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tv   The Civil War Abraham Lincoln and African Americans  CSPAN  April 29, 2020 2:02pm-3:00pm EDT

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government. already this year we brought you primary election coverage, the presidential impeachment process and now the federal response to the coronavirus. you can watch all of c-span's public affairs programming on television, online or listen on our free radio app, and be part of the national conversation through c-span's daily washington journal program or through our social media feeds. c-span, created by private industry, america's cable television companies. as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. >> next on the civil war, author jonathan white talks about how abraham lincoln interacted with african-americans he met during his time in office. he explains how lincoln's willingness to have african-american guests at the white house and shake their hands was considered very liberal, even radical at the time. this talk was part of a
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symposium held at the library of virginia in richmond. >> our next speaker is john white. john white is an associate professor of american studies at christopher new port university in new port news. when i look at john's vida, his academic resume i think of an old graduate school adviser and i'm talking about you, jim wittenberg, would say to us when he would come to our offices to find someone to volunteer for a project. busy people get things done, and we knew we were in for it when dr. wittenberg talked about that. jonathan white has to be the busiest young scholar in the field today. he's not only a prolific hiftor yap, but more projects on more backburners than i've ever seen on the stove award. he won the outstanding faculty award for academic education. he's a parent of young children,
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i don't know where john finds the time. he's been very generous with what remaining time he has from all of that for this museum and our education programs for which we're all very grateful. as you can see from your printed programs, the topics of john's work are -- his published work are many and varied with something of a focus abraham lincoln with the legal and constitution, as well and he's co-author of a book entitled civic education and the work of citizenship and because he has news -- they wrote our little monitor, the greatest invention of this civil war. i i asked him to put it on a topic, and it draws from other two manuscripts. he's currently time is,
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african-americans in the lincoln white house. ladies and gentlemen, jonathan white. [ applause ] >> thank you, john, for that very kind introduction. >> i missed ballet practice to be here today -- not my own ballet, i should say. my 3-year-old's, but i'm really thrilled to thrilled to be here at the library of virginia. it's the middle of the sicivil war, early 1863 a black teenager is living in the capital and working for frank pruitt. one night lizzy went to bed and she lay down on the couch and all of a sudden she heard someone come in next to her. she asked who was there? and he said, liz, it is me, frank. i want to get into bed with you, but don't want you to tell lib, will you? lib was his wife. lizzy said she was tired and she told him to go away, but she
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persevered and put his arms around her neck and slept with her and that happened on several occasions. when lizzy realized she was pregnant she told frank. he asked if the baby was his and she confirmed that it was. a baby girl was born on november 3, 1863. in may of 1864, frank told lizzie he wanted her to take the child and get out of his home. she replied that she would leave if he gave her financial support, but he refused. when lizzie then learned that frank was going to kick her out of the house she decided to confront him in front of his wife. the next morning, a sunday, lizzie packed up her belongings, packed her baby and knocked on the pruitt's bedroom door, frank stayed in bed while his wife who just had a baby of her own got out of bed and she turned to frank and she said look at me, look at the baby and remember what you have done to me. he, sitting in bed simply
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replied, well, she then reminded him that he had promised to give financial support for the child and she threatened i will disgrace you on the morrow if he didn't supply financial support. at this pruit became angry and he turned to his wife and said do you believe that damned black bitch and she said yes, frank, for the last three months you have acted as if you were a phrase of liz. he jumped out of bed and grabbed a revolver, and he said i never intend to die a natural death and i will blow your brains out and his wife grabbed the revolver and said frank, a murder over my child. he choked her, threw her against the wall and ordered her to get out of his house. lizzie hurried her way out of the home with the baby in her arms. she returned later in the day to get her trunk and when she went back to the house mrs. pruit
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gave her some money. the next morning, a monday at 7:00 a.m. she went to find a local judge, and she wanted to file a complaint against pruitt and the judge refuse period upon she then went to another judge who was willing to issue the warrant. unfortunately, when pruitt found out about this he decided to act, too, and he had lizzie arrested for grand larceny that very same night and he claimed that the money his wife had given to her had actually been stolen. she spent the rest of the week in jail and was finally released on bail. on june 16, 1864, a judge in d.c. heard the case against pruitt. lizzie testified and told her story and it's a remarkable moment because prior to the civil war, african-americans are generally not allowed to testify against whites in state or federal courts or in the district of colombia but the ward changed that and she testified and told her story. several eyewitnesses offered their own accounts of what they
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had seen or thought happened and the judge decided to acquit pruitt. some time around when this trial took place, lizzy's baby died. lizzie then went to trial herself as a defendant on november 3, 1864, what would have been her baby's first birthday. she was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison at the albany penitentiary in new york. the following day she sent a letter to abraham lincoln. she was not able to write herself and so an unknown hand wrote it for her, and you can see this is the actual letter and these are some of her words. the fault was my own for which i was convicted, but i most solemnly declare before my maker that i am guilty of no crime. she explained how in an evil hour she gave way to the import unities and having nowhere left to turn she implored lincoln for
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mercy. the monies given to me by mrs. pruitt on condition they would say nothing of myself and mr. pruitt. at the end of the letter she marked her name with an "x." as lincoln sat in his white house office holding lizzie's letter and reviewing her case file, many thoughts may have flashed through his mind. his own genealogy had striking similarities to the story of lizzie shorter. lincoln believed that his own mother's conception was the result of a wealthy virginia planter taking sexual advantage of a poor young girl and lincoln's law partner said that this was a painful memory for lincoln. lincoln also had strong misgivings about society's double standards when it came to cases of seduction or extra marital sex. he thought it was unjust that women received more blame than men who participated in sexual indiscretions and he wrote a
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poem about this in the 1830s and these are a few lines of that poem. whatever spiteful fools may say, each jealous ranting yelper, no woman ever played the whore unless she had a man to help her. that one's not on the lincoln memorial. [ laughter ] pruitt's sexual exploitation of elizabeth shorter clearly offended lincoln's sense of justice and lincoln felt empathy for the young mother. he knew the grief of losing a child. he had lost two sons of his own. considering all of the evidence on hand and moved with compassion, lincoln issued a pardon on november 5th before she could even be sent to new york for imprisonment and this is what he wrote on the back of her letter. elizabeth shorter's case is probably the fastest pardon lincoln ever issued. she was convicted on november 3rd, wrote a letter on november 4th and he pardoned her on
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november 5th. all the more remarkable is the timing. three days later lincoln would stand for re-election for the presidency for his second term in office. now the story of elizabeth shorter is an important one. although it's completely unknown today, it confirms lincoln's belief that all people deserved a fair hearing and equality before the law. he knew that lizzie shorter had been wronged and so he did what he could do to rectify the situation. when dealing with pardons and cases like this, he acted upon principles of equality regardless of a person's race, color, sex or previous condition of servitude. recently "the new york times" project 1619 has gotten a good deal of attention among scholars and the general public. the essays in the project do a wonderful and great service for reminding us for the centrality of race and slavery to the american story, but unfortunately, the project
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introduces some significant distortions of its own. the project presents an incomplete and misleading portrait of lincoln and part of the mischaracterization has to do with the lack of historical context. one of the primary pieces of evidence against lincoln and project 1619 is a meeting that lincoln had with a black delegation in august of 1862 in which he sought to persuade five black leaders from washington, d.c. to lead african-americans out of the country to central america through a process known as colonization. it's an unfortunate moment that lincoln's scholars like myself have to deal with because we find lincoln lecturing his guests in a very con descending way. he tells them that the war is their fault, if they weren't here we wouldn't be at war and they should leave the country, taken at face value, it's really quite pathetic. yet, within the context of the time it makes more sense.
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lincoln brought a stenographer to this meeting because he wanted his words to be written down and spread throughout the newspapers immediately. he wanted white americans throughout the north to read his speech for a very important political reason. he had decided to issue an emancipation proclamation, but he knew that a white racist northern populous was not going to be likely to absent it so he had to prepare them for it and this was part of how he chose to do that. in essence, lincoln was telling white northerners, you don't need to be worried about emancipation because i will try to persuade people of color to leave the country once they're freed. on the one hand this was a remarkable moment that demonstrated a great step forward in american race relations for it was the first time in american history that a sitting president had invited african-americans to the white house for a meeting. on the other hand, it was a pr stunt, and it was tremendously
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condescending toward african-americans and so much so that it had negative impacts on black northerners throughout the north, but lincoln was a masterful politician. he did this as an entering wedge so that he could introduce something bigger and better in the near future, the emancipation proclamation. william lloyd garrison's newspaper "the liberator" captured the complexity and multiple pieces of this meeting calling it a spectacle as humiliating as it was extraordinary. here is the question i want to set out for today. was this meeting with lincoln and the black delegation in august 1862, was this typical of his meetings with african-americans? should it have been held as exemplary of his behavior as "the new york times" has done? to put it simply, i would argue absolutely not. as early as april of 1861 lincoln began engaging with
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african-americans in ways that no other president ever had. on april 18th, a baltimore mob badly wounded a black servant named nicholas bittel who was traveling from pennsylvania to washington, d.c., with the regimen of pennsylvania volunteers. someone in this mob shouted "n" word in uniform, while the other yelled kill the damned brother of abe lincoln. bittel received a horrifying blow to the face by a paving stone thrown in his direction. as one of his comrades wrote in his diary, nick bittel had his head cut open by a stone thrown. the pennsylvania soldiers eventually made it to washington and they were quartered in the u.s. capital. bittel lay in pain, a pool of blood staining the floor where he slept that night. the next day lincoln went to the capital with several cabinet secretaries to greet these soldiers. he took each man by the hand
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including nicholas bittel. a black chaplain for the union army later wrote this. he said bittel's pain was mixed with pleasure at the capital, for it was his priviledge to be visited by abraham lincoln and to be received by the president words of compliment and cheer. until the day he died in 1876 bittel never tired of telling people about what he called the supreme hours of his life, the time he was wounded in baltimore and went to washington, d.c. and met abraham lincoln. lincoln welcomed his first black guest to the white house in arl arl 1862, a bishop named daniel payne. payne came to discuss emancipation in the district of columbia. they had a long conversation, about 45 minutes in lincoln's office and afterwards, payne wrote about it and these are payne's wors. there was nothing stiff or form
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alg in the air and manner of his excellency, nothing egotistic. president lincoln received and conversed with me as though i had been one of his intimate acquaintances or one of his friendly neighbors. i left him with the profound sense of his real greatness, and his fitness to rule a nation composed of almost all the races on the face of the globe. the following month in may of 1862, lincoln visited a hospital in washington, d.c., where a white nurse introduced him to three black cooks who were preparing food for the sick and wounded soldiers. at least one of the three cooks was a former slave. lincoln greeted the three african-americans in a kindly tone. how do you do, lucy, he said to the first. the nurse then remarked that lincoln stuck out his long hand in recognition of the women's services. he stuck out his hand to shake her hand. next, lincoln turned to the two black men and gave them a hearty
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grip and asked them, how do you do? when the president left the room the three black cooks stood there, the nurse described it, they had shining faces that testified to their amazement and joy for all time, but soon she began to look around the room and she noticed how the white officers who were convalescing there reacted to the scene. they expressed a feeling of intense disgust and claimed that it was a mean, contemptible trickle for those to introduce those damn "n" words to the president. fortunately, lincoln paid those racist views no mind. he treated the black cooks the same way he did the white union soldiers at the hospital. he was grateful to them for their service and to their nation and he didn't alter his behave consider simply because white soldiers were looking on in disbelief. throughout his time at the white house, lincoln welcomed several
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dozen black visitors. some of these guests were famous like frederick douglas and sojourner truth. most are completely forgotten today. when lincoln met with these black visitors whether they were famous or not, he always shook their hands and he almost invariably initiated that human contact. we have to put this in context. for lincoln, shaking hands was a tiresome chore because he has to do it all day every day and yet when a black visitor came to his office he always warmly, kindly, eagerly and repeatedly grasped their hands. this small gesture should not be discounted for it carried not only great meaning for his black visitors and also important symbolic meaning for white americans who read about these encounters in the newspapers. most white politicians in the 1860s never would have been willing to be so genuinely welcoming to an african-american. as the historians james horton
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wrote, blacks often work with white reformers who displayed partial views and the hortons describe in their research that there were white abolitionists and they refused to shake the hands of the black abolitionists. this continue in the post-war period where reformers showed the prejudice. during his run in 1872 horace is touring in pennsylvania and a black delegation comes up to him and they go to shake his hand and he showed great disdain for them, towards them for thinking that they ought to be able to shake his hand. not so with abraham lincoln. in fact, lincoln's hospitality toward african-americans was well known during his presidency. union nurse mary livermore wrote this, she said to the lowly, the humble, the timid colored man and woman he bent in special
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kindness. another washingtonian in 1866 said the good and just heart of abraham lincoln prompted him to receive representatives of every class then fighting for the union. nor was he above shaking black hands for hands of that color then carried the stars and stripes or used muscular saver in its defense. african-americans took great pride in being able to shake president lincoln's hand. some believed it had near talismanic power. after lincoln was assassinated mary lincoln gave several gifts to prominent african-americans who had been close to lincoln including frederick douglas and mary lincoln's seem stress. and douglas and keckly cherished these gifts and relics that had been held close in lincoln's right hand. as sojourner truth said it was the same hand that signed the death warrant of slavery. in 1815, the poet james weldon
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johnson celebrated the 50th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation with these words. since they struck off our bonds and made us men. in january 1864, four black men decided to push the boundaries and attend a new year's reception at the white house. the first time that black men would go to the white house in a social way, and not as a servant or a slave. >> people who observed this scene noted that lincoln greeted them in a kindly way and not treating them any different than the white visitors. about a month and a half later two black army surgeons decided to go to the same thing and one of them is alexandering a augusto, who is here on the left. >> augusta had overcome trem knowous life, and his family
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moved to baltimore in the 1830s? it is it was it was it was in the in the medical cal know. so in 1863 he sent a letter to abraham lincoln. he was still in canada, but he wanted lincoln to know he wanted to serve his nation and a race in the union army. despite his qualifications, augusta faced intense discrimination in the application process. >> he appeared before the army medical board in march 1863 and examined by this guy on the left, dr. meredith climber. dr. climber expressed and these are his word, surprise that augusta, quote, appeared to be a person of african descent.
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augusta explained to the members of the board i have come a thousand miles of sacrifice hoping to be of use to my country and my race in this eventful period and hope of the board will make a favorable view of my case, but the board was unmoved and dr. climber and surgeon general william a. hammond both wanted the war department to recall augusta's invitation to appear. fortunately the secretary of war edward stanton stepped in and he refused to give in to their racially motivated requests. in 1836 augusta passed the board's examination, the first african-american, he became the first african-american to receive an army commission in american history. he was commission major. surgeon general hammond went up to the examining physician and his name was cronan and he said i say, cronan, how did you come to let the "n" word pass? dr. cronan said the "n" word
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knew more than i did, and i could not help myself. >> once in uniform, augusta faced awful racial violence and discrimination and he was traveling through baltimore in 1863 where he was visually attacked by a mob. he was later kicked off of a washington d.c. street war and he went to the supreme court and he was not allowed to watch. you need to take away his commission. it is outrageous that we are outranked by a black man, but augusta wouldn't allow any of this to stop him. he and his friend dr. anderson abbott approached the white house for a public reception. they came dressed in their blue union uniforms. inside the building they met benjamin brown french and he was the commissioner of the public buildings and they presented french with their cards and these are abbott's words describing the scene. french conducted us with all the
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urbanity imaginable to the president who was standing just inside the door. french first introduced augusta to president lincoln and according to abbott, mr. lincoln, on seeing augusta advanced eagerly a few paces forward and grasped his hand. now about six paces away, mary todd lincoln was standing, talking to her son robert who was home from harvard and she sent robert over to the president and lincoln was still holding augusta's hand and robert comes over and says are you going to allow this innovation? and lincoln turns to his son and says why not? nothing more was said between the president and his son and robert slifrpgnked back over to mother's side and at that, lincoln turned over to augusta and these are anderson abbott's words and gave his hand a hearty shake and the president then shook abbott's hand. people who witnessed this scene were amazed biwa they saw.
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lincoln's private sect william o. stoddard said this, i shall never forget the sensation produced at the levy by the appearance of two tall and very well-dressed africans among the crowd of those who came to pay their respects. it was a practical assertion of ne negro citizenship for which few were prepared. lincoln, according to stoddard, nevertheless received them with marked kindness and after a while they went on their way with great self-possession. it was as good as a play. another witness to the scene said no visitor could discover that mr. lincoln considered them black. they were greeted with the same cordiality and freedom that he bestowed upon white men and according to this witness, lincoln treated the affair as of ordinary occurrence. augusta would go on to become the highest-ranking black commissioned officer of the civil war. he had a number of other impressive firsts in american history.
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he was the first black doctor to graduate from a medical school in british north america. the first black commissioned officer in the army, the first african-american to run a hospital in the united states. he ran the contraband hospital in washington, d.c. in 1868 he joined the faculty at howard university becoming the first black person to teach medicine in the country. the following year he received an honorary degree from howard university becoming the first black man to receive such an honor from an american university. even in death he had one final impressive first. the first black officer to be buried at arlington national cemetery when he died at the age of 65 in 1890. i know -- i'm a virginian, and pennsylvanian by birth and virginian by necessity, and i know that the state legislature and the richmond city counselor are talking to do what to do with monument avenue, and i would suggest the creation of a
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monument to alexander t. augusta and he was from norfolk, after all, and i think it would tell a very compelling story if you placed augusta near lee, stewart, jackson and davis. it would tell a much more complete and compelling story of the commonwealth during the civil war. during the summer of 1864, lincoln met with several groups of black religious leaders in washington and they asked him for permission to hold picnics on the white house grounds and in each case lincoln gave permission. the incredible nature of these, vents is captured by how the democratic press responded. democrats complained that white religious groups had never been given permission to use the white house grounds for picnic, why was lincoln allowing black groups to do this mp ma? many expressed outrage. "the cincinnati enquirer" wrote, that with negro lawyers in the supreme court and negros at white house receptions that now
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the negro race is looking up or rather looking down on the white race from the elevated position it has attained in this administration. a pennsylvania newspaperer. >> >>ed sneered at lincoln. it was "the star of the north" from bloomsberg, pennsylvania and this is what they wrote in 1864, when did we ever have a president that made so much of the negro or was ever willing to take him into his private and social circles as abraham lincoln does? mr. lincoln is emphatically the black man's president and the white man's curse. i love that line. emphatically the black man's president because in december 1864 a copperhead newspaper is using that phrase to say who abraham lincoln is. in june of 1865 at the cooper union in new york frederick douglas would deliver a eulogy to abraham lincoln and he would
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call lincoln emphatically the black man's president. in september 1864, a group of black ministers from baltimore brought a very expensive bible that they presented to lincoln out of gratitude for all they'd done for african-americans and i would see the bible a couple of months ago at fisk university in nashville, and i took a picture of the medallion on the front cover. the following month, sojourner truth came to the white house and met with lincoln and lincoln sat down with her and showed her the bible. upon seeing the good book truth said this is beautiful and to think that the colored people have given this to the head of the government and to think that government once sanctioned laws that would not permit its people to learn enough to be able to read what is in this book. as truth rose to leave, she said, mr. lincoln arose and took my hand and said he would be pleased to have me call again. truth said i felt like i was in
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the presence of a friend and i now thank god from the bottom of my heart that i always have advocated his cause and have done it openly and boldly. lincoln also met with african-americans to discuss important matters of public policy. in the spring of 1864 he met with two delegations of black men from the south to discuss the issue of should the right to vote be given to black men. in march 1864 he met with two creoles from new orleans who presented this petition to him asking for the right to vote. the two elite, wealthy creole men argued that wealthy, tax paying black men should be given the franchise. lincoln said to them, i regret, gentlemen, that you are not able to secure all your rights and that circumstances will not permit the government to confirm them upon you. what lincoln said the right to vote is controlled at the state level and as president he has no power over who can vote. lincoln then told the two
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visitors that he wished they would amend the petition and one of them replied, if you will permit me, i will do so here. lincoln said are you the author of this eloquent production? and the man replied, wetherehet eloquent or not, it is my work. they sat down side by side and worked together to,a mendment document. according to one witness the southern gentlemen who were present at the scene did not hesitate to admit that their prejudicis had just received another shock. this meeting had very important effects on lincoln. the very next day, march 13, 1864, he sends a famous letter to the newly elected governor of louisiana michael hahn and the majority of this letter that lincoln wrote had to do with what he called a private suggestion that hahn pushed at the state level for black men to get the right to vote. lincoln said the very intelligent and those who have
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fought gallantly in our ranks, such voters, lincoln said, would probably help in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom. lincoln's suggestion to governor hahn is remarkable in several ways. most importantly it's the first time that a sitting president advocates for the right to vote for black men. clearly, the arguments put forward by the delegation by louisiana had begun to influence the way lincoln is going to think about this issue. it's also worth noting that lincoln actually advocated for a broader expansion of suffrage than even the two black men from louisiana had asked for. they wanted the right to vote for elite black men, taxpayers and lincoln wants the right to vote for people who are very intelligent meaning educated or who bear arms for the union regardless of their financial status. a month after this meeting, lincoln met with another
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delegation, six black men from north carolina came to lincoln asking for the right to vote in their state. the leader of this group was a man named abraham galloway and it was in 1837 in north carolina and she was a how and when he got to philadelphia blood was coming out of his pores because of the turpentine. early in the civil war galloway worked as a spy by the union army and by the mid center he was at the center of black soldiers in north carolina. galloway and five other black men come to washington to personally deliver a petition to abraham lincoln. four of these six men had been born into slavery. the men were amazed when they got to the white house that they were escorted through the front door of the building because they said if we were back in north carolina we wouldn't even be led through the back door of the magistrate. in washington, d.c., they were
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escorted through the front door of the white house and lincoln shook each of their hands. lincoln said to the visitors that he had labored hard through many difficulties for the good of the colored race and that he should continue to do so. he then gave them the full assurance of his sympathy that they are now making for their rights and one of the men said he told us that he would do what he could for us, but again, as voting was controlled at the state level, lincoln said it would have to be dealt with during reconstruction, still, lincoln told the black visitors, he was blood black men had their rights. when the conversation ended lincoln again shook their hands. reflecting on this experience, one of the north carolinians was moved by how lincoln had greeted them and he said lincoln received us cordially and spoke
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with us freely and kindly. in august 1864, lincoln called frederick douglas to come to the white house for a meeting. lincoln was convinced he would lose in his bid for reelection and he wanted toy from as many slaves as he could. he said douglas, i hate slavery as much as you do, and i want to see it abolished altogether. the two men then sat down in lincoln's office to come up with a plan. how can we free as many slaves as possible before i'm out of the white house in march 1865 and the plan they came up with was create a band of scouts, that's what douglas called it and try to get as many slaves to be free as possible. as douglas later explained, what he said on this day showed a deeper moral conviction against slavery than anything i had before spoken by him. >> i listen with the deepest interest and profound
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satisfaction. ? learning are lincoln's meeting has suggested it shows his genuine humanitarianism and freeing the slaves at this point in the war had nothing to do with military necessity and it had everything to do with what was morally right. the meetings, of the two dozen that i found and they demonstrate beyond doubt that lingeron stro lincoln strove to break down the barriers in washington, d.c. he even invited americans into the white house. and i would love to tell one of those stories during the q and a if you want to hear it. >> poor black women and men, he gave them money like this check, $5, we don't even know the recipient's name. he gave them food and he gave them clothes and there's a story
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of lincoln calling a poor black man into the white house that he saw standing outside of the white house and giving him food. he sang and prayed with former slaves at the contraband camp in washington, d.c. frederick douglas' meetings with lincoln transformed the way he viewed lincoln and he relished telling northern audiences about his experiences. i have been to washington to see the white house and as you were not there perhaps you would like to know how the president of the united states received a black man at the white house, douglas proudly told an audience in 1863. he received me just as you have seen one gentleman receive another. at this, douglas paused while the audience erupted in applause. he then continued by saying that lincoln greeted him with a hand and a voice well balanced between a kind, cordiality and a respectful reserve. i tell you, i felt big there.
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lincoln's interactions with these poor men and women of color are touching reminders that he can connect with people who came from such different life circumstances from his own. since the 1850s he argued that even enslaved women deserved the rights enumerated in the declaration of independence. i'll put the words up here. in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of anyone else, she is my equal and the equal of all others. this was a remarkable thing for a white male politician to say in the 1850s for he was telling a white, male, racist audience that all people of all colors everywhere had value and worth and were included in the sacred words of the declaration. now in these private moments at the white house, lincoln
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practiced what he had been preaching. he treated all people as equals and connected with them on an emotional level in ways that no white person likely ever had before. certainly, no president before lincoln had ever done so. thank you. [ applause ] do we have time for questions? >> thank you very much. two questions. i've been trying to get information on a reverend parker from hampton roads and there is a book that says that he comes to meet with abraham lincoln. >> i think he's from norfolk. >> want that information, too, then. >> and if you could talk about martin delaney? >> sure, and when he meets with
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abraham lincoln and when that book comes out, i'll buy it. >> thank you. two books. i'm working on two books. i don't know about parker, but i will look into it and we can exchange contact info after, and if i find anything i would love to let you know. i'm working on two books on african-americans. one is black correspondence to president lincoln and the other is about black visitors to the white house and the question is about martin delaney. he's a very famous abolitionist and immigrationist in the 1850s, a doctor and he starts writing to the war department in 1863 about getting commission to the army and he doesn't actually get one until 1865. he meets with lincoln, i want to say late february, 1865 and they go and they have a very long conversation and delaney says to lincoln, i've got this idea. we need to create an army of
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only black men. you see, the civil war union armies were segregated and the regiments, i'm sorry. so you had black enlisted men and noncommissioned officers being overseen by white commissioned officers and he goes in and meets with lincoln and says if we commit an army of black men and they're officered by black men that would just terrify the south and it would help lead to the end of the war and we know this through delaney's memoir and it was published in 1883 and he gives a very long description of this conversation and according to delaney, lincoln turns to him and says this is the idea i've been wanting to hear for a long time and no one's come up with it. i'm glad that someone has finally done this and shortly after this conversation, delaney receives a commission as an officer in the union army. there is some question about the timing because by february or
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march of '65, i don't know that lincoln would have needed that kind of army at that point because he can kind of see the handwriting on the wall in terms of where the war is going, but it is beyond doubt that lincoln met with delaney and that they had this conversation and shortly after delaney got the commission he'd asked for. i answered all the questions in the talk, i guess. yeah. the one in the back there and then up here. [ inaudible question ] >> what's the story? sure. >> so there was a woman named caroline johnson from philadelphia and i didn't realize the significance of the story when i first wrote about it and just in the last few months i realized how significant it was. she was a freed black woman in philadelphia and her job was making wax fruit and she would sell these beautiful displays of
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wax fruit and during the war she also volunteered as a nurse helping convalescing union soldiers in philadelphia and in the spring of 1864, she decides she wants to do something to show her appreciation to lincoln for all she has done to free the slaves and so she makes a beautiful wax fruit display. it costs her $150 and it has a retail value of $350 and through a connection with someone in the department of the interior she gets permission to go present it at the white house and give it to lincoln in person. and so the morning that she meets with lincoln is a saturday and lincoln normally met with people on other work days so the fact that she gets to meet with him on a saturday is notable, for one, but two, what's notable is the room they met in. they met in the white house library and if you know the white house it's the room on the second floor that's shaped like an oval and it faces the washington monument, and so she's given permission to go
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into this room an hour before her meeting with lincoln and set it up, and she's an artist and she wants it to look just right and then she meets with lincoln and they have this very touching conversation and she brings her minister with her. he talks to lincoln about how grateful he is. she then gives these very emotional words and lincoln responds and he's choking up in the conversation and then they go on their way. when i first encountered this story, and i thought this is a really touching story, but then i wanted to try to write the book in a way that will really capture the scene. so i wanted to find out what does the library look like? i started to do research trying to find newspaper accounts of what it looked like and the more i read was that the white house library was part of lincoln's private family space. public visitors were not permitted to go in there and that's where he went to take a meal or take a nap or take his shoes off and put his feet up on the table when he didn't want people to see him.
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and you didn't take people there unless they were a family friend or close adviser. i think it has great meaning that lincoln invites caroline johnson and her minister to come into this room for this conversation and for this presentation. my hunch is, and i haven't confirmed this, and my hunch is it's the first time that an african-american is welcomed into the private living spaces in the white house when they're either a servant, slave or seem stres seamstress, and mary lincoln was so moved by this that at the reception last night when the reception was over she brought a close friend and he said mrs. lincoln took her into the library and she talked about how beautiful it was and it was an incredible moment that was not well known and when you capture
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the significance of the room and it says a lot about how lincoln was breaking down the color line in the small steps at the white house. there was a hand over here, i thought. sure. did mary todd share the same philosophy as her husband and perhaps in this day and age they refer to it as the optics of the situation. >> yeah. >> and maybe if she was kind of buffering with the public. >> yeah. mary did not. so when dr. augusta and dr. abbott show up at the white house she sends robert over and tries to get them to get her husband to stop being welcoming to these two black doctors and there are other moments, as well in january 1865, a release went out from the white house saying that anyone of any race is permitted to come to the white house for the new year's reception, and a ton of african-american, well over a
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hundred show up for the reception and mary lincoln was not having it, and forced them to wait until after the white guests had gone through. so i don't think mary had the same sort of egalitarian strain that her husband did. >> late in the war, did lincoln solicit or share his thoughts on reconstruction? >> his black visitors to the white house. >> that's a very good question. to some extent, they did, in terms of talking about reconstruction and this -- the expansion of the franchise. but i don't know -- i don't know that he did -- he certainly talked about matters of public policy. so robert smalls is the very famous slave from south carolina who escapes on the planter and after the war becomes a
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congressman. and smalls gives a speech in the 1880s i want to say, where he talks about -- in congress, where he talks about when he met with lincoln in 1862. and smalls claims that they talked about arming black men to fight. and this is before the emancipation proclamation. so smalls probably had some influence in lincoln's thinking in regards to that very important war policy. as for reconstruction policy, i don't know -- i don't know that they did. i don't recall anything from the records that would suggest they did. but he may have at some point, and it just might not have been recorded, too. yeah. >> commenting on lincoln's relationship with douglas. secondly, i was wondering when and where did they first meet. >> they were aware of each other in the 1850s. in the lincoln/douglas debate
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steve loves to connect frederick dougla douglass. frederick was not a fan of the president's. when lincoln wins the war and gives his inaugural douglass says letchon is the abolitionist's worst nm and the south's -- the south's greatest slave catcher. he says in his inaugural i am going to enforce the law. frederick douglass is not a fan n. 1963, he is furious that black soldiers are not being paid the same as white soldiers. the and that the federal government said we are going reenslave black pows. that's when he goes to the white house to meet with lincoln. he is completely taken in by
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lincoln's welcoming of him. and they have a very cordial conversation. that's the first meeting. second meeting is august, 1864, where they discuss this band of scouts. the third meeting is on the day of lincoln's inauguration in 1865. douglass shows up at the white house and the guards won't let him in. eventually he is able to get his way in, and lincoln says, here comes my friend douglass, and asks him what did you think of my speech? and douglass doesn't want to answer, you know, you have got a lot of big wigs here. lincoln apparently says, you are the one whose view i want to know. and douglass responds and says, mr. lincoln, to as a sacred evidence. mary lincoln was upset she didn't meet douglass that day. i think it is in connectionly's memory war that she finds out douglass was there and she was upset she didn't get a chance to meet him. lincoln then invited douglass to
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tea. and douglass already had a speaking engagement. he was fastidious. if he had an engagement, he waefs going to break it. so he didn't go to tea with the president and a few weeks later is assassinated and douglass says i could have broken my engagement if i had known that that was my last chance to meet with the president. >> speaking of the assassination, the date on the slide that you have got there -- >> yeah. >> i am sure a lot of people noticed as i did with the slide the sojourn of truth, the note ande, the sojourn of truth, could you speak to both slides, this one and the earlier one. >> this one is the story of a wham named nancy bush rod. i closed the white house book with this story. the story is that on april 14th, 1865 a young black mother names nancy bush rod walks five miles to the white house.
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the guards don't want to led let her in. she pleads, they say we will let her in and some people later on will stop her. she eventually gets up to the white house and is pleading to see lincoln and the guards won't let her and lincoln comes town down. she says my husband is a soldier in the union army and i haven't gotten his pay in months, my kids and i are starving. lincoln says come back the next day. of course lincoln was shot. when she comes back she finds that the situation on the ground has completely changed and now she's not going to get the help she needs. one of the things that lincoln allegedly said to her on the 14th was be sure to get your children an education. nancy push rod pledges i am going to do what lincoln said to do, and make sure my kids get educated.
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the story that structure vives -- 2 earliest i found was from 101, but it says she then made sure here kids got educated. i searched records ever where i can possibly think to search, i have the names of her children, and yet i can't find her or her kids. so for any of the blue haired genologists in the loom who want to help me out later i would be very grateful. i am looking at you, jack. it is an incredible story. two things might be going on it might be a true story. it could be a sort of paternalistic narrative created by whites in the early 20th century to say to black americans you should be like her. it is hard to know. so i am still searching for -- but it is a great story. and i am including it in the book with the caveat of there are some credibility issues with the story.
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as for the sojourner truth image. sojourner truth had lincoln sign an autograph for her in her book. and the original i think is at the university of michigan now for anti-sojourner truth a lincoln 1964, october. one of the things lincoln gets dinged for in the current clip is sometimes using language that's considered pejorative. so he referred to some of his male servants who were in their 20s as boy. and here he refers to her as auntie. what is interesting about the meeting with sojourner truth is she went to meet with lincoln and went with an abolitionist named coleman. and mrs. coleman wrote an account of this meeting after, way after the fact. and in that account, she makes lincoln to have to be the biggest racist you could imagine. and a lot of historians,
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including very good historians have relloyd on that very late rendering of the story of lincoln being mean to two other black women who met with him before sojourner truth went into the office. of lincoln callously making sojourner truth wait for a long time to meet with him. and she says she is -- not truth. mrs. coleman says the awful things about lincoln in her memoir. but right after this meeting, lucy coleman wrote an anonymous little squibb about the meeting which dedetectives lirchon in a very positive light. jack was talking about as historians we have the weigh through the sources and evaluate what is right and what isn't. i go with lucy didn't lig lincoln and with her earlier wreck election is with what sojourner truth wrote about her meeting less than they are 1890s
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recollection of it. so thank you so much. [ applause ] you are watching a special edition of american history tv. during the week, while members of congress are in their districts due to the coronavirus pandemic. tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern programs on alexander hamilton. selected by president george washington in 1789, alexander hamilton served as the nation's first treasury secretary until january 1795. in a talk titled the hamilton scheme, enemies and allies in the creation of an american economy, the author and scholar william hogeland discusses hamilton's financial ideas. enjoy american history tv now and over the weekend on c-span3. up next, william "jack" davis offers his insight as a civil war historian exploring how history evolved from the late 20th sentry to the present


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