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Not the Great Emancipator: 10 Racist Quotes Abraham Lincoln Said About Black People

Lincoln’s True Opinion of the Civil War

The history books often declare that President Abraham Lincoln saw the Civil War as an opportunity to bring about justice and free the millions of Black slaves in the South. Yet, this is hardly the case. In March of 1861, Lincoln rendered the following words: “The War is waged by the government of the United States not in the spirit of conquest or subjugation, nor for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or institutions of the states, but to defend and protect the Union.”


Enslaved Africans

The Freeing of Black Slaves and Lincoln’s Thoughts

Lincoln did eventually advocate emancipation. However, he did so to preserve the Union, and not to render a moral decision. He once wrote, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.”

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61 thoughts on “Not the Great Emancipator: 10 Racist Quotes Abraham Lincoln Said About Black People

  1. All of the quotes do tell a story, and Lincoln was a man of his times, but he overcame those ideas and finally understood that freedom is an all or nothing proposition. It took him some time to get there but he certainly moved faster than the people he was fighting and those who, supposedly, supported him. To use his development as an indictment twists history badly.

  2. So these comments were in his early days? When did he change?

  3. Cee Ehm says:

    Lol, get over it. That pattern of thinking was the norm back in those days. Just be appreciative of the fact that he was more than willing to spill his fellow white mans blood to break those shackles off. Shit, what is with folks not picking EVERYTHING today?

  4. Cee Ehm says:

    Nit picking*

  5. Nicole Heard says:

    Why don't you judge him by his actions instead of his politically motivated words which you cherry picked? Typical leftist symbolism over substance.

  6. Nicole Heard says:

    Matthew Charlery-Smith When he freed the slaves. I guess you are the type of man who will judge another man by his words instead of his actions.

  7. Matthew Charlery-Smith Over what period of time did you change growing up? We change over time and accept different roles. That's what Lincoln did. But he changed faster than any of the child development stages and certainly sooner than many of his cohorts or the Southern rebels! I believe he was right in thinking that a new African American nation, someplace else, was a good idea. What he said about the depth and viciousness of white America was right on the money: Baltimore, Ferguson, etc. Well, wasn't he proven right! But that was a pipe dream and he learned and changed. He allowed US Colored Troops to start killing rebels— and my grandfather, a great grandfather and several other relatives of mine went off and did just that! It became clear to him, around 1864, that no solution but full citizenship for us would do, and that was when and why the enraged John Wilkes Booth shot him! After that, semi-slavery was created: segregation, and terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. Lincoln tried, SO HE WAS ASSASSINATED. MLK talking about poverty, and against the Vietnam war. SO HE WAS ASSASSINATED. Malcolm X changed over time and was ready to start working on new strategies. SO HE WAS ASSASSINATED. Medgar Evers took on a chairmanship for the NAACP in Mississippi SO HE WAS ASSASSINATED. Lincoln was determined to try to get us voting rights. Death was the response. "The bad men do lives after them/ While the good men is oft interred with their bones…" let's not let it be so with Lincoln, MLK, Medgar, Malcolm….They didn't succeed, fully, but they layed down their lives. It should be understood that they all tried to help make the USA a democracy. No small feat, as history shows.

  8. Cee Ehm Got you without the correction. Yes, what is it with that!?

  9. <Nicole Heard> That's exactly what I did: I judged him by his actions. Can you honestly think that a President of the United States ever speaks words that have no political? That's not the way leaders of democratic societies can function. An absolute monarch can make decrees, but even with them there is a time and place to put social and political changes in place. Your criticism of me is unfair and, again, unrealistic I think. And mean spirited. I did not "cherry pick", i.e. pick out only the words which affirm my beliefs. I'm more interested in an intelligent exchange of views than in name calling. What I actually did was to pick out facts on which events were based. Colonization was for a time presented as a remedy for slavery; Lincoln changed his mind because of the millions and millions it would cost, the enormous amount of shipping that would be involved, and the politics involved in choosing a place for them to go. Those are facts. At that point Lincoln did not think emancipation and full rights could be accepted in this country. He insisted on the end of slavery, and The Freedmen's Bureau was created to help the slaves begin to use their civil rights. The people who came AFTER Lincoln f'd that up. At some time around the Civil War era my great-grandfather and mother decided to leave the United States and to become citizens of Haiti! The Haitian Revolution was of great interest and joy to African-Americans. They tried twice but the violence there was too much for them to live with, so they returned. <Ms Heard> You don't know me so you don't know whether I'm a leftist or not. And as for "symbolism over substance", well, it's a catch phrase but it doesn't apply to anything I've written. There was both symbolism and substance at the end of the terrible war and Lincoln dealt with it. Abolitionists felt the way that you do. They were the actual leftists. That period in our history was a great deal stormier than this discussion.

  10. Nicole Heard says:

    John S. Patterson re: "that's exactly what I did: I judged him by his actions" He freed the slaves. First, in the South a land he was in the process of conquering. Then, he pushed for the 13 Amendment which freed the slaves all over the United States. The first country in the world (Save England which America has close cultural ties to) to volunteered free it's own slaves. That is the first time in 5000 years of recorded history. That's quite an action to ignore.

    re: "Can you honestly think that a President of the United States ever speaks words that have no political dimension?"
    Sure, I suppose is possible. Like when he asks for coffee in the morning. What's your point? My point about the words of Lincoln the author cherry picked, was that they were politically motivated. I didn't accue you of cherry picking anything. . By the way, your insinuation that I don't understand that a lot of what President's say is politically motivated is very dishonest. I never said anything that would indicate I would think that. As a matter of fact, my point was predicated on that idea.

    The rest of your post is incoherent to the first. It's like the second part was written by someone who agrees with me.

    re: " You don't know me so you don't know whether I'm a leftist or not. " Um, I think you misunderstood who my criticism was aimed at. It was aimed at the author of the article who was using the Presentism fallacy that you seemed to be criticizing as well.

    By the way, have you ever considered using paragraphs? Your post would have been a lot easier to read if you used them.

  11. Jerry Emery says:

    Nicole Heard Words and actions of politicians are based entirely on political expediences.

  12. If he had made the war about slavery at the beginning , he wouldn't have gotten support and the border states would've split and joined the CSA. He hated slavery but was trying to keep the union together and eventually he realized he had to make it about slavery in order to gain more support and win in the end.

  13. Den Hunter says:

    Another revisionist historian. He hated nothing but an absence of his personal power. He said and did anything he could to get elected and stay elected. If he had it his way, blacks would be GONE from this country, and mining coal in Panama. Whenever it suited his desires, the Constitution was used to wipe his butt. Never before or since has any President ignored the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

  14. Den Hunter says:

    Nicole Heard Lincoln never 'freed the slaves'. It the history of the victors you were taught. He freed black MEN in states that went against him. Not the ones that supported him. His plan was to ship all blacks to a colony in Panama to mine coal. He had no intention of blacks living in this country, being equal, having equal rights, or mixing with whites. You bought into a myth.

  15. I think it is interesting to note that even a flawed man like Lincoln was eventually used to do the right thing. I think you hit the nail on the head. It's unlikely that we will ever have consensus.. everyone wants to be right specifically and never generally.

  16. Doug Crouse says:

    "Get over it." The battle-cry of those who accept without question what they were instructed to believe, seeing historical falsehoods as more palatable than the bitterness of historical reality. And how sweet it must be to believe that 300,000 Northern soldiers would gladly give their lives to "free" those they, to a man, as Lincoln himself, believed to be "inferior" to them. Glory, glory hallelujah, indeed.

  17. Den Hunter THe one that is there now does it regularly….

  18. Nicole Heard You would think an NYU grad would know better right? LOL

  19. Kevin Jolley says:

    When you step on the toe of the north and want to removed statues, monuments, and dug up and destroyed cemeteries. How they will cry. But let me tell you when you take just one part of history away, They will want it all. Lets take it all away and say there was never a dam war. And lets don't for get Ulysses S. Grant he owned a slave and didnt let free untill the war was over. Ulysses S. Grant said good help is hard to fine. We need to remove him from the fifty dollar bill.

  20. Paul McCoy says:

    Lincoln was desperate to find a cause to support the war that he started. He eventually discovered the perfect ruse….blame the war on the institution of slavery. It's obvious from Lincoln's quotes that he was an ignorant ,backwoods, racist hick that couldn't care less about the plight of the black race. The commonly held understanding of the cause of the Civil War is revised history at it's best. Most black folks refuse to accept the truth because it makes them look like fools for worshipping Lincoln all these years.

  21. Paul McCoy says:

    He hated slavery??????? You need to go back and read his quotes.

  22. dj daemØn says:

    Even President Obama commented in his early days that he believed in "traditional marriage" over same sex marriage. It was obviously a political statement because the optics (as they call it) were wrong to come out in support of the ability for LGBT people to get married. But he did, eventually.

    Saying bullsh!t you don't believe in order to not scare off voters is a time honored tradition in this country. All this proves, is that Abraham Lincoln was no different than every other politician ever in that regard.

    Don't forget, it wasn't Lincoln who started the war. At the time, it was all about the Dred Scott case and abolitionists in the North not wanting to comply with the Supreme Court decision defending slavery. This is what led to the 13th Amendment argument. It was this attitude and the Lincoln administration's denial of slavery expansion, that led to the south chosing to "rise up" as traitors.

    Slavery was the reason for sessession, PERIOD. State's rights? Sure. THE STATE RIGHT TO SLAVERY. Every southern state declared this to be so in their declaration of sessession. Some more vigorously than others. But make no mistake, it was the act of sessession itself that had Lincoln sending in troops in order to regain order. The south then ATTACKED those troops, and thus began the civil war.

    You can make up all the crap you want, but that's the history.

  23. Ray Frigerio says:

    Paul McCoy like this one ?“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
    ― Abraham Lincoln

  24. Ray Frigerio says:

    or this one ?“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”
    ― Abraham Lincoln, Complete Works – Volume XII

  25. Ray Frigerio says:

    HE started ? Who shot first? yeah, thought so…

  26. Ray Frigerio says:

    EXactly! Maybe Abe wasn't perfect and maybe even all the Union blood spilled doesn't ERASE our crimes, but it sure as hell ameliorates it…

  27. Don Moore says:

    Greg Chapin Joens Lincoln stomped on the Constitution and was a tyrant.

  28. Ray Frigerio says:

    Nicole Heard Many liberals believe Words are MORE important than actions.More's the pity….

  29. Nicole Heard "I suppose is possible." …it's possible… "I didn't accue you.." accuse You write run-on sentences quite a bit which interferes with comprehension. "My point about the words of Lincoln the author cherry picked, was that they were politically motivated."

  30. Don Moore says:

    Ray Frigerio -yes Lincoln lied about secession and tricked the south into firing a shot-noone was killed and Lincoln invaded the south-locked up thousands of political opponents-waged war on civilians- and stomped on the Constitution

  31. Patrick Smith "….incoherent to the first…" doesn't make sense. You could have stopped at incoherent: "The rest of the post is incoherent."

  32. The sentence would read more smoothly like this. "My point about the words of Lincoln cherry picked by the author, was that they were politically motivated."

  33. This is still awkward so it reads better, and more coherently, if written as follows: "My point is that the words of Lincoln, cherry-picked by the author, were politically motivated." It's reads better but it's still untrue.

  34. Aika Tanako says:

    Don Moore You need undeniable proof before you go on that trip.

  35. Aika Tanako says:

    Don Moore You will need undeniable proof before you go that trip.

  36. Aika Tanako says:

    Den Hunter You need undeniable proof before you go that trip booboo.

  37. What was Lincoln's plan for the slaves once they were free? Education? Property ownership? Jobs? Answer: He did not have a plan for any of those things because he ONLY desired the Negro people to rise up and fight the south. Look at the times of those days….what happened in other countries where the Negro people that had been slaves were freed….they attacked and murdered the white slave owners, raped their women and stole their property. (See South Africa and the end of Apartheid 1948-1994 as modern day example) Lincoln was evil. He did not care for the dark skinned people. They were just pawns to him. He NEVER changed.

  38. The point here is not to idolize historical figures based on one action. And also not to excuse them because of "the times were different" argument. Different times do not condone being unethical. So, lets not white wash history and actually tell the truth. The civil war was caused by slavery. It is why the South voted and eventually suceeded and thus was the main reason for the war. But, Lincoln by no means thought of black people as equal and merely took the side of the North on this issue to maintain the union. And so history shouldn't paint him as the humanitarian he is painted as today. And if you want more racist actions that he commited just look up the native american genocide that he took part in.

  39. Wes Turner says:


  40. These Lincoln haters are acting as though it's November 1886 and not November 2015. Why are they bringing up something said in the early tenure of President Lincoln as usual attacking someone that cannot speak for themselves, and last time I also checked!, President Lincoln is not in office. This is nothing more than some sort of radical leftist lie-beral, psychological warfare operation, in trying too bring about a conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

  41. Mark McKee says:

    Matthew Charlery-Smith We'll never know how much Lincoln might have changed because he died. Though we do know the entire country changed markedly between 1860 and 1870 or so. Very few northerners thought the black man capable of citizenship, yet in 1870 he was made a citizen.

  42. Mark McKee says:

    This article is profoundly disengenous. The kinds of quotes and concepts attributed to Lincoln were pervasive throughout the north and VERY FEW northerners were OK with allowing blacks to become citizens. Yet, by 1867 then again in 1870, this nation voted overwhelmingly to free them and then to make blacks citizens. So something profound happened to the American mindset. We'll never know how much Lincoln's mindset changed during that time because he died.

    And the reason the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to all blacks was because Lincoln knew full well that a president could not override the constitution. Indeed, Lincoln worked to get the 13th amendment passed because he knew that his freeing of the slaves would not survive the war.

  43. Reid Scotty says:

    Bull crap, many whites still have these attitudes today, racism is racism no matter the time period.

    The 13th Amendment did not abolish slavery, it is still legal as punishment for crime. Go read it and note the exception clause hence right after the civil war, the convict leasing system was developed to reset a different form of slavery.

    And he did not die, he was killed. It is just too bad he was killed by another racist cracker and not executed as a treasonist Commander and Cheif.

  44. John S Patterson great point here is a link that further explains the real motives. Maybe Nicole Heard will learn somthing from it;

  45. There is NO record that Davis, Lee or Jackson made any statements anywhere close to what dishonest Abe said about black people.

  46. Den Hunter,well that is not entirely true…both W Bush and more so with Obama; skirted or blantantly ignored the Constitution

  47. How is the first one in any way racist?
    Of course the goal of the Civil War was to keep the country from disintegrating. Im not reading the rest of this click-bait shite.

  48. Reid Scotty Fuck oiff Reid, you salty asshole

  49. Reid Scotty says:

    Patrick Smith I'm racist for saying some racists are white? Stop being absurd and ignorant.

  50. Emancipation came after Lincoln was killed.
    The Emanicpation Proclaimation was only to be in effect in those states not under direct Federal control. Why not those, as well?

    Answer: To stir up a revolt a'la Haiti. A revolt that no one in the CS wanted, including those enslaved persons who had supposedly everything to gain from it.

    In the last year of the war and years after, it had to be painted with a moralistic brush in order to gloss over the fact that the Federal government went to war to keep states from voting to leave the Republic. The voluntary union was no longer voluntary. Odd, since the loudest yelpers of "union" screech so much about the right to self determination, and Lexington and Concord…never mind that war was won in and by the South, too. 😀

    Oh, a bonus round. Which state was the last to get rid of slavery? That hotbed of fire-eating secession: DELAWARE!

  51. Aika Tanako It's called History. That is the proof. Particularly contemporary sources. The seceeding states did not seceed to start a war. They even sent delegates to meet with the Lincoln administration to avoid it, but were treated as "non-entities," basically saying that they (the US government) were going to collect Mr. Lincoln's tarrif, and occupy territory in a state that voted to leave the federal union in order to collect money in ports that they had no legal right to be.

    I'll bet you are the first to screech about "illegal war" in Iraq, right?

  52. Ummm….no.

    He made slavery an issue to:

    1. Stir up a slave revolt in the CS a'la Haiti, which didn't happen
    2. To give a moral tone to the war that simply was the act of an agressor. Remember the draft riots, the fact that NYC went up in violence, lynched Black people and burned a Black orphanage over the very idea? Can't have your cake to look at and eat it, too.
    3. To keep Britain and France out of the war.

  53. Chip Curry says:

    It's not disingenuous at all. These were Lincoln's views on the subject. You can't dismiss, or justify them because the culture of the day was racist in general and his racist views were widely accepted.

  54. Slavery was wrong, has always been. Doesn't matter what country is involved or who the slaves are or who the slavemasters are….there is no justification. But most all the great leaders of our past, at least the rich ones…..George Washington, Thomas Jefferson…..etc owned slaves. It's a part of history, just like the Egyptians and the Hebrews. Lincoln believed in segregation. His "all men are created equal" was pure BS in his mind and he knew it. He knew the South was all but finished, so he wanted to go down as this great orator with a speech for all times. He was pouring salt in the Confederacy's wounds. He really made some racist remarks towards black people back then. On the other hand, Robert E Lee never said an unkind word towards black folks, or the Northern people for the record. I just wish everyone would just leave the terrible history alone… doesn't need to be continually brought up. Nor does the atrocities of the Japanese and Germans, the Roman Empire…etc…Never forget or it may happen again…..We've all heard this….But slavery is not one of the past issues that's gonna take place again. Unless it's sexual slavery…..prostitutes, which in itself has been going on forever. Society needs to focus on destroying evil (ISIS), helping the poor; and yeh, let's start in the U.S.A. first. There isn't enough tolerance in the world today. I don't believe in what you do, but I will respect your choice to your own beliefs. I want to live in peace……From the looks of the things going on in the world today, I'd say the end might be real close.

  55. I'm glad to know the true history of Lincoln and the racist attitude he had. all history is covered up with lies and falsehood.

  56. He was a brilliant politician; that doesn't ake him a good man. Making slavery an issue was politically expedient for him, not morally-driven. The man violated the Constitution in any number of ways, and has no qualms about using coercion and other underhanded tactics to get what he wanted — like continued power and economic dominance. And no, he wasn't nearly the only racist, but that doesn't make him any less racist.

    This is IMPORTANT, because a true view of the history of his time allows us to reframe what came just after. As heinous as slavery was, the "solution" wasn't a very good one. It didn't fix the REAL problem (racism); only the SURFACE problem, so we still have the primary problem. And emancipation+Reconstruction very "conveniently" set up a scenario where the government created a problem for which they could then swoop in and be the "savior," with welfare-based systems that effectively re-enslaved people — and in many cases still do, generations later.

    The whole thing was a disastrous mess that we're still feeling the effects of, but everyone lauds LIncoln as some kind of god — because the victors write the history books, and the U.S. government runs our education.

  57. appreciative..? there shouldnt have been slaves in the first place you stupid cunt

  58. Wow. Such recent-ism pervades this thread. Mark, you are on point.

  59. Randy Baker says:

    Don Moore You are correct, of course, but many love to choose known revised history as it "tickles" their ears in a way they like much better than the crystal clear truth! Most are born, live and die without ever hearing a splinter of truth.

  60. Reid Scotty No, I believe that the comment of your racism, stems from calling someone a "racist cracker". You alone are are responsible for what you say and write.

  61. Jason Love says:

    So Lincoln did have some good in him,but all he was saying is comman sense.Only in our brain-washed,psychotic time of madness is equality and race mixing held as normal and true and not the unreal abombination it is in realty.Lincoln was certainly right about society collapsing,it is closer than anyone knows.Its going to be the greatest shock in history when the food stamps(EBT),section 8( free housing)and all the other free upkeep comes to an abrupt halt.I wait with gleeful anticipation.

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