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Lincoln proposal: federal help for ‘freed blacks’ with wish to leave U.S.

Did you know that when President Lincoln issued the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, it included a proposal to provide federal help for newly freed blacks wishing to leave the U.S.? Little known stories of blacks and the Civil War – Part IV
A four-part Black History Month series in recognition of the 150th
Anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War

by Dr. Frank Smith Jr.
TriceEdneyWire.com

(Dr. Frank Smith Jr. is executive director of the African American Civil War Museum and Monument.)  

Did you know that when President Lincoln issued the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, it included a proposal to pay loyal slave owners for their slaves and a proposal to provide federal help for newly freed blacks wishing to leave the U.S.?

The Lincoln proposal to Congress stated as follows: “Every state, wherein slavery now exists, which shall abolish the same therein, at any time, or times, before the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand and nine hundred (1900) shall receive compensation from the United States——for each slave shown to exist as stated in Article I.”

In Article II of the 13th Amendment, he stated that slave owners “who shall not have been disloyal, shall be compensated for their slaves.” And, Article III stated, “Congress may appropriate money, and otherwise provide for the colonizing of free colored persons, with their consent, at any place or places, without the United States.”

There you have it. President Lincoln trying for two years to put down the rebellion, win the Civil War and keep America united under one flag without touching the issue of slavery at all. At the end of two years, he now realizes that he needs the help of the freed enslaved persons to set in shambles the economy of the South and provide additional soldiers in order to complete his noble objective of saving the Union. Lincoln first issues the Emancipation Proclamation as a fit and just military necessity to accomplish both objectives of ending slavery and saving the nation.

Lincoln knows, however, that slavery is all wrapped up in the Constitution and validated in a court decision called the Dred Scott case, which stated that the founding fathers never intended that blacks – neither slave nor free – be citizens of the U.S. So Lincoln started to work the Congress to get the 13th Amendment passed and – with his message to congress – lay the groundwork for compensating loyal slave holders. He offered no compensation for the enslaved, who had been forced to work for free for more than 200 years building the economic groundwork for the rich and prosperous economy that we know today.

Congress rejected the compensation idea saying it would bankrupt the country and that gradual emancipation would prolong slavery for another 37 years till the year 1900. A few blacks took a look see at the proposed colonization idea, rejected it and claimed their stake in the United States of America. In 1870, Congress would then go on to pass the 14th Amendment making Blacks born in America citizens and requiring states to accord them “equal protection under the law”. The 15th Amendment armed black men with the right to vote that was quickly taken away by state laws and the wrath of the KKK.

It would take almost 100 years of litigation, marches, deaths and frustration to erase the legal aspects of white supremacy. It would take several civil rights acts and a 1965 voting rights act that abolished the poll tax and literacy test and sent federal registrars into the former confederate states enabling blacks to once again register to vote, run for sheriff, mayor, congress and serve on juries. It all began with black soldiers in the Civil War and in 2008, black voters would join with well-meaning whites to elect Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States.

At the urging of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), President Obama issued a National African American History Month, proclaiming stating, “This year’s theme ‘African Americans and the Civil War’ invites us to reflect on 150 years since the start of the Civil War and on the patriots of a young country who fought for the promises of justice and equality laid out by our forbearers.” (For the full text, go to http://www.afroamcivilwar.org/)

April 12, 2011 will mark the 150th Anniversary of the firing on Ft. Sumter and the start of the American Civil War. The African American Civil War Memorial Foundation will commemorate the beginning Civil War with celebrities reading from Civil War period newspapers, speeches, and other documents announcing the coming of the war and its profound effect on the ending of slavery in America. We will also have celebrities read from selected press responses to the election of President Lincoln and the anti-slavery platform of the Republican party of 1860.

The African American Civil War Memorial lists the names of 209,145 Black union soldiers who joined President Lincoln to save the Union and keep it united under one flag. The monument, located at the corner of 10th and U Streets NW Washington, D. C., was built by a private foundation that operates a museum.  On July 18, the museum will host a Grand Opening for its newly renovated 5,000 sq. ft. space with new exhibits, artifacts, and state of the art educational programs adjacent to the monument.

(This Black History Month series was sponsored by The African American Civil War Museum and Monument and the Association for the Student of African American Life and History (ASALH). For more information: www.afroamcivilwar.org/our-story.html, call 202-667-2667 or email: Info@amcivilwar.)

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