Many people throughout history have credited our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, of freeing African Americans from slavery. He may receive the historical credit, but there were plenty of other politicians and activists who had a giant hand in President Lincoln finally making this decision. This and much more are explored in Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation: 1861-1865 by William K. Klingaman.
Reading this book was like taking a trip back in time during the start of The American Civil War. The American Civil War was fought because the southern states seceded from the Union due to trying to protect the institution and expansion of slavery. Although some of the northern states did not necessarily want to abolish slavery, they also were not interested in having it expand either. Many politicians and abolitionists wanted slavery to end. They strongly believed that slavery was morally and ethically wrong and needed to be stopped ASAP.
When President Lincoln took office in March of 1861, he had all of these issues to deal with plus much, much more. We first see him try to convince the southern states to come back to the Union along with trying to convince the border states to stay. He is also trying to appease the northern states by stating that he eventually wants slavery to be abolished. However, he initially believed it should be done in stages over the course of 35 years or so. I liken President Lincoln’s initial approach to trying to save a marriage way off track or a family that has stopped speaking to each other almost completely. You are doing everything you can to make concessions and to try to get the other person/people to see your point of view. However, you are also trying to compromise. A lot of times this is done in relationships even though we know or suspect the other person/people are wrong. We say that we care that much about the family that we want to preserve it.
However, as Mr. Lincoln eventually discovers, the family cannot go back to the way it was. Some of the members of the United States of America family are not considered citizens at all. They are considered pieces of property. That is wrong and needs to stop. Due to Mr. Lincoln’s final decision as well as the countless efforts of abolitionists and politicians, The Civil War was escalated to force the Confederacy back into the Union and to abolish slavery for good. A very important document called The Emancipation Proclamation was drawn up in early 1863 in order to free all of the slaves.
Did this freedom mean automatic, racial equality? Very sadly no, it did not. Unfortunately, that is another painful story. Mr Lincoln did set the foundation for this to happen, even though it took literally another 100 years or so to start to take root. We are still fighting for this today. Just because President Barack Obama is in office does not mean that we have attained racial equality. However, I believe that we are on the road to it in many ways. Are things perfect? No. But thanks to Mr Lincoln’s decision and to the many that convinced him, we are much closer than we were in 1861.