- Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) — Abolitionist and Author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
Stowe’s gripping Uncle Tom’s Cabin was so influential that when President Abraham Lincoln met her in 1862, he quipped, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Stowe’s horrific depiction of slavery turned millions on to anti-slavery. But she hardly turned anyone on to anti-racism. Stowe lectured in the preface about Black people’s “lowly docility of heart, their aptitude to repose on a superior mind and rest on a higher power, their childlike simplicity of affection, and facility of forgiveness.” In her paternalistic “concluding remarks,” Stowe called on White northerners to free and teach Blacks until they reached “moral and intellectual maturity, and then assist them in their passage” to Liberia, “where they may put into practice the lessons they have learned in America.”
- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) — 16th President of the United States
Lincoln intrepidly signed the anti-racist Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. But he had a tougher time abolishing the racist ideas in his own mind and in the minds of his fellow northerners. “I am not nor ever has been in favor of making [Black people] voters or jurors,” or politicians or marriage partners, Lincoln insisted in a Senatorial campaign debate back in 1858. Physical differences between “the white and black races…I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social equality. And…while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” He carried some of these ideas into the presidency. And so, his anti-slavery stance became about saving the Union — a United States with or without slavery. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do that,” Lincoln wrote in 1862, weeks before announcing the Emancipation Proclamation.