JUL 28, 2023
I am up to the Civil War in Kendi’s book and learning alot about our 16th president. I may have known that Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist. But there are two other things I didn’t know.
First, I didn’t know how few people were actually freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
Lincoln freed “ about fifty thousand Black people in the Union-occupied Confederate areas. [H]e kept enslaved the nearly half million people in border states, in order to maintain their owners’ loyalty. He also kept enslaved the roughly three hundred thousand people in the newly exempted formerly Confederate areas, in order to establish their owners’ loyalty. More than 2 million Black people on Confederate plantations remained enslaved because Lincoln had no power to free them.”1
Second, I didn’t know that Lincoln was a colonizationist. If he could have freed all enslaved persons with the Emancipation Proclamation, he would have preferred to deport and exile them to Africa or Haiti, even though by 1863, virtually all enslaved persons had been born in America.2 Lincoln’s plan also would have included reparations. Not reparations paid to formerly enslaved persons, but to their former enslavers.
In other words, I am seeing that as black history is hidden from us by neglect or (as in Florida) by outright suppression, white history is hidden from us too. It is hidden by myths that protect white supremacy and anti-black racism.
To have freed fifty-thousand people was as not big a thing as the myth of the Great Emancipator, but it made a difference. It led to the Union victory in the Civil War, and to the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. We don’t need to hide the real Lincoln in a myth in order to appreciate his greatness.
Jesus’ parables keep pointing to the importance of little things, even when big changes are needed. Little things matter: a mustard seed, some yeast, a pearl. In the context of anti-racism work, we don’t need to apologize for what might feel like little things, like learning to notice and challenge micro-aggressions, the racist joke or the white supremacist dog whistle. The fact that it feels like a small thing doesn’t mean it is easy to do. And when we can do it, it will make a difference. Perhaps the beginning of a big difference.
Photo by PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay.
1 Stamped From The Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi at 220 (2nd edition, 2023), kindle edition.
2 The 1808 Act Prohibiting the Important of Slaves imposed heavy penalties on international traders. It did not end the domestic sale of slaves. Since 1662 in the colonies, enslaved status was determined by the status of one’s mother, contrary to English law in which a child’s status was determined patrilineally. Consequently, enslaved women were used to produce enslaved children.
P.S. I’m having some technical trouble with my blog’s platform, Substack, which is why you probably will not get this post in your email inbox. I am in the process of moving the blog to a platform from which I can publish directly to email inboxes again. For another week or two, I will only be able to publish by putting blog posts on Facebook. Sorry for any inconvenience.