Today Is Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday—and a Good Time to Remind You He Did Not Free the Slaves

A portrait of President Abraham Lincoln by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who loved to paint (AP Images)
A portrait of President Abraham Lincoln by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who loved to paint (AP Images)

Monday is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12, 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 often credited with freeing the slaves through his Emancipation Proclamation. This is simply not true. Abraham Lincoln did not free the slaves.


The Emancipation Proclamation, which was delivered on Jan. 1, 1863, stated that slaves in “rebellious states” (read: Southern) “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 some parishes in Louisiana.

Furthermore, Lincoln was no hero to black people. In fact, he did not consider them to be equal to whites. In a speech on Sept. 18, 1858, he had the following to say:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making VOTERS or jurors of negroes, NOR OF QUALIFYING THEM [to] HOLD OFFICE, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any of her man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

No, it was actually the 13th Amendment to the Constitution—passed Jan. 31, 1865, and ratified Dec. 6, 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.”

Have whatever fantasies you want about Lincoln, including of him being a vampire slayer, but make no mistake: He did not free the slaves, and he did not care about black people.

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.


Michael Harriot

He made some nice cars, though.