Abraham Lincoln and Racism: Synthesis Essay

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President Abraham Lincoln introduced Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 had only freed slaves that were held in the Confederate states and only in the portion of states not already under Union control.9 Lincoln truly abolished slavery when the Thirteenth amendment was put in place in 1865, ‘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 their jurisdiction.’ 10 Lincoln took an active role to ensure the amendment was passed through Congress, despite the fact the Senate passed it in 1864, the House did not. Therefore, he took it to insist the passage be added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming presidential elections, eventually, it was passed freeing four million slaves. Even though Lincoln had successfully achieved the 13th amendment and slaves were now free racism and discrimination continued throughout America, showing that he wasn’t that successful in achieving the civil rights for black but only allowing them to be free.

Woodrow Wilson was one of many presidents who did little to nothing to progress the Civil Rights, his administration pursued regressive policies which worked with Southern Democrats to segregate the federal government. After years of African American advances in the civil service, this resulted in a great step back meaning the Ku Klux Klan had a major revival. President Wilson aligned himself symbolically with the KKK by ordering a private screening of D.W. Griffith’s racist film Birth of a Nation. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and many others stepped forward to condemn Wilson’s segregationist racial agenda. 11 Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1905) had addressed the race problem but still lacked initiative and did little to change the issue, his solution was to proceed slowly toward social and economic equality. He cautioned against imposing radical changes in government policy and instead suggested a gradual adjustment in the attitudes of whites towards ethnic minorities. While Roosevelt believed in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, his administration took a long-term approach to improving civil rights.12 President Andrew Johnson had not contributed to the Civil Rights but instead opposed it alongside the 14th Amendment and even though he supported the end of slavery in the 1860s, he still classified himself as a white supremacist. During one of his first speeches as President he stated ’This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men’. Harry S Truman supported civil rights and had accomplished some major achievements in Civil Rights, in 1948 he issued two executive orders banning segregation in the armed forces and guaranteeing fair employment practices in the civil service. Despite the fact it took two years for the military to push through the law, a few African Americans soon became officers and the number of frontline troops had increased during the Korean War. Since Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman was the only president that had addressed Civil Rights, and his huge support for the civil rights committee wanted the federal government to use its authority to end segregation, lynching be a federal offense, and voting rights introduced for African Americans; he had called for the implementation of all the recommendations in his state union speeches of 1947 and 48.13 John F Kennedy supported racial integration and civil rights through his speeches. In 1961 he signed Executive Order 10925 which required government contractors to take affirmative action to ensure all employees are treated equally irrespective of their race, creed, color, or national origin, and his executive order 11063 in 1962 banned segregation in federally funded housing. 14 Kennedy had also made many black appointments to the federal bureaucracy; there were five black federal judges alongside 40 black people to top posts. His proposal to provide equal access to public schools and other facilities, and greater protection of voting rights became part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was signed by Lydon B Johnson. 15

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President John F Kennedy's speech was his first and only major civil rights address, in his speech, he states ‘One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until its citizens are free.’ 16 Kennedy challenges the American people by linking the fate of African American citizenship to the larger question of national identity and freedom ‘will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.’ The candid tone and formality of the speech suggest that he is trying to reach all audiences as it was broadcasted nationwide.

Kennedy delivered his speech on June 11, 1963; this was 100 years after Lincoln put forth the Emancipation Proclamation (Kennedy was trying to portray himself as Lincoln, who was then seen as the greatest successor) the significance of the speech being delivered on the day shows the lack of progress America has done for equality because, in the same year, the Birmingham campaign took place where African Americans were clubbed by police officers, attacked by their dogs, blasted by high-pressure fire hoses and beaten; they were protesting for desegregation in Alabama. However, Martin Luther King was Arrested which led to further protests. This speech was historic as it soon led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. John Kennedy was one of the Presidents that contributed a massive amount to the progression of Civil Rights Since Lincoln, he met with Civil Right Leaders, including Martin Luther King and his wife, and put forward the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alongside this 89% of African American’s approved of his Presidency. As the protests and marches got more frequent Kennedy started to address the situation more and addressed that civil rights were a moral issue. This source is valuable as it's an in-depth speech on the current racial affairs in America, Kennedy’s status and power means that he was going to reach a wide audience and people will listen so his talking about a serious topic means that more white Americans will hear the truth.

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Abraham Lincoln and Racism: Synthesis Essay. (2023, October 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/abraham-lincoln-and-racism-synthesis-essay/
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