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"What Shall We Do with the Negro?"

Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America

Paul D. Escott

Publication Year: 2009

Throughout the Civil War, newspaper headlines and stories repeatedly asked some variation of the question posed by the New York Times in 1862, “What shall we do with the negro?” The future status of African Americans was a pressing issue for those in both the North and in the South. Consulting a broad range of contemporary newspapers, magazines, books, army records, government documents, publications of citizens’ organizations, letters, diaries, and other sources, Paul D. Escott examines the attitudes and actions of Northerners and Southerners regarding the future of African Americans after the end of slavery. “What Shall We Do with the Negro?” demonstrates how historians together with our larger national popular culture have wrenched the history of this period from its context in order to portray key figures as heroes or exemplars of national virtue.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xi-

Upon completion of a large project, one feels satisfaction and gratitude toward those who have helped him reach that point. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to receive enormous help and encouragement from Robert Durden, Raymond Gavins, Jeffrey Crow, and Emory Thomas. In polishing this ...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. xiii-xviii

In the tragic aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, Americans began to reexamine basic assumptions about their nation’s foreign policy. Several decades ago the diplomat George F. Kennan undertook the same task and reached important conclusions. Kennan identified a persistent, unrealistic strain of thought in American diplomacy. Throughout the United States’ ...

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Prologue: First Declarations

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pp. 1-26

What was the Civil War about? This simple question has produced an unending debate in American culture. Because so many soldiers died in the war, because the war left deep scars in the body politic, and because human behavior is inherently complex, it is not surprising that individuals argue passionately about the answers even today. Beyond these reasons, however, lies ...

Part 1: Northern Developments

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1: THE NORTH CONFRONTS THE QUESTION

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pp. 29-64

War is the preeminent agent of change, a potent force that alters institutions, beliefs, and social customs to create a new and unanticipated reality. The Civil War shook the bedrock of American institutions and beliefs, forcing both North and South to entertain ideas that had been unthinkable. Under the coercive force ...

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2: WAR’S PROVING GROUND

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pp. 65-93

he North had no plan to discover the capabilities and preferences of the freedmen. Neither policymakers nor the public foresaw that the war itself would create a gigantic proving ground from which abundant and highly relevant information would be available. But while Abraham Lincoln gave thought to colonization efforts in ...

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3: AMNESTY, APPRENTICESHIP, AND THE FREEDMEN’S FUTURE

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pp. 94-118

While war was creating major changes in the South, 1863 proved to be a crucial year for policymaking in Washington. Military events continued to be of primary concern, but the progress of the war was not the only issue on people’s minds. President Lincoln was eager to begin the process of bringing rebellious Southerners back into the Union. ...

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4: POLITICS, EMANCIPATION,AND BLACK RIGHTS [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 119-142

The year 1864 was a presidential election year, and not surprisingly, politics tested the limits of policy. When policies and popularity are in conflict, the resulting collision reveals where a leader really stands. Such political dynamics buffeted Abraham Lincoln as he sought reelection. They tested his resolve on the crucial issues of the war, especially ...

Part 2: Southern Developments

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5: SLAVERY, WAR, AND THE SLAVEHOLDER’S MIND

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pp. 145-170

Southern slaveholders gained wealth and power from human bondage, but the institution of slavery made their world complex. Living economically in a world of progress and profit, they were menaced ideologically by an Atlantic culture that increasingly condemned the foundation of their wealth. Loyal to a Revolutionary past that had managed to ...

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6: HERESY, DOGMA, AND THE CONFEDERATE DEBATE

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pp. 171-197

The Confederacy came into being as a slaveholders’ republic. Faced with the election of a “Black Republican” and alarmed by the strength of a party they deemed hostile to slavery, secessionists sprang into action and carried the day. Focusing on one state aft er another, these “fire-eaters” led the Lower South out of the Union and ...

Part 3: Confluence

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7: THE HAMPTON ROADS CONFERENCE

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pp. 201-225

In the early weeks of 1865 a hunger for peace gripped both the North and the South. For different reasons the people of both sections reached out eagerly for any chance to bring the bloody war to an end. Many Southerners had reached a point of desperation. Dismayed by the losses they had already suffered, groaning under the burdens they were carrying, and pessimistic ...

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8: 1865 AND BEYOND

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pp. 226-245

With the assassination of President Lincoln and the surrender of the Confederate armies, the United States faced a new and uncertain future. The four-year convulsion of killing was over. An enormously destructive war had made some things clear and left other important issues unanswered. The Union would be preserved, for the ...

APPENDIX: A BRIEF, ADDITIONAL NOTE ON A VAST HISTORIOGRAPHY

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pp. 247-250

NOTES

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pp. 251-276

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 277-292

INDEX

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pp. 293-304


E-ISBN-13: 9780813930466
E-ISBN-10: 0813930464
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813927862
Print-ISBN-10: 0813927862

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 14 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2009

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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- History -- 19th century.
  • Race -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1861-1865.
  • Racism -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Whites -- United States -- Attitudes -- History -- 19th century.
  • Lincoln, Abraham, -- 1809-1865 -- Relations with African Americans.
  • Slaves -- Emancipation -- United States.
  • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 -- Political and social views.
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