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After reading this piece of - to put it in the kindest terms possible - misinterpreted history: http://blog.reidreport.com/... , I began wondering what was the best way to use this as a teaching moment to educate the Tea Party folks and people like Mark Williams on the legacy of slavery and the reality of what emancipation was in this country.

I had to look no further than Frederick Douglass, specifically this part of his 1876 Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln:

We fully comprehend the relation of Abraham Lincoln both to ourselves and to the white people of the United States. Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places, and it is never more proper and beautiful in any case than when speaking of a great public man whose example is likely to be commended for honor and imitation long after his departure to the solemn shades, the silent continents of eternity. It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.

link: http://www.ashbrook.org/...

O, but how can an abolitionist who Mr. Williams would alledge carries the banner of the modern day tea party bring race, of all things, into a discussion of the martyred President Lincoln?

But wait, there's more:

He was preeminently the white man's President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery. His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation. He was ready to execute all the supposed guarantees of the United States Constitution in favor of the slave system anywhere inside the slave states. He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government. The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration.

So how in all of creation could Frederick Douglass honor a President who had all the failings he had just enumerated? I'll let the orator of his age explain in his own words:

When, therefore, it shall be asked what we have to do with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us, the answer is ready, full, and complete. Though he loved Caesar less than Rome, though the Union was more to him than our freedom or our future, under his wise and beneficent rule we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood; under his wise and beneficent rule, and by measures approved and vigorously pressed by him, we saw that the handwriting of ages, in the form of prejudice and proscription, was rapidly fading away from the face of our whole country; under his rule, and in due time, about as soon after all as the country could tolerate the strange spectacle, we saw our brave sons and brothers laying off the rags of bondage, and being clothed all over in the blue uniforms of the soldiers of the United States; under his rule we saw two hundred thousand of our dark and dusky people responding to the call of Abraham Lincoln, and with muskets on their shoulders, and eagles on their buttons, timing their high footsteps to liberty and union under the national flag; under his rule we saw the independence of the black republic of Haiti, the special object of slave-holding aversion and horror, fully recognized, and her minister, a colored gentleman, duly received here in the city of Washington; under his rule we saw the internal slave-trade, which so long disgraced the nation, abolished, and slavery abolished in the District of Columbia; under his rule we saw for the first time the law enforced against the foreign slave trade, and the first slave-trader hanged like any other pirate or murderer; under his rule, assisted by the greatest captain of our age, and his inspiration, we saw the Confederate States, based upon the idea that our race must be slaves, and slaves forever, battered to pieces and scattered to the four winds; under his rule, and in the fullness of time, we saw Abraham Lincoln, after giving the slave-holders three months' grace in which to save their hateful slave system, penning the immortal paper, which, though special in its language, was general in its principles and effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States. Though we waited long, we saw all this and more.

President Lincoln, his embrace of the controversial "middle ground" policy of colonialization, and his initial framing of the Civil War as a war to save the Union and not to abolish slavery was vexing to the vast majority of abolitionists (see Horace Greeley's nineteenth century open rant to Lincoln here: http://www.civilwarhome.com/... ). They did not love this President because he was a full throated abolitionist.

They loved him in no small part because he respected and understood the need for people to be active participants in their own freedom, to be able to fight for their own liberty.

In other words, President Lincoln treated slaves as individuals, with dignity and respect, in spite of his own inherent racism. He is a great man because - at the end of the day - his sense of justice overcame the racism of his day that he himself did not always seem to personally transcend.

So, instead of engaging in historical fantasy and incoherent rants written in a dubious narrative, perhaps Mr. Williams would do better to learn this one lesson from Lincoln and this history: do not let racism shape your policy; instead, shape your policy around doing what is right in spite of your racism.

At the end of the day, this is really just what the NAACP is asking the Tea Party to do. It's too bad they're yelling so loudly that they can't hear that message.

Originally posted to grannyhelen on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 04:36 PM PDT.

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