, no, it's not sketchy. they're okay. i'll take you there. they took me there. of all the statues that should be removed in the north, steven a. douglas. i was surprised to see it hadn't
been moved or even spray painted or anything. it's partly because it sits atop a 60 foot column. maybe all those other controversial statues should be put on columns 60 feet above the ground. back to your larger point, lincoln started the 1858 campaign with a speech in chicago in july of that year, which he said in conclusion, i paraphrase, but pretty close, let's stop all this quibbling about one race being inferior or superior or confined to an inferior position and let all unite behind the grand old declaration of independence and declare all men are created equal. lincoln feels cornered. he goes to coals county, southern illinois, 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 the speech that black people shouldn't be allowed to voters or jurors or allowed to marry white people, so forth. lincoln clearly changes his mind. in 1858 he says black people should not be allowed to vote. on april 11th, 1865, he announces, 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 those who served in the armed forces, those who are intelligent, he meant the literate. bear with me, those of you who have heard this before, lincoln was not make sured because he issued the emancipation proclamation. he was murdered because he called for black voting rights. that nigger citizenship -- three days later he killed him. he's a martyr to black voting
rights, civil rights as martin luther king, edgar evers, andrew goodman, any people murdered in the 1960s as they championed the civil rights movement of the 1960s. [ applause ] thank you. 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, that she was not on board 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? >> something should be pointed out. as i mentioned in passing, her best friend in the white house
was a black woman, elizabeth kekley, not only made her dresses, but her confidant. that was a close relationship until she did a book in 1868 where she revealed unflatter things about mrs. lincoln. another thing, because she was a friend to mrs. kekley she contributed money to the freedmen's relief association, something like that, to help the numerous fugitive slaves flooding into washington and who lived in desperately poor conditions. there were some signs of anti-racism, if you will, on her part. but when it came to formal events, like admitting black people at the white house, she drew the line there. yes? >> we're out of time, yes. >> i'm sorry. i had my watch here and i thought, well, i just forgot to look at it. well, thanks again for your attention.
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 neil joseph, a professor at university of texas, and author of "dark days, bright nights. watch 1868, america in turmoil, c-span's washington journal, and on american history tv on c-span 3. for nearly 20 years in depth on 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 the monthly
program in depth fiction edition. join us live sunday at noon eastern with walter mosley, "down the river unto the sea," and "devil in a blue dress," and during the program we'll be taking your phone calls, tweets and facebook messages. our special series, in depth fiction edition, with author walter mosley, sunday, live, from noon to 3:00 p.m. eastern on book tv on c-span2. monday on landmark cases, challenged the connecticut law banning the prescription and use of birth control. the supreme court ultimately ruled the statute to be
unconstitutional. the guests are helen alvare, and rachel rebouche. watch on monday and join the conversation. our hashtag is "landmark cases" and follow us at c-span. the landmark cases companion book is a link to the national interactive constitution, and the landmark cases podcast at c-span.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 herald, author of lincoln and the