Context Does Matter

Critics of the movie “Lincoln” … continue to hammer home a contentious point about the film’s depiction of slavery.  So-called experts are critical of the notion Lincoln freed the slaves(the film never implies this.)    Frederick Douglass is often cited as proof that slaves never cared for Lincoln or his deeds.  Ignoring context, Douglass is cited as the authoritative critic of Lincoln…. “you (white people) are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children.”



This disingenuous, lazy, line of reasoning…  has created a terrible myth about the creation of the civil rights movement.  Failure to place words in a proper context have terrible implications on historical interpretation.  In the same speech, Frederick Douglass explained to his predominately white audience, his true feelings for Abraham Lincoln:

Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined…. infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.”  Frederick Douglass  April 14, 1876

The hour and the man of our redemption had met in the person of Abraham Lincoln.”

“The hour and the man of our redemption had met in the person of Abraham Lincoln.”



Filed under Ephemera, Movie Review, News

2 responses to “Context Does Matter

  1. I know “what if” scenario’s are some of the gravest sins for historians, but I wonder how reconstruction would have gone with Lincoln still alive and acting President instead of Andrew Johnson…”what if…,” would the Civil Rights Movement played out differently? Emancipation clearly did not eradicate racial attitudes of the “old south.” Could or would Lincoln monitored the Gilded Age and the use for cheap expendable labor,such as sharecropping? From Emancipation to The Civil Rights Act took 100 years… hard to say.

    • Lincoln faced an uphill battle with a Congress dominated by the radical wing of his party. Lincoln’s plan for reunion was mild compared with what actually happened….he even vetoed the House’s first attempt at it.

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