Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era

University of Virginia Press
2
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The Civil War forced America finally to confront the contradiction between its founding values and human slavery. At the center of this historic confrontation was Abraham Lincoln. By the time this Illinois politician had risen to the office of president, the dilemma of slavery had expanded to the question of all African Americans’ future. In this fascinating new book Paul Escott considers the evolution of the president’s thoughts on race in relation to three other, powerful--and often conflicting--voices.

Lincoln’s fellow Republicans Charles Sumner and Montgomery Blair played crucial roles in the shaping of their party. While both Sumner and Blair were opposed to slavery, their motivations reflected profoundly different approaches to the issue. Blair’s antislavery stance stemmed from a racist dedication to remove African Americans from the country altogether. Sumner, in contrast, opposed slavery as a crusader for racial equality and a passionate abolitionist. Lincoln maintained close personal relationships with both men as he wrestled with the slavery question. In addition to these antislavery voices, Escott also weaves into his narrative the other extreme, of which Lincoln was politically aware: the virulent racism and hierarchical values that motivated not only the Confederates but surprisingly many Northerners and which were embodied by the president’s eventual assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Sumner, Blair, and violent racists like Booth each represent forces with which Lincoln had to contend as he presided over a brutal civil war and faced the issues of slavery and equality lying at its root. Other books and films have provided glimpses of the atmosphere in which the president created his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s Dilemma evokes more fully and brings to life the men Lincoln worked with, and against, as he moved racial equality forward.

A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era

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About the author

Paul D. Escott is Reynolds Professor of History at Wake Forest University and the author of Slavery Remembered: A Record of Twentieth-Century Slave Narratives, winner of the Mayflower Cup, and "What Shall We Do with the Negro?": Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America (Virginia).

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Virginia Press
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Published on
Aug 29, 2014
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780813936208
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Paul D. Escott
Throughout the Civil War, newspaper headlines and stories repeatedly asked some variation of the question posed by the New York Times in 1862, "What shall we do with the negro?" The future status of African Americans was a pressing issue for those in both the North and in the South. Consulting a broad range of contemporary newspapers, magazines, books, army records, government documents, publications of citizens’ organizations, letters, diaries, and other sources, Paul D. Escott examines the attitudes and actions of Northerners and Southerners regarding the future of African Americans after the end of slavery. "What Shall We Do with the Negro?" demonstrates how historians together with our larger national popular culture have wrenched the history of this period from its context in order to portray key figures as heroes or exemplars of national virtue.

Escott gives especial critical attention to Abraham Lincoln. Since the civil rights movement, many popular books have treated Lincoln as an icon, a mythical leader with thoroughly modern views on all aspects of race. But, focusing on Lincoln’s policies rather than attempting to divine Lincoln’s intentions from his often ambiguous or cryptic statements, Escott reveals a president who placed a higher priority on reunion than on emancipation, who showed an enduring respect for states’ rights, who assumed that the social status of African Americans would change very slowly in freedom, and who offered major incentives to white Southerners at the expense of the interests of blacks.Escott’s approach reveals the depth of slavery’s influence on society and the pervasiveness of assumptions of white supremacy. "What Shall We Do with the Negro?" serves as a corrective in offering a more realistic, more nuanced, and less celebratory approach to understanding this crucial period in American history.

Paul D. Escott
Although North Carolina was a "home front" state rather than a battlefield state for most of the Civil War, it was heavily involved in the Confederate war effort and experienced many conflicts as a result. North Carolinians were divided over the issue of secession, and changes in race and gender relations brought new controversy. Blacks fought for freedom, women sought greater independence, and their aspirations for change stimulated fierce resistance from more privileged groups. Republicans and Democrats fought over power during Reconstruction and for decades thereafter disagreed over the meaning of the war and Reconstruction.

With contributions by well-known historians as well as talented younger scholars, this volume offers new insights into all the key issues of the Civil War era that played out in pronounced ways in the Tar Heel State. In nine essays composed specifically for this volume, contributors address themes such as ambivalent whites, freed blacks, the political establishment, racial hopes and fears, postwar ideology, and North Carolina women. These issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras were so powerful that they continue to agitate North Carolinians today.

Contributors:
David Brown, Manchester University
Judkin Browning, Appalachian State University
Laura F. Edwards, Duke University
Paul D. Escott, Wake Forest University
John C. Inscoe, University of Georgia
Chandra Manning, Georgetown University
Barton A. Myers, University of Georgia
Steven E. Nash, University of Georgia
Paul Yandle, West Virginia University
Karin Zipf, East Carolina University



Paul D. Escott
The South often seems like a foreign country to newcomers from other parts of the United States. And for people from other countries, Southern customs and lifestyle can be even more bewildering. For anyone who has ever wondered why the style of conducting busines in the South is different or why some Southerners are still fighting the Civil War, this book will be a valuable guide. The informative and entertaining essays will help new Southerners understand and appreciate the region and its people, and they will also serve as a refresher course on the South for those who are comfortably settled in.

Each of the essays adopts a different perspective to suggest just how the South is different from other American regions. In turn, they examine the special meaning of history for Southerners, the boundaries of the South as a geographical and as an imaginary region, the rhetoric and the reality of Southern race relations, the South's change from a rural to a metropolitan culture, the myth of the Southern belle and the reality of Southern women's lives, the political metamorphosis that turned the Solid South into the Solid Republican South, and the recent transformation of the poorest region in the country into an economic wonder called the Sunbelt.

Readers will learn that when Southerners ask strangers what church they attend, the intent is not to pry but to be friendly. They will also discover that "where the kudzu grows" is one of the best ways to define where the South is located.

The essays offer the insights of both shcolarship and experience, for the contributors -- most of them originally non-Southerners -- learned about this region by living in it as well as studying it.

The contributors are Julia Kirk Blackwelder, Paul D. Escott, David R. Goldfield, Nell Irvin Painter, John Shelton Reed, and Thomas E. Terrill.

Paul D. Escott
Although North Carolina was a "home front" state rather than a battlefield state for most of the Civil War, it was heavily involved in the Confederate war effort and experienced many conflicts as a result. North Carolinians were divided over the issue of secession, and changes in race and gender relations brought new controversy. Blacks fought for freedom, women sought greater independence, and their aspirations for change stimulated fierce resistance from more privileged groups. Republicans and Democrats fought over power during Reconstruction and for decades thereafter disagreed over the meaning of the war and Reconstruction.

With contributions by well-known historians as well as talented younger scholars, this volume offers new insights into all the key issues of the Civil War era that played out in pronounced ways in the Tar Heel State. In nine essays composed specifically for this volume, contributors address themes such as ambivalent whites, freed blacks, the political establishment, racial hopes and fears, postwar ideology, and North Carolina women. These issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras were so powerful that they continue to agitate North Carolinians today.

Contributors:
David Brown, Manchester University
Judkin Browning, Appalachian State University
Laura F. Edwards, Duke University
Paul D. Escott, Wake Forest University
John C. Inscoe, University of Georgia
Chandra Manning, Georgetown University
Barton A. Myers, University of Georgia
Steven E. Nash, University of Georgia
Paul Yandle, West Virginia University
Karin Zipf, East Carolina University



Paul D. Escott
Throughout the Civil War, newspaper headlines and stories repeatedly asked some variation of the question posed by the New York Times in 1862, "What shall we do with the negro?" The future status of African Americans was a pressing issue for those in both the North and in the South. Consulting a broad range of contemporary newspapers, magazines, books, army records, government documents, publications of citizens’ organizations, letters, diaries, and other sources, Paul D. Escott examines the attitudes and actions of Northerners and Southerners regarding the future of African Americans after the end of slavery. "What Shall We Do with the Negro?" demonstrates how historians together with our larger national popular culture have wrenched the history of this period from its context in order to portray key figures as heroes or exemplars of national virtue.

Escott gives especial critical attention to Abraham Lincoln. Since the civil rights movement, many popular books have treated Lincoln as an icon, a mythical leader with thoroughly modern views on all aspects of race. But, focusing on Lincoln’s policies rather than attempting to divine Lincoln’s intentions from his often ambiguous or cryptic statements, Escott reveals a president who placed a higher priority on reunion than on emancipation, who showed an enduring respect for states’ rights, who assumed that the social status of African Americans would change very slowly in freedom, and who offered major incentives to white Southerners at the expense of the interests of blacks.Escott’s approach reveals the depth of slavery’s influence on society and the pervasiveness of assumptions of white supremacy. "What Shall We Do with the Negro?" serves as a corrective in offering a more realistic, more nuanced, and less celebratory approach to understanding this crucial period in American history.

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