America in the 1850s

Abraham Lincoln Appears on the Scene

Why, then, do we so frequently think of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator?

Because he became that person and filled that role. In 1863, Lincoln would set over four million people free. But he arrived at that point through a long, sometimes convoluted, process. If Lincoln was truthful in 1858—and many historians believe he was—then he was, at that time, a rather typical man from the Western states. He did not dislike black people, and he thought it a terrible thing that they were enslaved, but he had no black friends and no basis for comparison.


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