Posted by: Dr Churchill | February 12, 2018

Let us remember today Abraham Lincoln as the true father of our nation…

The 16th president of these United States, Abraham Lincoln, was born exactly 209 years ago this Monday, in Hodgenville, Kentucky, of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and yet he became President of the “Divided States of America” after which, he struggled mightily, to reunite this great nation under God and Constitution… And he will always be remembered through his brilliant words echoing today in the lips of every free person that knows and recites his “Gettysburg Speech.”

Delivered on the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the “Gettysburg Address” is known as the greatest speech in the world – and certainly as one of Abraham Lincoln’s most defining moments of creating legends, a reborn Union, and living history.

Four months earlier, 46,000 soldiers from both sides of the Civil War had been killed or wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.

Altogether, only 273 words, were delivered by Lincoln at the official dedication ceremony for the National Cemetery at the battle site, on November 19th of 1863, where the tall President called upon the fundamental principles of the United States as the Declaration of Independence and the Union’s ideals proclaimed “a government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

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The speech’s legacy and lasting impact has seen American schoolchildren throughout the years taught to recite the historical phrasings, while subsequent Presidents are also said to have used the speech as a map for governance these United States of America today…

The exact words Lincoln spoke at the dedication ceremony come to us, from five known copies of his speech, extant in the president’s handwriting, and attributed directly to the short lived, 16th President of the US, Abraham Lincoln.

Of those speech copies, the most often reproduced, including on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, is the “Bliss Copy” – named after Colonel Alexander Bliss, as written below:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

–Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburg, November 19, 1863)

Today, we all recall the Gettysburg address as the best speech in history — yet President Lincoln also offered the equally weighty Emancipation Proclamation, and many other speeches and writings, filled with some of the most iconic imagery and flourishes of writing, oratory, & rhetoric.

But is good to also remember some of his other great words of wisdom, such as these ones that are so eternal that can and will serve a great purpose to be used amongst us, to this day as well…

“Stand with anybody that stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART with him when he goes wrong.”(Oct. 16, 1854 in a speech he gave in Peoria, Ill)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.” (June 16, 1858, in Springfield, Ill)

“I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot.” (Feb. 14, 1861, in Pittsburgh)

“I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women. But I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. I will close by saying, God bless the women of America!” (March 18, 1864 in Washington, D.C., at a Patent Office Fair)

“I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has.” (Aug. 22, 1864 in an address to the 166th Ohio Regiment of the great Army of the Potomac)

This Monday again, is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12th of 1809, in Kentucky. He was the 16th president of the United States, serving from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lauded as one of this nation’s best and brightest leaders, Lincoln is credited with freeing the slaves through his Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation, which was delivered on Jan. 1, 1863, stated that slaves in the “rebellious states henceforward shall be free.” It was a symbolic gesture at best, because at the time that it was written, the North had no control over any states in rebellion, and the proclamation did not apply to border states, Tennessee or even some “parishes” of Louisiana.

Lincoln was the greatest hero to all the black people, because he brought forth the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, that was passed Jan. 31st of 1865, and ratified Dec. 6th of 1865, that abolished slavery by declaring: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

And thus he was entered into the mythology of black folk all over the United States that he liberated and reunited as the United States of America, once again. Right then after his assassination, he became the stuff of legend and folklore, and as legend goes, some time shortly before the election of 1860, a man came upon a plantation near Marlin, Texas, some 20 miles southeast of Waco: “Though nobody knew who he was, the plantation owner took him in as a guest. The stranger paid close attention to how the enslaved people working on the plantation were treated—how they subsisted on a weekly ration of “four pounds of meat and a peck of meal,” how they were whipped and sometimes sold, resulting in the tearing apart of families. Eventually, the stranger said goodbye and went on his way, but a little while later he wrote a letter to the plantation owner, informing him he would soon have to free his slaves—“that everybody was going to have to, that the North was going to see to it.” The stranger told the owner to go into the room where he’d slept, and see where he’d carved his name into the headrest. And when the slaveholder went and looked, he saw the name: “A. Lincoln.””

At least that’s what happened according to Bob Maynard, who was born a slave and recounted the story as an old man in an interview with an employee of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a New Deal program created to put writers to work and enrich American culture. In 1936, the FWP began collecting interviews with former slaves, amassing thousands of pages of oral histories which, though often filtered through the racism of white interviewers and their supervisors, provide an invaluable snapshot of how more than 2,000 survivors of slavery lived and thought.

Nearly 40 of those interviewed claimed Abraham Lincoln visited their plantation shortly before or during the Civil War. They said he came in disguise as a beggar or a peddler, bummed free meals off his unsuspecting white hosts, snooped around to find out what slavery was like, and told the slaves they would soon be free.

Virginia Newman claimed “Lincoln came through Jasper County, Texas, in a large carriage. He shook Newman’s hand and called on the white population to free their slaves.” “Some folks say dat ain’ Abr’am Lincoln,” remarked Newman, “but I knowed better.” –Library of Congress

The stories weren’t limited to one corner of the South. Lincoln didn’t just visit central Texas; he also visited the Mississippi Delta, the Kentucky Pennyroyal, and the Georgia Piedmont. In fact, as late as the 1980s, African Americans in the South Carolina Sea Islands claimed that Lincoln traveled there in 1863 to announce the Emancipation Proclamation in person; some even said they knew the exact tree under which he stood.

Though there’s no evidence Lincoln actually made any of these incognito visits to the South, and there is ample documentation to suggest these visits were wholly fictitious, still it’s important that many former slaves believed he did, as this is the mythical quality of personal history that makes our nation solidly united and unified under the “All Men Were Created Equal” doctrine.

Yet today, many historical debates over emancipation, focus on whether the much vaunted an truly wanted Liberation, came from the top-down, or the bottom-up, approach of History. Indeed, some people question the obvious wondering if Lincoln freed the slaves, or the slaves freed themselves?

And it is to this fallacy that the stories of Lincoln coming down South suggest many freed black people didn’t see this as an either-or question.

Did the Black Folk need Lincoln? Sure.

But real emancipation wasn’t something Lincoln could just decree from on high.

He had to come down South and get his hands dirty.

Some even described him as taking on the guise of the trickster popular in black folklore, a sort of Brer Rabbit in a top hat.

When former slaves claimed Lincoln had paid them a visit, they weren’t just inserting a beloved president into their story—they were inserting themselves into his story.

African Americans were understandably wary of associating Lincoln too closely with their emancipation. Doing so, after all, implied freedom was a gift from a benevolent white man that could be easily taken away. Indeed, the former slave Charity Austin recounted that, when Lincoln was assassinated, her owner said Lincoln’s death meant they were slaves again, and he kept the ruse up for a year, making them work in black mourning cloth. In 1908, some 30 years before the Federal Writers’ Project began interviewing former slaves, a white mob in Springfield, Illinois, enraged by recent crimes allegedly committed by African Americans, lynched two black men and burned down black homes and black-owned businesses, finally driving roughly 2,000 African Americans out of Lincoln’s hometown. The mob shouted: “Lincoln freed you, we’ll show you where you belong.”

African Americans were not foolish enough to think their welfare would be the utmost concern of a white politician. As Frederick Douglass said, Lincoln “was preeminently the white man’s President,” and they were “at best only his step-children.” But this didn’t mean Lincoln couldn’t be a useful ally, especially if his own self-interest aligned with theirs.

In the stories of Lincoln coming down South, he was rarely concerned first and foremost with the welfare of black people. In one story, for example, his animosity towards the slaveholding class was seemingly motivated by a perceived insult rather than a moral opposition to slavery. Lincoln had supposedly visited a plantation in Jefferson County, Arkansas, asking for work. The owner replied that he’d talk to him once he’d had dinner—without inviting the stranger to eat with him. As J. T. Tims, a former slave, explained, his owner “didn’t say, ‘Come to dinner,’ and didn’t say nothin’ ’bout, ‘Have dinner.’ Just said, ‘Wait till I go eat my dinner.’” And when he finished eating, he found the stranger had “changed his clothes and everything” and was looking over the slaveholder’s business papers and account books. The stranger whom the slaveholder had treated like poor “white trash” had revealed himself to be a powerful man.

It didn’t bother African Americans if Lincoln emancipated them only to punish the white South. They didn’t need him to be a saint. But they also knew he wasn’t a king; he couldn’t just make emancipation happen on his own. If the enslaved people of the South needed Lincoln, then he needed them too.

And so in the stories told by freedpeople, there’s a Lincoln who worked with slaves to end slavery. He attended nightly prayer meetings held by slaves in secret. He asked them what their lives were like and what they needed from him. After the war broke out, he encouraged slaves to join the “Yankee army” and “fight for your freedom.” And at the war’s end, according to one account, Lincoln gathered up all the Confederate money in Georgia in a big pile at the state capitol and asked the oldest black man there to set it on fire.

Lincoln didn’t just work with African Americans; he became a familiar figure in black folklore. Like Brer Rabbit, and indeed like most slaves, the Lincoln in these stories often had to resort to guile and deception in order to get what he wanted. But he also had a certain degree of latitude that wasn’t possible in slavery, allowing survivors of slavery to vicariously enjoy his exploits.

In one account, for example, Lincoln, disguised as a peddler, came upon some white women sitting on a porch in North Carolina. He looked so hot and tired that one of the women, Miss Fanny, brought him a “cool drink of milk.” He had a drink and then asked Miss Fanny how many slaves they had, how many of their men were fighting for the Confederacy, and finally what they thought of “Mistah Abraham Lincoln.” At that point the plantation mistress, Miss Virginia, declared no one was to speak that man’s name in her presence, and she would shoot him if he ever set foot on her property. “Maybe he ain’ so bad,” her guest said, chuckling. A few weeks later, Miss Fanny received a letter from Lincoln revealing himself to have been the peddler, thanking her “for de res’ on her shady po’ch and de cool glass of milk.”

Though the story didn’t explicitly involve emancipation, by making a fool out of white slaveholders Lincoln presaged the ultimate downfall of the southern slaveocracy. But that wasn’t all. By behaving like a trickster from black folklore, Lincoln was signaling—or rather, black storytellers were signaling—his solidarity with African Americans.

To that end, Lincoln also often duped his white hosts into giving him food. In Perry, Georgia, he enjoyed some “chicken hash and batter cakes and dried venison.” In Raleigh, North Carolina, he had a rather enormous breakfast of ham and gravy, biscuits and grits, “poached eggs on toast, coffee and tea,” and waffles with “honey and maple syrup.” Food was often a focus for black trickster characters like John, Brer Rabbit, and Aunt Nancy; after all, slaves frequently had to cheat and steal from their enslavers in order to get enough food to survive. It was fitting, therefore, that when Lincoln returned to Perry, Georgia, to emancipate the slaves, he did so by allegedly urging them to raid the plantation smokehouse: “Help yourselves; take what you need; cook yourselves a good meal!” In the stories told by former slaves, emancipation wasn’t just an abstract matter of rights—it meant seizing, at long last, the product of their labor.

Rev. Wade Owens saw Lincoln give a speech in Appalachian Georgia, where he proclaimed, “For people, by people, and through people.” / Library of Congress

Of course, these stories about Lincoln were told within a specific historical context. The people interviewing the former slaves were employees of the federal government, and most of them were white. Many were members of groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which valorized the Lost Cause. Some were even descendants of folks who owned the very people they were interviewing.

So the survivors of slavery had every reason to believe their white interviewers would present their stories in a way that bolstered white supremacy. And telling a quaint story about Abraham Lincoln was a clever, and perhaps also relatively safe way, to push back against that perceived wrong against the dead president, so beloved of all the American People…

Using Lincoln was especially powerful at a time when many Americans had co-opted Lincoln as an icon of white supremacy. The 1915 blockbuster film The Birth of a Nation, in addition to denouncing emancipation and venerating the Klan, depicted Lincoln as an enemy of the radical abolitionists and suggested that, had he lived, he would have supported immediate reunion with the South at the expense of black civil rights.

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

In general, white Americans celebrate Lincoln in a way that made the Civil War a story about white people, and the Black Americans similar celebrate Lincoln in a way that makes him their own and that he gave his life for their Liberation.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, is how black folk remember the sacrifice of the 16th President of these United States…

Still after his assassination, white and black people came together, and remembered, and even spoke of Lincoln in the same breath as Robert E. Lee, considering them both American heroes in different capacities.

And awe have to remember that today, same as the popular story that says that once upon a time, President Lincoln came upon the battlefield and had comforted a dying Confederate, who didn’t know who the tall man was, and that is when Lincoln derided his own recent address at Gettysburg. it was then that the dying rebel assured the tall gentleman, that these were “beautiful, broad words” which reminded everyone, amongst those that heard them — that they were “not Northern, or Southern people, but American people even when they were fighting and dying against each other.”

What a great story to tell your grandchildren…

Such a sentimental reunion of North and South was, of course, wishful thinking, because often times, when African Americans were included in Lincoln’s story, it was in an accompanying role, mostly forgetting the thousands upon thousands of black men who had lost their lives fighting for the cause of these United States during the Civil War that had split this country apart.

And after all this was not even how the real survivors of slavery understood their relationship to Lincoln, as they loved him dearly and made him a part of their family story, because they always felt that he wasn’t far-off and aloof; but that he had worked hand-in-hand with black folk for the emancipation proclamation dn for their eventual liberation even after he was already dead and buried, his ghost and his legacy carried forth all of his PEOPLE — the black Americans freed to be simply Americans all over again.

They said that he listened to the slaves’ stories, and that he made fools out of the slaveholders, and that he urged black people to fight on for Liberty and country.

And as Charlie Davenport remembered, “Lincoln came through Mississippi “rantin’ an’ a-preachin’ ’bout us bein’ his black brothers.””

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Perhaps the black Americans weren’t truly related by blood to President Lincoln, and yet he was always seen as a real stepfather to all of them, and as a True Father to this Nation.

But for the freed slaves amongst the Black American People — he was truly kinfolk.

And at a time today, when many Americans are remaking Lincoln into a symbol of division, patriarchy, and of white supremacy — and are going about flatfooted, wholesale erasing the black people from the story of the Civil War altogether — the stories of the real survivors of Slavery are saying something entirely different, (through their memories of Lincoln coming down South). They are saying, that their lives and their stories were not wasted, nor can they be erased.

They are telling us, that themselves, and their stories, would never be forgotten.

They are telling us, that they’d been there, the whole time.

And perhaps we should heed their stories, and also make an effort to learn something from them. Something pivotal. Something that might be useful to all of us today, if we only choose to recall these awesome legends as some of the founding myths of our nation, and as some truths incarnate — now that our nation is again sorely divided, pained, and forlorn…

Let us then allow Lincoln’s haunting image to come back, on his birthday — in order to heal our divisions, to help us forgive & forget, and to ease our pain, as he so often did during his lifetime, towards all those enslaved under the harsh physical slavery, and those under the even harsher mental slavery, of another time nearer and similar to that faced by our own country today.

PPS:

Please, Share this story, and pay it forward. Please give it as a gift to others, because our nation deserves some measure of healing today, lest we go down the wrong path of history and wallow in the grip of hate, enmity, and division — all over again.

To Note:

Dr Pano Churchill, is the acclaimed leader and president of the Independent political party named after the 17th President Abraham Lincoln.

Keep in mind, that the Lincoln Party today is the third party/ Same as Lincoln’s Republican party, was the (new) third party, at the time of his electoral victory against the Democratic party and against the Whig party, that brought him as the People’s choice, into the White House to assume the Leadership of  these United States… ten days into the Civil War that had already started.

To get into the leadership and win the White House — Lincoln had campaigned selectively & strategically, and we see this because he had indeed won the electoral college vote, but not the popular vote concentrating his limited resources to the states and places that mattered during his constrained campaign.


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