Lincoln, Race and the American Presidency

February 18, 2010

Fath Davis Ruffins, the museum's curator of African American History and Culture, moderated a panel discussion on race and presidential politics (in Lincoln’s time and our own).

Lincoln’s views on race, and indeed the national debates on racial issues and politics in the mid-19th century, were much more complex and complicated that simply a question of whether to end the institution of slavery. Lincoln and his contemporaries also wrestled with issues of colonization, voting and other political and social rights, interracial marriage, gradual versus immediate emancipation, and, as one congressman argued, whether the United States was a nation “made by white men, for white men.”

To discuss these issues, which have an incredibly relevant legacy today, panelists included Dr. Maurice Jackson and Dr. Chandra Manning of Georgetown University; Dr. Edna Greene Medford of Howard University; and Dr. Ronald Walters, author of Black Presidential Politics in America and director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.