Today was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” I spent the better part of the day reading Eric Foner’s recent The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. Foner makes the following argument about the address:
At the time of his death and for years thereafter, Lincoln was remembered primarily as the Great Emancipator. Not until the turn of the century, when the process of (white) reconciliation was far advanced, would Americans forget or suppress the centrality of slavery and emancipation to the war experience. Lincoln would then be transformed into a symbol of national unity, and the Gettysburg Address, which did not explicitly mention slavery, would, in popular memory, supplant the Emancipation Proclamation as the greatest embodiment of his ideas. (333)
The Civil War wasn’t about States rights or any other similar nonsense. It was about slavery. As people take time to remember Lincoln’s let’s also remember that.