With Malice Toward Some: Lincoln, America and Race

Richard Lawson Singley
15 min readJul 6, 2020
Former President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton walk past the statue of President Abraham Lincoln to participate in the ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech

In the aftermath of the Civil War, America was left to consider the sacrifices made and why God continued to shed His grace on thee. And so, the nation rallied around the man that saved the Union and who once again made us “One Nation Under God.” In a strange way, Lincoln was a savior, perhaps not of mankind, but an ideal of freedom and the preservation of the Union. It was in search of such ideals that immigrants flocked to the shores of America at the turn of the 20th century.

Mount Rushmore By Winkelvi — Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68401245

Lincoln was placed high on a mountain alongside the pantheon of American heroes. It was a mountain that most immigrants were not too weary to climb. Upon the mountaintop, they did not find men enshrined in stone, but the hopes and dreams of America. From lips carved in stone, the silent voice utters a legacy that could be softly heard in any language. To them, the dialect of equality and opportunity spoke clearly. It was a sound whispered by the winds across dry and fertile land. A quiet sound carried as high as the Rocky Mountains and through their valleys of despair.

It was a voice telling America that it should not be afraid of the demons of its past because it dared to embrace the better angels of its future. Yet, the demons from the past still haunted America, and what emerged was not an America illuminated by the vibrant colors of a shared humanity, but one clouded by the black and white colors of racial prejudice, bigotry and discrimination in the form of Jim Crow.

History attests that Lincoln’s story and the story of black emancipation are henceforth inextricably linked to the epic struggle of the American Civil War and to America’s creed. However, history also attests that the Civil War did not grant African Americans Civil Rights. So, the relationship between Lincoln, the Civil War and African Americans remains bittersweet. Many African Americans are grateful for his leadership, but some are repelled by statues across the South that resurrect the dark demons of our past. Yet, through the ages, Lincoln has become that beacon of freedom for all Americans black and white. He was the nation’s first martyr to be grieved by a humble and…

Richard Lawson Singley

Author, educator, historian, former engineer at General Electric. Interested in the origins of all things. Author of A New Perspective richardlsingley@gmail.com