Americans tend to simplify the U.S. Civil War, saying the North and South fought over the moral issues of slavery. In doing so, the explanation assumes that everyone in the South was racist and Northerners were all anti-slavery.
Most historians agree that the reasons behind the civil war were more complex.
The war was fought over the “economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict,” history detective Wes Cowan said in the PBS-aired series, “Causes of the Civil War.”
That doesn’t mean racism wasn’t involved. Confederate leaders in the South saw themselves as superior and entitled to own Black people. In his “Cornerstone Speech,” Alexander Stephens, who was vice president of the confederate states from 1873 to 1882, said, “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
In an article for The Atlantic, author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates said of Stephens’s speech, “Also note his invocation of the Creator, the notion white supremacy is not just natural, but divinely inspired.”
Democrat Hakeem Jeffries, a U.S. representative for New York’s 8th congressional district since 2013, tweeted, “The Civil War ended in 1865 and the racists lost. Get over it.”
But Black Twitter wasn’t having it.
“The racist won too… We not gone rewrite history” Titan @RBG_Renegade tweeted.
“The civil war continues today! There are two systems of Justice in this country!” Carlton Richards – There is Hope @itsgoingdowndc tweeted.
“Well, Mr. Jeffries l disagree. They lost the war only! They kept their property. Avoided jail time for treason. Continued to receive free labor. Regained control of the South. Set policies that benefited them. Crafted a false 156 year narrative about the war. Lost Only the war!,” Slave-Bay-Bee @Coachernest1215 tweeted.
“The war never ended… and the south never stopped fighting… and they won’t,” Marcus Burns @Burnslykfire posted. “Get with it. Sir. They not even trying get over it. The illusion of an ideal that has been shattered&will never come. America is America. God bless the child whom has his own logistics professionals”
Abraham Lincoln is often portrayed as the savior of Black people but Lincoln didn’t opt to free 4 million slaves due to morals. It was a political and economic move. He wanted to save the union, whose states were failing economically.
In Lincoln’s letter to newspaper editor and publisher Horace Greeley, he wrote, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union…”
In an 1858 speech given in Chicago, Lincoln was decidedly pro-slavery and insisted that he opposed “bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the Black and white races,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
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Race scholar and former executive editor of Ebony Magazine Lerone Bennett argued in his book “Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream,” that Lincoln shouldn’t be credited with freeing the slaves. Credit for emancipation, he said, should go to abolitionists such as Wendell Phillips and to radical Republicans in Congress, who in 1862 pushed through the Second Confiscation Act, freeing slaves of owners who supported the Confederacy.
Bennett, who also wrote “Before the Mayflower (A History of Black America)” in 1969, argued the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave because it applied only to areas outside union control. At the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln was looking to deport former slaves back to Africa.
“Doesn’t look like they lost. They are still fighting,” Steve ADOS PHX🇺🇸 @blaqnite tweeted in response to Rep. Jeffries’ tweet that the Civil War ended in 1865 and the racists lost. Accompanying Steve ADOS’ tweet was a photo of a rebel flag-bearing insurrectionist inside the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.
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