Anniversary of Lincoln’s Assassination

On April 11, 1865, Abraham Lincoln became the first president in U.S. History to advocate suffrage (albeit limited) for African Americans. In response, Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, turned to his companion David Herold and angrily remarked “that means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I’ll put him through.” Three days later Booth killed Lincoln. As I put it in my book: ” it would not be too much of an exaggeration, considering that it was Lincoln’s recommendation in April 1865 of limited suffrage for male African Americans that prompted Booth to assassinate him, to say that Lincoln was a white American who, whatever his motives, tried to do and did some good things for blacks in the United States and was killed for it.” I’m not certain that this makes Abraham Lincoln the first martyr for civil rights in the United States (a position I have heard advocated by others and one with which I am sympathetic). Sadly, we more often hear from the president’s critics of Lincoln’s alleged racism, as expressed in his debates with Stephen Douglas, than we do of this broadly expansive political and cultural milestone in American life.

 

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