Author Archives: Dave Taylor

A New Chapter

In 2012, I moved from my home state of Illinois (The Land of Lincoln) to Maryland. I had been teaching in Illinois for two years and enjoyed it, but managed to get a job at an elementary school in St. Mary’s County Public Schools in Southern Maryland. The appeal of being able to live in the same area as the history that so fascinates me was almost all the encouragement a 24 year-old Dave needed to move across the country. And I have never once regretted the decision of leaving my family behind to embrace my passion. For the past nine years, I have been able to do so many things and explore the Lincoln assassination story in ways I could never have imagined. I’ve camped out in the woods that John Wilkes Booth passed through during his escape, given tours at the room where the trial of the conspirators happened, been interviewed on live TV and radio talking about the Lincoln assassination story, spent a night at the Booth family home, and, my favorite activity of all, I’ve taken 20 busloads of people down the John Wilkes Booth escape route tour for the Surratt Society. Being in Maryland has helped shape me as a historian and an educator.

With that being said, our priorities in life can change quickly sometimes. At the beginning of 2021, I was a recent divorcee who was asked to be interviewed on Vanished –  a podcast that was investigating the “Booth escaped and got turned into a mummy” conspiracy theory. The cohost assigned to me was Jen Taylor (no relation) and we had a great time essentially shredding the conspiracy theorists’ so-called evidence that a different man was killed in Booth’s place on April 26, 1865. After the podcast wrapped up, Jen and I continued to find excuses to talk to one another. One day, Jen had to take a long drive and decided to call me so that I could keep her company on her trip. We talked on the phone during her entire car ride, and after she got back home, and further into the night. Before long, I heard birds chirping and saw the sun was rising. We had talked for over 9 hours straight! Since then, I’ve talked and videochatted with Jen everyday. When my spring break from school came in March, I cancelled my planned trip to Fort Jefferson, to fly out to Austin, Texas to see her and her two amazing boys in person.

We both quickly realized that we had found our person and that we loved each other. It came fast and without warning but we knew that everything we’d experienced had been designed to lead us to each other. We had both been in bad marriages before and that’s how we knew we had finally found the selfless and committed partners we both deserved. Since March, I’ve flown out to Austin every other weekend. Eventually, Jen was able to make a trip to Maryland to see my neck of the woods. While taking Jen on part of the John Wilkes Booth escape route in May, I proposed to her on the banks of the Potomac at the spot where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold tried to cross.

We are in the midst of planning a wedding for next year in Granbury, Texas – the same town where the John Wilkes Booth imposter, John St. Helen, lived and allegedly confessed his identity to Finis Bates. In essence, Granbury is the birthplace of the “Booth escaped” theory and, if it wasn’t for that town and its notorious inhabitants spinning some yarns, Jen and I would never have met. I used to avoid the Booth escaped theory like the plague because it was so nonsensical, and now it’s a key part of my marriage origin story.

I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. I can’t wait to start my life with Jen and her boys. I have a family waiting for me in Texas. Today was my last day at St. Mary’s County Public Schools and in two weeks (on the anniversary of the conspirators’ execution as a matter of fact) I will be leaving Maryland for good. I have truly loved living in such close proximity to the Lincoln assassination sites (and cemeteries) for the past nine years, but what I will miss most of all are the many wonderful friends I’ve made here in Maryland. I will sincerely miss you all, but my future is with my wife and stepsons in Austin.

Now before you worry too much, this does not mean I’m going to stop researching, writing and speaking about the Lincoln assassination. Quite the opposite. In fact, I’m hoping to increase my output here in LincolnConspirators.com once I finish my Master’s degree in American history at the end of the year. I already have ideas for my thesis and am hoping it can turn into either an interesting feature here on the site or maybe, possibly, a book. In addition, Jen and I are planning to make a podcast series focused on the trial of the Lincoln conspirators.

In terms of talks and speeches, I’m planning on coming back to Maryland for the annual Surratt Society Conference, my talks at Tudor Hall, and other special events. My favorite thing in the world is narrating the Surratt Society’s John Wilkes Booth escape route bus tours and you better believe that I will fly back as often as they want me to get my fix. In addition, COVID has introduced us all to the virtual meeting and Civil War Roundtables. I am always available to do online and Zoom lectures to different groups.

In many ways, things will stay the same here on LincolnConspirators.com, I just won’t be living in Maryland anymore when I write about these things. At times I may have to reach out to the locals to go and snap a picture of a grave or something, but when I started this site I was living in Illinois so I know I can still do good research from afar. In the interim between posts, I still highly recommend you follow me on Twitter as I am always tweeting and retweeting Lincoln assassination material over there.

I’d like to thank you all for your continued support as I travel to a new state to start this new chapter in my life with Jen and her boys. You can take the Lincoln assassination researcher out of Southern Maryland, but you can’t take the Southern Maryland out of the Lincoln assassination researcher. To my local friends and students, take care of this state (and its graves) for me. Don’t worry, I won’t be a stranger.

Love,

Dave Taylor

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Formerly Enslaved Voices in the Lincoln Assassination Trial

In the aftermath of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, the U.S. government wasted no time in investigating the origins of the murderous plot. While the main perpetrator of the crime was known – the famous actor John Wilkes Booth had made no effort to conceal his identity as he leapt from the box at Ford’s Theatre and hurried across the stage – the simultaneous attack on Secretary of State William Seward by an unknown assailant spoke to a much larger, and terrifying conspiracy. In the hours following the attacks, officials found themselves conducting not only a massive manhunt, but also one of the most complex investigations the country had ever seen. While a modicum of justice would be served twelve days later when the lead assassin was cornered and killed trying to escape a detachment of Union cavalry, the question of who else was responsible for Lincoln’s death was of the upmost importance to the grieving nation.

In trying to find an answer to this question of culpability the War Department cast a wide net, ensnaring not only prospective conspirators but also witnesses of all classes and backgrounds with vital information to share. At the end of the War Department’s investigation, eight imprisoned individuals were put on trial for conspiracy in Lincoln’s murder in connection with leaders of the Confederate government who were still at large. Less than a month after Lincoln was shot, a military tribunal had been established and the first witnesses began to testify about the seven men and one woman the government believed were key members of John Wilkes Booth’s plot. The trial of the Lincoln conspirators was remarkable and controversial in many ways. It was a military tribunal rather than a civilian trial and, as such, the jury was a commission of nine Union military officers. Legal jurisprudence of the day prevented defendants from testifying. As assassination historian Michael Kauffman explains it, “While a suspect today might agree to testify in exchange for a lighter sentence, that practice was illegal in 1865,”[1] and so the eight conspirators sat in the courtroom each day unable to speak for themselves. However, one of the most remarkable aspects of the trial of the conspirators is the way in which the government brought forth formerly enslaved and free born men and women to testify in open court against the white defendants. In total, out of the 347 people who testified at the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, 29 of them were witnesses of color with several of them having been formerly enslaved by two of the conspirators, Dr. Mudd and Mary Surratt. By looking at the legal precedent of Black men and women testifying against white defendants and by analyzing the testimonies brought out by the formerly enslaved at the Lincoln assassination trial we can see the ways in which the prosecution and the defense sought to use Black voices to further their cases. In addition, we will evaluate some of the testimonies in detail to understand the risks these Black witnesses took in allowing their voices to be heard at the trial of the century.

It is important to point out the rarity of Black prosecution witnesses against white defendants in the Civil War era. According to lawyer Frazer Walton, Jr., author of A Hidden Indictment: What the Slaves and Freedmen Knew about the Lincoln Assassination, “In 1865, the legal system virtually prohibited a former slave or free black person from testifying against a white person in most state courts even though they were allowed to do so under federal law and therefore in federal court.”[2] The question of a Black man or woman’s competency as a witness, especially in relation to a white defendant, had been a subject of legal debate for many years. Many state courts throughout the country outright prohibited the testimony of Black individuals and federal courts located in those states often followed this precedent. The trial of the Lincoln conspirators took place within Washington, D.C. where a ruling from 1827 stated that, “a colored man is not a competent witness…against a colored man indicted jointly with white men.”[3] This decision demonstrated the District’s desire to prevent any testimony from a Black witness from having a deleterious effect on a white defendant. However, ten years later some progress had been made as the District ruled that, “a mulatto, born of a white woman, is a competent witness against a Christian white person.”[4] From these early legal decisions, it is clear that one’s competency to testify in D.C. courts was not based on education or other metric but was solely dependent on one’s degree of whiteness. The nation’s capital was a slave holding territory and its racial attitudes had much in common with the Southern states and its slavocracy. As in many other jurisdictions during the time, justice took a back seat to white supremacy. While Black men and women could testify against each other, the concept that a Black person’s word was in any way equal to the word of a white defendant was an idea representing the antithesis of the social order of D.C. and many other slave holding states. Though the allegorical figure of Justice is oftentimes portrayed as being blind, those in charge of meting out justice were very much influenced by their own racial perceptions and prejudices.

In April of 1862, however, a big change occurred with the passage of the District of Columbia Emancipation Act. Ending slavery in the Nation’s capital had become an important goal of President Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War. Though trapped in conflict, Lincoln was already looking to the future when the Southern states would return and needed a plan for what was to be done with slavery when that occurred. From the White House, Lincoln looked to his own backyard in trying to find a way to enact a controlled emancipation that he could possibly expand to the South under the right circumstances. Lincoln lobbied Congress hard for a compensated emancipation of those held in bondage in the nation’s capital. In this way, the federal government agreed to pay D.C. enslavers for their slaves, thus freeing enslaved men and women and lessening the financial loss to the enslavers. In many ways, the D.C. Emancipation Act was a prelude to Lincoln’s more famous Emancipation Proclamation which ostensibly freed those held in bondage in the Southern States without any sort of compensation to enslavers.

While compensated emancipation no doubt softened the blow of D.C. enslavers over the loss of their property, not all were willing to divest of those they enslaved. To rectify this, in July of 1862, a supplement was added to the D.C. Emancipation Act allowing for the enslaved to petition for their freedom themselves if their enslavers failed to do so. The final portion of this supplement stated that, “in all judicial proceedings in the District of Columbia there shall be no exclusion of any witness on account of color.”[5] This was to make sure that potential enslaved petitioners who applied for their freedom were not remanded back into slavery due to the lies of their enslavers who desired to keep them. Thus, it was from this supplement from the D.C. emancipation act that lay the foundation for the testimony of Black witnesses in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy trial three years later.

However, just because the law stated that witnesses could not be excluded on account of their skin color, this does not mean that prospective Black witnesses were free from prejudicial treatment. Post 1862, Black witnesses against white defendants were practically unheard of in D.C. other than in cases related to the Emancipation Act. As the government was preparing their case against the conspirators, they knew, from the onset that the testimony of Black witnesses would face undue scrutiny merely due to their race. As Walton states, “Secretary [of War Edwin] Stanton and other Union officials were well aware that although blacks were permitted to testify in the federal courts and before federal juries, such testimony would probably be given little credence by juries permeated with Southern sympathizers.”[6] The span between what was legally allowed, and what would be given proper weight in the eyes of an all-white jury of D.C. residents was a problem for the War Department in terms of the testimony of its prospective Black witnesses. While the cases for some of the conspirators were fairly “cut and dry” with little question of a guilty verdict, for many of the others there was considerable room for reasonable doubt. This was especially true in the cases of Dr. Mudd (who set the assassin’s leg) and Edman Spangler (who worked as a stage carpenter and scene shifter at Ford’s Theatre). Of the prosecution’s 19 Black witnesses, 10 of them dealt solely with Dr. Mudd and the government’s efforts to portray him as a disloyal Confederate sympathizer who took an active role in treasonous behavior against the government. To help prove Dr. Mudd capable of involvement in the plot against Lincoln, the government was heavily relying on the testimony of some of the men and women he formerly enslaved. In the case of Edman Spangler, the government brought forth four Black witnesses connecting Spangler with Booth in the moments before the assassination at the theater. In the cases of these two conspirators in particular, there was too much of a risk in solely relying on a civilian jury to perform their duty detached from their own racial attitudes and prejudices. Walton contends that this knowledge, this fear of a white civilian jury finding any of the accused conspirators not guilty due to the racial prejudice against Black witnesses was a factor in the decision to try the conspirators in a military court with nine military commissioners rather than a civilian trial with a jury selected from a Southern sympathizing populace. In this way, “the government was reasonably certain the testimony of the black witnesses would be fairly weighed and considered,” Walton states.[7]

Yet, in practice, this idea of fairly weighing and considering the testimony of Black witnesses proved to be more of a hope than a reality. The only reason that we even know the identities of Black individuals who took the stand is not based solely on their testimony but due to how their words were recorded and delineated at the time. Both in newspaper accounts and in the official transcript of the trial authorized for publication by the government after its conclusion, all African American witnesses bore the addendum of “(colored)” beside their names before the start of their testimony. It demonstrates how, even in the realm of an extremely serious trial enacted by the highest levels of the government for the purpose of determining those responsible for the death of Abraham Lincoln, the racial identity of the person on the witness stand still took precedent over their words. The commissioners themselves could see the witnesses and knew their skin color but it was still determined important enough for readers of the trial proceedings to have this information upfront. While such notations did nothing to alter the actual content of these testimonies, they were no doubt intended to alter the perception and context of the words. Such notes allowed white followers of the trial proceedings to prejudge what they were about to read based on their own racial attitudes. While such notes are helpful to us as historians in knowing the identities of witnesses who faced additional personal risk in taking the stand, it also demonstrates how, even in print, the racism of the past can be captured for posterity.

While the first “colored” witness to testify at the trial of the conspirators took the stand on May 15 (the third day of testimony), the day with the largest number of Black witnesses came ten days later on May 25. On this date, the prosecution delved into the guilt of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd who was as much on trial for his assistance to John Wilkes Booth before the assassination as he was for the medical services he rendered during the fugitive’s flight. A large part of the prosecution’s case against Dr. Mudd was to show that the Maryland physician was disloyal and actively supported the cause of the Confederacy. To help them establish this case, the prosecution brought forth five witnesses on this date who had been enslaved by Dr. Mudd and two other men who had been enslaved by Dr. Mudd’s neighbors to testify against him. The first of these witnesses was Mary Simms who stated she had been enslaved by Dr. Mudd, “I think, four years, and left him about a month before Christmas gone.”[8] Simms was in her early twenties and had departed the Mudd farm shortly after the new state constitution came into effect in November of 1864 which abolished slavery in Maryland. During Simms’ testimony she was asked about Dr. Mudd’s actions over the course of the Civil War. Simms recalled that, during the summer of 1864, she had witnessed several men in Confederate gray hiding and camping out on the Mudd property with the doctor providing bedding and food to these men. Simms was often tasked with keeping a look out for Union soldiers when the men ventured close to the house to talk with the doctor or acquire supplies. Simms also noted that these men, “brought letters from Virginia…to Dr. Sam. Mudd,”[9] hinting that Mudd was illegally in contact with people in the Confederacy. This testimony was useful in demonstrating that Dr. Mudd was much more than a typical slaveholding Confederate sympathizer, but an active subversive agent for their cause.

Jars made by the men and women enslaved by Dr. Mudd. On display at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum

The next witness to take the stand after Mary Simms was her brother, Elzee Eglent. He was in his late twenties and was likewise asked questions about Dr. Mudd’s loyalty. Contrasting the experience of his sister, Eglent had escaped from his enslavement in 1863, a full year prior to the end of slavery in Maryland. As documented in the work of Dr. Mudd historian (and descendant) Robert Summers, author of The Doctor’s Slaves: Samuel Mudd, Slavery, and the Lincoln Assassination, “On Saturday night, August 29, 1863, with a full moon to guide their way, 40 slaves ran away from the farms of Dr. Mudd, his father Henry Lowe Mudd, and [his brother-in-law] Jeremiah Dyer.”[10] The Mudd family was one of the largest slaveholding families in Southern Maryland and this large, coordinated escape on the part of the enslaved greatly impacted the Mudd family’s personal wealth. Summers recounts that, “Jeremiah Dyer complained afterwards that because he lost so many slaves, he had to actually pay free workers to finish the tobacco harvest.”[11] According to Elzee Eglent’s testimony at the trial, one of the reasons he decided to take part in this mass escape was due to threats by the doctor to send him South to work on behalf of the Confederacy. His sister, Mary Simms, had mentioned this story in her own testimony stating that Dr. Mudd, “had a place in Richmond,” for Elzee, “building batteries,”[12] for the Confederates. When Elzee was questioned on the stand by the prosecution reiterating this occurrence, he provided another detail which was quickly objected to by Dr. Mudd’s defense attorney:

“Q. Did [Dr. Mudd] say anything to you before you left him about sending you to Richmond?
A. Yes, sir; he told me the morning he shot me that he had a place in Richmond for me.
Mr. Ewing. I object of the question and the answer, and I want my objection entered.”[13]

Despite the defense’s objection, Eglent was allowed to continue to testify about the threats Dr. Mudd had made about sending him to Richmond – shortly after the doctor had shot him. Lincoln historian Edward Steers wrote in his essay “Dr. Mudd and the ‘Colored’ Witnesses” that the mentioning of Dr. Mudd having shot Elzee was one of the prosecution’s line of attack, as they, “alleged that Mudd was a poor master who abused his slaves on more than one occasion.”[14] Yet, the details of how Elzee was shot by Dr. Mudd are not present in Eglent’s testimony. If the prosecution was truly trying to use this incident to damage Dr. Mudd’s reputation, as Steers contends, the lack of further questions on the matter appears to be a strange omission. Since the testimony of extraneous Confederates hanging around the Mudd farm demonstrated that the prosecution was looking for as much ammunition of their own against Dr. Mudd’s general character and loyalty, it is odd that they choose not to ferret out more details about Mudd shooting a man he enslaved. Elzee was not asked any follow up questions about the incident except to reiterate that the shooting occurred on the same day Dr. Mudd threatened to send him the Confederate capital.

Rifle owned by Dr. Mudd on display at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum

While the prosecution did not choose to emphasize the shooting incident, Dr. Mudd’s defense was no doubt aware that this event could be damaging to their client. As too were Mary Simms’ own allegations that Dr. Mudd had whipped her repeatedly, including one time after slavery had been abolished which caused her to leave. After the remaining five formerly enslaved witnesses took to the stand reiterating that Dr. Mudd was known to have interacted with Confederate agents and openly spoke out against the Lincoln administration, sometimes in fiery tones, Dr. Mudd’s defense team knew that they need to counter this. To do this, Mudd’s defense team chose to fight with using quantity over quality. According to Summers, “The prosecution called 16 witnesses to testify against Dr. Mudd. The defense, led by General Ewing, called more than 60 witnesses to testify in his defense.”[15] The bulk of these defense witnesses for Dr. Mudd were white citizens of Charles County who testified that they had never heard Dr. Mudd say anything disloyal. Dr. Mudd’s own brother-in-law countered Mary Simms’ claim that Confederates were around the property in 1864 by stating that it was himself and some other men who had been around there back in 1861. However, Mudd’s defense did not solely rely upon white residents to counter the testimony of the formerly enslaved. After all, the jury for this trial was not comprised of D.C. residents who, until only three years ago, were possibly enslavers themselves and would, therefore, most likely take the word of any single white man over the testimonies of half a dozen former slaves. This jury was a nine member military commission of Union officers. Though not totally without their own racial prejudices, Thomas Ewing was wise enough to realize that he also needed to find Black residents of Charles County to help extricate the former enslaver on the prison dock from his troubles. Dr. Mudd was well aware of how unfavorably the testimony of his former slaves impacted him. A newspaper reporter covering the trial on May 25 noted that:

“During the testimony bearing on the case of Mudd he appeared considerably excited, rising frequently and stooping over the rail to make suggestions to his counsel. At first he wore a smile of derision, but as witness after witness of his late servants came forward to testify to the same facts, the smile died away and was supplied by an anxious look.”[16]

His many sins as an enslaver and a Confederate sympathizer were laid bare before a court with the power to hang him if they saw fit and Dr. Mudd experienced firsthand how the power dynamic has shifted away from the master’s hand and into the words of the formerly enslaved.

Courtroom sketch of Dr. Mudd by commissioner Lew Wallace.

It can be argued that the practice and abuses of slavery was as much on trial as the assassination of Lincoln. One of the other defense attorneys, William Doster, who represented Lewis Powell attempted to help save his own client from the gallows by writing in his closing arguments that Powell’s willingness to attack the bedridden Secretary of State was a deleterious product of growing up in a slave society:

“In the State of Florida were two separate races–one white and the other black–of which the one was slave to the other, and Lewis belonged to the race which was master. It was a custom of this State for masters to whip their slaves, sell them, kill them, and receive the constant homage which the oppressed offer to the powerful. It was the custom of this State to whip and burn men who preached against the custom. It was the custom to defend this institution in meeting-houses, at political gatherings, in family prayers. It was the custom to hunt fugitives with bloodhounds–even those who tried to help them to freedom.”[17]

In this way, Doster tried to blame the actions of his client on the evils of slavery, using the inherit violence of the practice as having molded Powell into a weapon to be used for John Wilkes Booth’s purposes.

Period drawing of William Bell, the Black servant of Secretary of State William Seward, identifying Lewis Powell as his attempted assassin.

Contrastingly, Dr. Mudd’s defense team had to try their hardest to devalue the connection between slavery, disloyalty, and assassination, while faced with multiple formerly enslaved men and women personifying those connections. To this end, Thomas Ewing, one of Dr. Mudd’s lawyers, called his own Black witnesses to testify on behalf of Dr. Mudd. The first two Black witnesses that Ewing calls to defend Mudd are a married couple named Frank and Betty Washington. Frank Washington was the only person enslaved by Dr. Mudd who testified on his behalf at the trial of the conspirators. Frank had been sold to the Mudd farm in 1864, just months before slavery was abolished in Maryland. He continued to live on the Mudd farm after emancipation where he worked as a ploughman. Dr. Mudd also allowed Frank to bring his wife Betty to the farm where she served as a cook for the Mudd family. Unlike the testimonies of prosecution witnesses Mary Simms and Elzee Eglent, Frank Washington’s experience was a noticeably uncomfortable one. On the witness stand Washington barely answered any question posed to him beyond a “yes, sir” or a “no, sir.” When he did elaborate it was very rarely more than a single sentence. When asked about Dr. Mudd’s reputation with his “servants”, Washington replied, “He treated them pretty well.” Then asked how he, himself was treated by Dr. Mudd, Washington answered, “He treated me first-rate. I had no fault to find with him.”[18]

It is important to point out that Frank Washington had come to be enslaved by Dr. Mudd in the months after the doctor had shot and wounded Elzee Eglent who subsequently escaped. While Washington admitted to having heard about that incident, he had no opinion about it. It is also important to note that Frank had a vested interest in the continued welfare of Dr. Mudd as he and his wife Betty were still living on the Mudd farm at the time of the trial. The Washingtons were still employed by the Mudds as paid servants and this point was emphasized by the prosecution during their cross-examination. The prosecution’s unspoken idea that the Washingtons were conflicted witnesses due to their financial ties to the Mudds was clear to everyone in the courtroom. At one point, during Washington’s examination, a member of the military commission, the jury as it were, asked Frank what his wages were from the Mudd family. Frank answered the following:

“A. One hundred and thirty dollars a year.
Q. And something extra for this extra job?
A. I do not know.
Q. Has nothing been said about that.
A. Nothing that I know of.
Q. Do you not expect something extra for this job?
A. Well, I do not know.”[19]

The assumption was clear. Either Frank Washington and his wife were going to be paid by the Mudd family for this testimony or they were essentially being forced to testify on their behalf out of fear for their well-being and financial future. As a result of this implication, Frank Washington’s testimony did very little to counter the prior words of Mary Simms and Elzee Eglent. While no evidence exists that Frank and Betty Washington received any additional payment for their testimony, the couple continued to live at the Mudd farm even after Dr. Mudd went to prison. They are included in the 1870 census with the rest of the Mudd family. In 1880, Frank and Betty resided on a piece of property adjoining the Mudd farm, likely working as sharecroppers on the Mudd land. This speaks to the difficult position African American residents in rural areas like Charles County, Maryland found themselves in after the end of slavery.

The specific testimonies of the formerly enslaved at the trial of the Lincoln conspirators is not one that has gained a lot of attention in Lincoln assassination literature. The previously cited article by Ed Steers titled, “Dr. Mudd and the ‘Colored’ Witnesses”, was perhaps the first to look with any particular detail at the testimony of Black witnesses including the formerly enslaved. Even then, that article, written in 2000, was more designed around the effect the Black testimony had on Dr. Mudd rather than the testimony itself. Robert Summers, also previously cited, delves more into the enslavement that occurred at the Mudd farm and the testimony from the trial about it. These analyses are contained in Summers’ books The Doctor’s Slaves and The Assassin’s Doctor. Yet, Dr. Mudd was not the only conspirator who was an enslaver. Mary Surratt, who would become the first woman executed by the federal government for her role in Lincoln’s assassination, also enslaved men and women at her Southern Maryland tavern and property.

One of the upstairs rooms in her former tavern, now the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland, is furnished to represent the sleeping quarters of one of the enslaved women Mrs. Surratt rented from another. The woman’s name was Rachel Semus and it was actually Mary Surratt’s defense who called her to the stand. Semus testified that Mrs. Surratt, “treated her servants very well all the time I was with her.”[20] Two years later, after Mary had been executed and her fugitive son had been captured and was being subjected to his own civilian trial, Rachel Hawkins nee Semus returned to the stand, testifying on his behalf as well. Likewise, many years later, when she was called “Aunt Rachel”, Hawkins was interviewed by a reporter where she maintained the innocence of her former master and the kind and benevolent treatment she received during her time working for Mrs. Surratt. In an article published by the Surratt House Museum’s newsletter in 2011 (the same time the small room of the museum was furnished to replicate the possible lodging she, and other enslaved people might have stayed in), information is given about “Aunt Rachel’s” life gleaned from her testimonies and newspaper interview. When discussing the context of Rachel’s defense of Mrs. Surratt the article states:

“A comment was one made by a staff member here at the museum that, ‘of course, Rachel would be intimidated into speaking well of Mary Surratt, both during the trial and afterwards.’ This can only be contested by realizing that in 1865, Rachel was a free woman and could speak her mind. If she harbored ill feelings about Mary Surratt, both trials would have been excellent opportunities to express them – with even the force of the War Department to protect her!”[21]

The issue with this messaging on the part of the museum is that it lacks the acknowledgment of the complex nature of slavery and its aftermath. The idea that any of the Black and formerly enslaved witnesses could truly “speak their mind” on the witness stand, especially when called as a defense witness, is hard to rectify. Like Frank Washington, Rachel Semus still lived within a community where her day to day activities were impacted by those who formerly enslaved her. Even if we take into account her much later interview in which she still supports Mrs. Surratt’s innocence and kindness as a master, it is vital that we address how slavery was not solely a physically violent practice but also a mentally manipulative one. Mrs. Surratt very well may have been kind to the men and women she hired and owned, but that does not change the fact that she took part in the systemic degradation of a group of people to deny them their personhood. Telling Rachel Semus’ story should include her defense of Mrs. Surratt as they are her words and should be heard, but these words also need to be placed into context with Mary’s role as an enslaver seen in the same light as Dr. Mudd’s act of shooting of Elzee Eglent.

Mary Swann had been enslaved by Samuel Cox of Rich Hill, where John Wilkes Booth and David Herold went after leaving Dr. Mudd’s farm. Mary Swann lied and told the pursuing authorities that Booth and Herold didn’t enter the Cox home. In this way she protected her former enslaver. Yet we shouldn’t use this as evidence that Samuel Cox was, in anyway, a “kind master”. Years earlier he beat one of the men he enslaved to death.

Black and formerly enslaved witnesses at the Lincoln conspiracy trial took great personal risk in allowing their voices to be heard. Yet, in doing so they helped open the door for others. On July 7, 1865, the same day as four of the conspirators were executed, the National Daily Intelligencer newspaper in Washington, D.C. reported on an important murder case in Nashville, Tennessee where, “the only witness to the murder was a colored woman”. The witness had originally been ruled out as the state courts in Tennessee barred African Americans from testifying. The article reported that an appeal to this rule was being made by one of the most ardent secessionist judges in the region who was acting as a defense attorney. As precedent for allowing the Black witness to testify, the Tennessee lawyer noted that, “the government had admitted negroes to testify in many cases, especially at the conspiracy trial at Washington.”[22] While it does not appear that the lawyer was successful in getting this testimony admitted, it marked the beginning of other conversations and movements across the South. Public opinion on the matter started to change with the editors of the Shelbyville Union in Tennessee writing in October of 1865 that, “There is a good deal of discussion now in regard not only to negro suffrage, but negro testimony…we are against the former, so far at least as our state is concerned, but see no especial reason for objecting to the latter. We think the courts of justice should be open a very wide door for the admission of testimony.”[23] A dispatch from Nashville in December of 1865 stated that, “The House has been engaged to-day on the Negro Testimony Bill…They is a clear majority in favor of its passage, but some of its friends are absent. It was taken up by its enemies in hope of being able to kill it. They failed.”[24] Other states joined in in reconsidering the admittance of African American testimony. Mississippi started the process of changing their laws regarding Black testimony likely influenced by the trial in Washington with one dispatch in November noting, “The Mississippi House of Representatives has partly reconsidered its refusal to allow negro testimony against whites, and has in certain cases given them that privilege.”[25] While these advancements in the rights of African Americans were short lived as more restrictive policies emerged after the failure of Reconstruction, for a time, the actions of the 29 Black men and women who testified at the trial of the Lincoln conspirators not only helped in the pursuit of justice, but also contributed to the ever evolving progress of the nation.


Epilogue: This post was the final paper for my Master’s class entitled The Lives of the Enslaved. The focus of the class was to find and listen to the voices of the formerly enslaved in whatever form they can be found. In that spirit, and in conjunction with the project on the Lincoln conspiracy trial that I published last year, I invite you all to read the testimony of each of the 29 Black witnesses who testified. Not all of the men and women listed below had been enslaved, but they still risked a lot by taking the witness stand. Their names were:

Billy “Pomp” Williams
Joe Simms
John Miles
Mary Ann Turner
Mary Jane Anderson
James Walker
Joe Simms (again)
William H. Bell
William Bell (again)
Eleanor Bloise
Becky Briscoe
Frank Bloise
Robert Nelson
Mary Simms
Elzee Eglent
Sylvester Eglent
Melvina Washington
Milo Simms
William Marshall
Rachel Spencer
Betty Washington
Frank Washington
Baptist Washington
Baptist Washington (again)
George Booz
Julia Ann Bloise
Susan Stewart
Primus Johnson
Charles Bloise
Betty Washington (again)
Frank Washington (again)
George Booz (again)
Richard E. Skinner
Henry Hawkins
Rachel Semus


References

[1] Michael W. Kauffman,  American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004), 332.
[2] Frazer Walton, Jr., A Hidden Indictment: What the Slaves and Freedmen Knew About the Lincoln Assassination (Maitland, FL: Mill City Press, 2020), 67.
[3] Walton, Indictment, 67.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Supplemental Act of July 12, 1862,” National Archives, October 6, 2015, https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured-documents/dc-emancipation-act/supplemental-act.html.
[6] Walton, Indictment, 68.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Benjamin Perley Poore, The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President (Boston: J. E. Tilton, 1865), 150.
[9] Poore, Conspiracy Trial, 152.
[10] Robert K. Summers, The Doctor’s Slaves: Samuel Mudd, Slavery, and the Lincoln Assassination (Middletown, DE: Self-Published, 2015), 37.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Poore, Conspiracy Trial, 153.
[13] Ibid, 157.
[14] Edward Steers Jr., “Dr. Mudd and the ‘Colored’ Witnesses,” Civil War History 46, no. 4 (2000): 329.
[15] Robert K. Summers, The Assassin’s Doctor: The Life and Letters of Samuel A. Mudd (Middletown, DE: Self-Published, 2014), 86.
[16] Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), May 25, 1865, 2.
[17] Benn Pitman, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators (New York: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865), 308 – 309.
[18] Poore, Conspiracy Trial, 314.
[19] Ibid, 320.
[20] Ibid, 548.
[21] Julia Cowdery, “Who was Aunt Rachel?” Surratt Courier 36, no. 2 (2011): 7 – 8.
[22] National Daily Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), July 7, 1865, 2.
[23] Nashville Daily Union, November 1, 1865, 2.
[24] Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1865, 2.
[25] Daily Illinois State Joural, November 22, 1865, 2.

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Upcoming Online Classes on the Lincoln Assassination!

Going through a bit of history withdrawal as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? I know I certainly am. Other than a nice outdoor tour of Dr. Mudd’s cemetery that I ran back in October 2020, I haven’t done any history stuff “in the field” in over a year! With Booth escape route tours, in person conferences, and talks at museums like Tudor Hall and the Mudd House scuttled until larger portions of the population are able to get their vaccinations, we must continue to rely on technology in order to come together to talk history. That’s why I’m excited to highlight two different online classes that are coming up that anyone can take part in virtually.


The Lincoln Assassination: Southern Maryland and the Plots Against Abraham Lincoln by Bob Bowser for the College of Southern Maryland

The first class is coming up next week and is being run through the College of Southern Maryland, a local community college in the region. The name of the class is The Lincoln Assassination: Southern Maryland and the Plots Against Abraham Lincoln. It is being taught by a good friend of mine and a very knowledgeable historian, Bob Bowser. A fellow teacher, Bob earns his living teaching AP history classes to high school students in Charles County, Maryland. In addition, Bob is the President of the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Society. The Mudd House museum has made tremendous growth over the last few years as a result of the passionate work being done by Bob and the rest of the board. Bob has a true passion for the Lincoln assassination story and I’ve always leapt at the chance to take his walking tours of the Mudd house property and listen to his special talks. I know that Bob will do a phenomenal job presenting the story of Southern Maryland in the plot against Abraham Lincoln.

Bob Bowser conducting a walking tour of the Mudd House property in 2019.

Bob’s class takes place over the course of three days. The first one is on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm EDT. The second session is Thursday, April 7, 2021 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm EDT. The final class will take place on Saturday, April 10 from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm EDT. All of the classes take place online over Zoom. All you need to participate is a computer that is compatible with Zoom to see Bob’s presentations and take part in his discussions. I find Zoom very easy to use and when you sign up for the class you will receive instructions on the few things you need to do to get your computer ready. Many of us have already been using Zoom for work and other things during this pandemic so there is practically no set up at all.

In order to sign up for Bob’s The Lincoln Assassination: Southern Maryland and the Plots Against Abraham Lincoln class please visit the Personal Enrichment portion of the College of Southern Maryland’s website and select the History and Current Events category. From here you select the Lincoln Assassination course, add it to your cart, and then complete the registration process. The cost of the class (which goes to CSM for providing it) is $65.

At the time of this posting there are only 9 spots left for Bob’s class. So, if you are interested in joining it, I would recommend reserving your spot soon. If you do, I will be one of your classmates as I’m pretty sure I was the first person to stake a claim when Bob told me about it! I’m very excited to see what Bob is going to put together and know that it will be fascinating.

Dave Taylor and Bob Bowser with some very “on brand” face masks.


With the world starting to open up again and more people choosing to take advantage of in-person Road Scholar programs, the following online program has been cancelled.

The Life and Legacy of Abraham Lincoln by Dr. Samuel Wheeler for Road Scholar

In addition to Bob’s class next week, I also wanted to advertise a class that I will be helping with that will be coming up this summer. This class is called The Life and Legacy of Abraham Lincoln and is a five day course organized by the Road Scholar organization.

The class is being taught by Dr. Samuel Wheeler, a noted Lincoln expert and the former State Historian of Illinois and Director of Research and Collections at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The five day course offers virtual field trips to many sites associated with the life of Abraham Lincoln with Dr. Wheeler as your guide. For each “field trip”, Dr. Wheeler has recruited a different Lincoln scholar to join the class and share their knowledge about the 16th President. Among the expert guests that Dr. Wheeler has scheduled for this class are:

Dr. Catherine Clinton

Dr. Matthew Pinsker

Harold Holzer

and me!

While I definitely out of my league amongst these titans of Lincoln studies, I am honored that Dr. Wheeler thought of me to present the story of Lincoln’s assassination to his students. I first met Dr. Wheeler in 2016 when I presented at the ALPLM about John Wilkes Booth and he has been very supportive of my work ever since. The Road Scholar class is scheduled to run June 21 – 25, 2021 and each day begins at 11:00 am EDT. It is completely virtual and a detailed itinerary for each day can be found HERE.

The cost for this Road Scholar class is $499, which, admittedly, is pretty pricey. I know not everyone will be able to swing that and I wouldn’t want you to sign up for it only to listen to me blabber on. That being said, for you big Lincoln buffs, I know you will love this class and find it worthwhile to learn from and ask questions of Lincoln luminaries like Dr. Wheeler, Dr. Clinton, Harold Holzer, and Dr. Pinsker. I’m also hopeful I can make my day on the assassination an interesting and entertaining one. If you’re looking for something educational to do with your latest round of stimulus money or your tax return why not consider spending a week with Dr. Wheeler learning about Lincoln from the comfort of your own home?


I hope to see some of you during one of these two classes. As an educator I always stress to my students the importance of being a lifelong learner. We each have expertise and knowledge to share with others. As Chaucer wrote “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” I look forward to learning with and teaching some of you in the months to come.

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Vanished: John Wilkes Booth

Last year I was contacted by a couple of podcasters named Jen Taylor and Chris Williamson who asked me if I would like to appear on their show, Vanished. The podcast originated as a deep dive into the mystery behind Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in 1937 and the many different theories about what happened to her and Fred Noonan. The entire season on Earhart was widely praised and the pair were specifically complemented on their unique format. Not only do Jen and Chris present the evidence on the different theories proposed by their guests, but they then take it to court, with each host advocating for a specific side. Jen is an actual defense attorney and this allows the pair to put these theories to the test and try them in a court of their own making. While looking for different cases to pursue for their second season, Chris stumbled across the John Wilkes Booth escape theory which posits that another man was killed at the Garrett farm on April 26, 1865. The pair then went about looking for guests who would like to talk in favor of and against this theory in order to put it to the test.

At first, I was reluctant to agree to be on a podcast about the “Booth” mummy. Those of you who keep up with the different TV documentaries that have aired in recent years about the Lincoln assassination know that the escape theory has been played to death. Practically every show covers this topic, with many being based solely around it. As a person who studies this history, this is very frustrating for me because pretty much all of those TV shows portray the escape theory as credible when all the evidence I know says the complete opposite.

I mean…seriously…don’t get me started

Despite my hesitation to take part in this podcast however, in the end I found myself swayed by the format Jen and Chris use. Unlike a 45 minute docudrama on the “History” channel, Jen and Chris really wanted to get into the nitty gritty and explore the reliability of the evidence. I found this very refreshing and really the best way to present a theory such as this one. So, I signed on to discuss the true history (as close as we can ascertain it) with Jen, the talented lawyer, on my side.

I have to say that I had so much fun being on Vanished. I recorded multiple hours with Jen as we first explored the story of Booth’s escape and death and then addressed the problems with the escape theorists’ evidence. Vanished is a long form podcast and several of the Booth episodes are multiple hours long. I would definitely encourage you to start at the beginning and hear the evidence from all of the guests, but I also understand that it is a time commitment, especially if you are new to podcasts. However, if you are interested and willing to sit through at least one 4-hour episode (and remember you can absolutely start and stop it to digest it in parts), I wanted to really highlight the “trial episode” of the series which just dropped. In it you will hear Chris interview Nate Orlowek, who has been championing the Finis Bates / John St. Helen / David E. George theory for almost 50 years. Then you will hear Jen cross examine Nate and his evidence. Then I make my second appearance on the show where I discuss the problems with the escape theorists’ evidence. This episode also includes an interview with Mark Zaid, the attorney who represented Nate Orlowek during the Booth exhumation hearing that occurred in the 1990s. It’s a jam packed episode and includes both Chris and Jen’s closing arguments. In my mind, if you can only listen to one episode, this is the one to tune in for:

Click this image to listen to Vanished: John Wilkes Booth episode 4 “Trial by Jury”

That being said, the prior episodes are also very good with one of them featuring my original appearance where I discuss the escape of Booth and his death at the Garrett farm. Kate Clifford Larson, author of The Assassin’s Accomplice is featured on another of the episodes and, in my opinion, really steals the show with her knowledge on Mary Surratt. I really recommend you give the whole series a listen. I think, taken together, it really demonstrates the different ways people think about and conduct historical research. Even when I listened to the folks I vehemently disagreed with, it helped me understand why they believe what they believe.

If you like this series of Vanished, definitely check out the other cases they have done and subscribe so you can follow along with the next one. They are planning episodes in the near future on hijacker D. B. Cooper and dreaded pirate Henry Every. You can access the show online or through any normal podcast provider like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc.

Also if you want to hear more from Jen doing her defense attorney thing, I highly recommend her standalone podcast, In Defense of Liberty. Jen takes historic court cases and explains how they contributed to criminal law in America. She is really good at taking complex legal ideas and presenting them to everyday folks in a compelling way. I’ve learned a lot from Jen through our discussions and have been fascinated by each episode of In Defense of Liberty I have listened to. Definitely give her a follow.

I’d like to thank Jen and Chris for having me on their show. While I’ve done other podcasts before, I really appreciated how deep they were willing to go in this case. It really wasn’t something I’d ever seen done before.

So, now it’s your turn to go tune in and listen to the evidence being presented. Did John Wilkes Booth really escape justice in 1865 and live out his life in Texas and Oklahoma before ending it all and being turned into a mummy? What is the evidence that the escape theorists have for their beliefs? And how do people like myself evaluate and assess what they bring to the table? Check out Vanished it get the fullest accounting that has ever been told about one of the strangest tales in the Lincoln assassination story.

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“Could I But Hear Thy Voice”: Edwin Booth’s Poems to Mary Devlin

From the death of his father due to his missing guardianship, the murder of the President at the hand of his younger brother, and the financial loss of his opulent theater in New York City, Edwin Booth lived a life of unimaginable tragedy. Though incredibly successful and praised for his histrionic talents on the stage, the unlucky circumstances of Edwin’s life plagued him with constant melancholy and sorrow. Aside from his darling daughter, Edwina, it appears that the only source of true comfort and happiness that Edwin Booth ever felt was his treasured wife, Mary Devlin.

Mary Devlin and Edwin Booth first met on the stage in 1856. While it seems that both became interested in each other, young Mary was hesitant to engage with an actor of Edwin’s reputation. He was six years her senior and recently returned from several years on the rowdy west coast. When Edwin traveled on from their shared engagement as Romeo and Juliet in 1856, nothing developed further. When they reunited for a couple of engagements in 1858, however, it appears that a relationship began to form. In the end, Edwin proposed to Mary in 1859 and the two were married on July 7, 1860.

Mary Devlin Booth, possibly in her wedding gown

At some point during their 1858-1859 courtship, Edwin Booth composed two poems for Mary Devlin. He recorded them in an autograph album that Mary owned. The album is currently in the collection of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library as part of the noted Taper collection. The state of Illinois has done a wonderful job digitizing many of the documents, letters, and images associated with the Taper collection, the album being among them.

In the available images of the autograph album, we can see that there are a total of four poems, two of which are written by others. Of the two Edwin poems, only one of them bears Edwin’s name at the end. While the second one is anonymous, it is clearly written in Edwin’s handwriting (whose chicken scratch is incredibly difficult to transcribe at times). As far as I can tell, these poems have never been in print before and I’m not sure if they have even been transcribed before now.

Here is Edwin’s first poem to Mary Devlin:

Amid the many gloomy scenes
The tragic Muse doth revel in
To cheer my path, she found the means
To place a merry (Mary) Dev’lin

The name’s too harsh for her dear self,
Where dwells us thought of evil in –
A merry, laughing, loving elf
I found but good this Dev’lin.

And she will prove in after age
A star – at least of spotless truth,
T’illume the darkness of our stage,
Or I’m a dutchman, Edwin Booth

This poem strikes a silly tone, playing off of Mary’s last name. And yet it also compliments Mary’s talents on the stage which Edwin is also known to have done in letters to his peers. He truly felt that Mary Devlin was a talented actress. Unfortunately however, since the reputations of actresses were so low in Booth’s day, the noted actor could not even bring himself to marry one. Edwin essentially made Mary Devlin retire from acting before he agreed to marry her. She spent much of 1859 into 1860, in semi-seclusion studying and learning how to be a high society woman.

Edwin’s second poem is a far more romantic composition. In it, Booth demonstrates his growing affection for Mary.

Could I my life begin anew
And o’er my fate might have the choice,
I’d be some object dear to you
Content – could I but hear thy voice.

I would not be a throne’d king
If from thy blessed sight removed,
But rather the most abject thing
With but the sense to know you loved.*

Free from glory’s empty strife
Your little caged bird I’d be,
A happy pris’ner all my life
If loved and petted, sweet, by thee.

This touching poem demonstrates the true feelings Edwin Booth had for his beloved. In the cruelest of fates, however, Edwin would suffer his greatest loss of all less than three years into their marriage. On February 21, 1863, Mary Devlin Booth died at the age of 22. She had been ill with abdominal pains for some time since the birth of their daughter Edwina a year before. To help with her recuperation, Edwin had rented a house in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Under the impression that Mary was recovering from her more recent bout, Edwin was performing in New York when she took a bad turn. He made it back to their home several hours too late and locked himself in the room with Mary’s body for hours. From these poems in particular, one can easily imagine the deep and heavy grief he bore with her unexpected passing at so young an age. While Edwin Booth would later remarry, he never got over the loss of “Mollie” – his one true love.


*Now, if you’re like me, the middle stanza bothers you. While the words “removed” and “loved” have the same endings, the words themselves do not rhyme. Since Edwin Booth was a very eloquent man, I kept second guessing myself as to this transcription. I even wanted to change the word “loved” to “true” so at least the line would partially rhyme with “removed”. However, after doing a little research I discovered that, in Shakespeare’s time, the words “removed” and “loved” DID rhyme. Our pronunciation of words like “remove” has changed over time into the oo sound (as in food) rather than the original short u sound as it makes in love. In Shakespeare’s day words like “remove” and “prove” both rhymed with “love” even though they do not match our modern pronunciations. It’s likely that Edwin wrote his poem using a bit of Original Pronunciation. Here’s a short video demonstrating the original pronunciation of Shakespeare ‘s Sonnet 116 which ends with a now nonexistent “love” rhyme.

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“Treason Chokers” and “Wooden Overcoats”: An Eyewitness Account of the Conspirators’ Execution

On July 7, 1865, four of the convicted conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln were put to death on the grounds of the Old Arsenal Penitentiary in Washington, D.C. The condemned prisoners consisted of Lewis Powell who had attacked and nearly fatally wounded Secretary of State William Seward, David Herold who had assisted and joined John Wilkes Booth on his ill fated escape after the shooting of the President, George Atzerodt who had been commissioned to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson but failed to make the attempt, and Mary Surratt the owner of a D.C. boardinghouse who assisted Booth by transporting field glasses to her Maryland tavern on the afternoon of the assassination.

The execution of these three men and one woman marked an ending in the country’s quest for vengeance after the death of the Chief Executive. Coming after a military trial which lasted for 8 weeks and heard from 347 witnesses, the end of the conspirators was well documented in the press of the day. Vivid descriptions of the hanging on that hot July afternoon were published in newspapers nationwide from Associated Press reporters and others on the scene.

But perhaps one of the most compelling accounts of that day’s events comes from one of the soldiers who was present at the Old Arsenal when the drops fell. This soldier’s name was William D. F. Landon. Originally a private with the 14th Indiana Infantry, he was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness and then transferred to the 1st U.S. Veteran Volunteers. In this way he was a member of General Winfield Scott Hancock’s corps with duty in and around Virginia and Washington. One thing that was unique about Sgt. Landon was his role as an unofficial field reporter for his local newspaper back in Indiana, The Weekly Vincennes Western Sun. Over the course of the war, Landon wrote many letters to the editor of the Western Sun documenting the life of a soldier along with the events and battles he took part in. He wrote all of these letters under the pen name of Prock, affording him a degree of anonymity to speak honestly about what he was witnessing.

From July through November of 1865 alone, Prock wrote a series of nine letters to the Sun about his experiences. Most notably is the letter he wrote on July 11, 1865 documenting his recent duty at the execution of the conspirators. This letter was published in the July 22, 1865 edition of The Weekly Vincennes Western Sun. If you would like to read Prock’s account in its original form, click here, otherwise what follows is a transcription made from the article.

This account provides us with a unique perspective on the execution of the conspirators written in a tone that is not to be found in any other descriptions of the event. There is a surprising amount of humor in what Prock writes. But it’s also an honest accounting, adding a degree of human realism to the otherwise stark proceedings.

“Camp First Regiment U.S. Veteran Vol.
Hancock’s Corps.
Near Washington, D.C., July 11, 1865

Dear Greene:

At 4 o’clock on the morning of the 7th inst. we marched with one day’s rations and “forty rounds” to the Arsenal, or Old penitentiary building, to take part in the “drop game.” As we filed into the enclosure and formed two sides of a square (the prison wall and the high brick parapet forming the other two) I observed first four graves and four “wooden overcoats;” then the scaffold, with two drops, and the four “treason chokers” swaying to and fro in the wind. I had not anticipated all this so soon, presuming the XEQtion would of course be a public one, and that having already marched five miles in a broiling July sun and through dense clouds of stifling dust, fancied our troubles but begun, and that we were to escort the wretches to some of the high and barren hilltops surrounding the city; we were all most agreeably disappointed and stood at ease, leaning on our well burnished arms and gazing with mere curiosity at the workmen putting the finishing touches to the “assassins’ derrick.” Guards being posted everywhere, we stacked arms and broke ranks. Some of the carpenters in the regiment lent a hand in adjusting beams and traces, occasionally tossing the boys a block that was sawn off, or a strip of scantling for a walking stick. A grand rush was always made for these by the “relic hunters of the Wilderness,” occasioning much amusement amongst the soldiery. In removing some caisson boxes, &c., from one part of the yard, a fatigue party captured a huge rat. He was immediately court-martialed, sentenced and (a miniature gallows being erected and a piece of fish line procured) hung – his carcass chucked into one of the pits near the coffins.

A piece of the conspirators’ gallows. From the collection of the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

The prison wall is at least eighteen feet high and shut out not only the view from the Potomac, but the “ten knot” breeze that was filling more than one white sail on the broad stream. Occasionally a circling puff whirling over the enclosure would stir up everything that was laying around loose, dust included, and cause the “human hawsers” to writhe as I have seen wounded snakes before now.

Some hundred citizens were admitted – not twenty-five of them but what were attached to either the “press gang” or detective’s force of Washington City. All these “roosters” carried umbrellas, and soon had them spread skywards. The sentinels took revenge by quietly punching their sharp glittering bayonets through the “silk Sibleys;” so, had it rained, many a chap would have wondered why his “round-house” leaked so badly.

Finally, everything was in readiness and “Time!” called. The soldiers stood to their arms and the four culprits appeared on the scene. The usual formula was gone through with, lasting perhaps twenty minutes, when the ropes were adjusted, the white caps pulled over their heads, and they were literally jerked into Eternity. I have an idea that from the time a fellow feels the rope coiling round his neck till he is “hood-winked” and actually “rubbed out” of existence, ye past presents the finest – aye, perhaps the most terrible – panorama he ever witnessed. I have no desire to see it (when my turn comes for “going under”) “roped in,” with a frame of bayonets and bronzed, unsympathising faces.

Life having been pronounced extinct by the U.S. surgeons present, the yard was cleared of all but members of our regiment or division by order of Major Gen. Hancock; a “detail” was then made to take down the bodies and bury them. The soldiers performing this task whacked off as much rope from each dangling quirl as they could reach, and, cutting it into small pieces, threw it among their comrades below. The scramble for the twine far exceeded that for the blocks and scraps of wood an hour or two before.

Pieces of the ropes used to hang the conspirators. From the collection of the Ford’s Theatre Museum.

Two men scuffling good humoredly for a “rope-relic,” rolled into one of the freshly dug graves, and before they could extricate themselves half a dozen shovel fulls of earth had been thrown upon them by laughing comrades.

The bodies were placed in the “wooden overcoats” just as they fell, with the exception that the fatal nooses were taken off – the white “death-hoods” were not removed. I noticed the rope in every instance had cut to the bone.

Mrs. Surratt died without a struggle, merely a clenching of the left hand. Payne or Powell was on the “drop” next in order. He took great pains to place his toes right on the edge – stood straight as an arrow – said nothing to the lookers-on – gave a slight shrug of the shoulders when the coil fell about his bare neck, but not a tremor of a nerve or winking of an eye could be noticed. He died, to use the slang term, “game to the last.” Harrold and Atzerott were both half dead with terror and the consciousness of their awful situation. Their knees knocked together as they bade each other “good bye.” There was but a single disturbance that I saw during the day. One of the 6th regiment, U.S. Veteran Volunteers, Hancock’s corps, attempting to pass the guard at the outer gate with an empty canteen for water, was halted, and some words passed, when the sergeant of the guard coming up drew his sabre and stabbed the unarmed soldier in the face, putting out his right eye and giving him a dangerous if not fatal wound. The sergeant and the guard on at this post are from the “Veteran Reserve or Invalid corps” (our boys call them the Diarrhea Corps,”) and no troops “in the field” are on good terms with these d—-d overbearing “Invalids and hospital bummers” – that’s what’s the matter. Well my item is not finished yet: a brother of the wounded man, hearing of the uncalled for and cowardly act, came up and put an ounce and a half of cold lead into the brain-pan of the “reserve sergeant,” killing him instantly, and then walked cooly on to see after his brother’s wounds. That’s the right kind of vengeance, for you! – he had heard that his brother was mortally wounded and was determined on revenge first – that is as it should be!

Truly Yours,
Prock”

In an odd twist of fate, it seems that Prock unknowingly predicted his own death when he wrote, “when my turn comes for ‘going under’” in this letter. One year after the conspirators’ execution, then Lt. William D. F. Landon completely disappeared while stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. While the army originally thought Lt. Landon may have just gone AWOL, he was never heard from again, not even among his friends and relations in Indiana. After an investigation by the army in 1867, it was concluded that Landon had met with an accident and died around July 8, 1866. According to a letter written by the Assistant Adjutant General to an inquiring Indiana congressman, “it is supposed that he was drowned while bathing in the Missouri river.” Seems like ol’ Prock went under the waves himself, almost a year to the day that he witnessed the conspirators bade their own final good byes.

Sources:
“Letter from ‘Prock’,” The Weekly Vincennes Western Sun (Vincennes, IN), July 22, 1865, 1.
“Prock’s Last Letters to the Vincennes Western Sun,” Indiana Magazine of History 35, no. 1 (1939): 76-94.
My thanks to Monique Howell at the Indiana State Library for directing me to the digitized copy of Prock’s letter in the Vincennes Western Sun.

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Lincoln Assassination Ephemera

When you first start researching and “doing history”, there are several new vocabulary words that you have to learn. In the same way that doctors have a long list of subject-specific jargon, so too, do historians. When dealing with artifacts, it’s key to know the items provenance, or personal history. How do we know this thing is what it claims to be? What evidence do we have of its journey from there to here? Historiography is the study of how history has been written. How has the study of a specific event or period changed over subsequent years or decades? How have the ideals and beliefs of historians during different time periods influenced their presentation and understanding of history? What does it mean to study history? One must be careful not to include anachronisms in their writing of history. These are items, places, phrases or customs that would not exist in the time period being discussed. One would not speak of President Lincoln in the Oval Office since the Oval Office did not exist in Lincoln’s day. The list goes on and on.

One of my favorite history jargon words is ephemera. It relates to items that were made to exist for a short period of time and not expected to be preserved or retained. An advertisement for a sale at a grocery store is an example of ephemera. Within a matter of days, the advertisement is no longer accurate and thus disposed. Ephemeral things are meant to be temporary and fleeting. This idea has evolved into digital platforms as well with apps like SnapChat being based around the idea that the pictures and videos sent over the app only exist for a short time before they cease to exist. Today marks the beginning of a brand new year and many of us may be eagerly disposing of our old 2020 calendars, they having served their purposes. While the vast majority of ephemeral things are disposed or destroyed in this way, examples of ephemera that have survived through the years can give us a unique look into the past.

Here are some examples of ephemera related to the Lincoln assassination story.


Newspaper classifieds for the Surratt boardinghouse

In 1853, John H. Surratt Sr. acquired a ten-room house located at 541 H Street in Washington, D.C. The elder Surratt never lived in this house and the family spent the next 11 years renting it out. By 1864, Mary Surratt struggled to keep up the family’s tavern in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The widowed Mary made the decision to move her family to this D.C. home and operate it as a boardinghouse. In addition to her often absent son John Jr. and her daughter Anna, several other boarders came to take up residence in the H street boardinghouse. On October 6, an 18 year old named Honora Fitzpatrick moved in and shared a room with Anna. On November 1, Louis J. Weichmann, a friend of John Jr.’s, moved in. Weichmann would come to be one of the key witnesses against Mary Surratt at the trial of the Lincoln conspirators. Anxious for more boarders to help pay off some of her deceased husband’s many debts, Mary Surratt decided to advertise in the Evening Star newspaper. The excerpts above show some of the advertisements she ran in November and December of 1864 looking for additional gentlemen tenants. While John Wilkes Booth was never a lodger at the Surratt boardinghouse, his introduction to John Surratt in December of 1864 through the assistance of Dr. Mudd, made Booth a regularly visitor to the house on H street. For a short period, Mary did house conspirator Lewis Powell, though he was not living there at the time of the assassination. Like the many countless classifieds that appear and then disappear from newspapers each day, these ads would have been completely forgotten if not for their connection to the story of Lincoln’s assassination.


John Wilkes Booth’s check to himself

Talk about ephemeral! With online banking and online money transfer services, writing checks are a thing of the past. But even those of us who still write checks every once and awhile, have to admit that they are not things we generally hold on to once we cash or deposit it. But perhaps if you were a bank and had a check signed by a Presidential assassin just a few months before he committed his deed, you might hold onto it. John Wilkes Booth opened his account with Jay Cooke & Company on November 16, 1864 with an initial deposit of $1,500. This deposit occurred just a few days after Booth had returned from visiting Southern Maryland (and Dr. Mudd) for the first time. Over the next few months, he made different withdrawals on the account withdrawing the final balance of $25 on March 16, 1865, just a day after his meeting at Gautier’s Restaurant in which he laid out his abduction plot to all of his conspirators. The check above was a withdrawal of $150 made out to Booth himself on January 7, 1865. Two days later, Booth would make another deposit of $750. Part of this larger sum would be used to pay for part of the boat that was intended to be used to ferry the kidnapped Lincoln across the Potomac. In short, John Wilkes Booth’s account with Jay Cooke & Co. was where he kept the money he was using to finance his plot against Lincoln. This ephemeral check that Booth wrote to himself likely paid out some very real blood money. This check come from the collection of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.


Telegram from the Ford brothers

There are many telegrams that are a part of the story of Lincoln’s death. As the main method of rapid communication across distances in the 1860s, John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators often communicated with each other via telegram. However, the telegram above does not come from Booth or any of his conspirators. Rather it was a note sent by two of the Ford brothers from Ford’s Theatre. Harry Clay Ford had been present at his theatre when Booth shot Lincoln. His brother, James Reed “Dick” Ford, had been present earlier in the day and evening, but was away at the moment of the assassination. At some point on April 15, Harry and Dick sent off this telegram stating that, “The President of the U.S. was assassinated by John Wilks [sic] Booth at our theatre last evening – see daily papers for full particulars.” Interestingly, the recipient of this telegram was Joseph Simonds, a friend of John Wilkes Booth’s who acted as his agent in the Pennsylvania oil region. Booth had recruited Simonds, a former banker from Boston, to help him in the oil business in 1864 and even though most of Booth’s investments had ended Simonds had stayed in the oil business. Simonds often sent mail to Booth care of Ford’s Theatre and so the Ford brothers may have felt compelled to alert Simonds of what had occurred as soon as possible. At the trial of the Lincoln conspirators all three men, Dick Ford, Harry Ford, and Joseph Simonds, would be called to testify about their relationship with Booth. This telegram is in the collection of the Library of Congress.


Pressed flowers from Dr. Mudd’s island prison

Ephemeral objects go far beyond humanmade creations. Nature is the largest producer of ephemera as everything living must inevitably die. We treasure the sweet blossoms that appear in springtime because we know that their existence is short lived. So much of the beauty behind a flower is because it is fragile and temporary. As the saying goes, “To every thing there is a season.” Dr. Mudd spent some time during his many seasons at Fort Jefferson attempting to preserve some of the naturally fleeting floral specimens in his tropical island prison. He collected several examples of mosses, ferns, and flowers from around the Dry Tortugas and pressed them into an album that generally housed photographs. The album can be found at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum alongside some of Dr. Mudd’s other creations from his imprisonment.


Broadside advertising John Surratt’s lecture

Rather than today’s practice of putting on the same play or musical for a prolonged engagement lasting several weeks, in the Victorian era theater specific shows generally changed each night. The main draw of the stage was the celebrated touring actor or actress who was gracing the boards at that time. The audience came out to see a certain performer who chose which shows they wanted to perform in as the lead role. Each theater’s playbills were. therefore, extremely ephemeral items, meant to capture a single performance only. Instead of using a copy of one of the most sought after playbills in the world, an authentic copy of Ford’s Theatre’s Our American Cousin playbill from April 14, 1865, I decided to show off another rarity. This playbill of sorts advertises a lecture by John Surratt, the sole Lincoln conspirator to avoid conviction for his role in the President’s death. At the time of Lincoln’s assassination, John Surratt was in Elmira, New York. When he heard the news of what Booth had done and that he was wanted in connection with the crime, Surratt flew to Canada. He hid out in Montreal for most of the trial of his mother and other conspirators and was eventually safely transported to Europe. He was eventually discovered hiding out in the Vatican as a Papal Guard. He fled the Papal States but was eventually cornered and arrested in Alexandria, Egypt and extradited to the U.S. in 1867. John Surratt was put on trial but was given a civilian trial rater than a military commission like the one that adjudicated his mother and co-conspirators. The civilian jury of majority Southerners could not come to a decision and resulted in a hung jury. Surratt was then released from custody and returned to civilian life. In 1870, hoping to parlay his notable story into a lucrative speaking career, Surratt embarked on the lecture circuit. He told the story of how he had conspired with John Wilkes Booth to abduct President Lincoln, but denied having any knowledge of Booth’s plan to kill the President. He gave his compelling lecture in Rockville and Baltimore, Maryland, and even at the Cooper Union in New York City where Lincoln had given his 1860 speech that had propelled him to national prominence. The above broadside was for speech John Surratt planned to give on December 30, 1870 in Washington, D.C. This specific lecture never happened, however. A group of locals were outraged that Surratt would be allowed to give a speech detailing his involvement in the plot against Lincoln in the same town were the President was martyred. It is believed that someone in authority contacted Surratt before the speech could start and warned him that though he had been released by the government, he had not been formally acquitted. If he continued to make waves, the government would be happy to use his words against him and re-charge him for complicity in Lincoln’s death. As a result, John Surratt never made another lecture. This broadside for the lecture that never happened is from the collection of the University of Iowa.


Paperwork of Edwin Booth’s 1886 – 1887 tour

Not every financial record need be as doom and gloom as an assassin’s check. For example, here is a look at the inner workings of a far more celebrated touring star. This is the statement showing all of Edwin Booth’s expenses and income during the week of April 25, 1887. During this period of time, Booth was taking part in what is known as the Booth-Barrett Tours. From 1886 – 1890, Edwin and fellow actor Lawrence Barrett traveled around the country. The pair traveled over 14,000 miles and gave 233 performances. It’s fun to see the details of what the accounting for tours like this looked like. For this week of the tour, we can see what shows were produced and where, the total box office gross, and the amount Booth and Barrett received from their efforts. On the other side we see their expenses which included railroad tickets, the printing of playbills and advertisements, the purchase of calcium lights, telegrams, the expenses of their prop and wardrobe keepers, and even miscellaneous expenses like the repairing of a picture frame for $2. These bookkeeping records rarely survived long past their authors but demonstrate the importance of proper records in order to be successful as a traveling actor. This financial record comes from the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.


Advertisement for the “Booth” mummy

The post-mortem career of drifter David E. George has been the subject of many programs on the so called History Channel and others, but is hardly a new piece of pseudo history. As obliquely referred to on this broadside from the 1930s, it has been claimed that John Wilkes Booth escaped justice in 1865 only to take his own life 38 years later in Enid, Oklahoma. This ad portrays itself as a traveling exhibit of immense educational value that hopes to “correct American history” by showing that Booth had lived. With a name like the American Historical Research Society, I’m sure several people were convinced that they had been presented with the actual mummified remains of the assassin of President Lincoln. However, this advertisement is little more than an ad for snake oil. Despite its claim that one should not, “confuse this Exhibit with similar attractions that have been in carnivals and circuses,” that is exactly was this was. The “Booth” mummy had been traveling with carnivals since the the early 1920s and while it was now a solo attraction that visited towns and cities off the main thoroughfares, it was still little more than a sideshow hustle. The American Historical Research Society was nothing but an imaginary name incorporated by two hucksters of the mummy. They hoped the title would provide some legitimacy to their little sideshow attraction. But a pig is a pig, no matter how much lipstick you put on it! This advertisement for the “Booth” mummy exhibit comes from the collection of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.


Shipping Invoice for Lewis Powell’s head

Most of us can’t wait to toss the shipping invoices that accompany our delivered online purchases. Like all receipts, shipping invoices are largely ephemeral, designed to survive the trip to their destinations. But in some cases, especially when it comes to historical artifacts, receipts can be used as a form of provenance to help prove where a specific item came from. In these cases, shipping invoices may become part of a formal record of an item. It’s perhaps not so surprising then that this shipping invoice from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. was retained when it accompanied a very unique relic in 1994. As stated on the paperwork, this invoice accompanied the transfer of the, “Human Cranium and Mandible of Lewis Powell/Payne” from the Smithsonian to a descendant of the Powell family living in Geneva, Florida. Noted as a matter of “repatriation”, this document represents the final trip that Secretary of State William Seward’s would-be assassin, Lewis Powell, took after his skull had been rediscovered among the Smithsonian’s anthropology collection in the 1990s. Through the help of historians Michael Kauffman and Betty Ownsbey, descendants of the Powell family took ownership of their ancestor’s remains and laid his skull to rest next to his mother in Geneva Cemetery. For more about Lewis Powell’s post-mortem travels click here. For a video I shot at Geneva Cemetery in 2020, check out this post. This shipping invoice comes from the collection of the Geneva History Museum in Geneva, Florida.

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Malcolm X and Abraham Lincoln

As I have noted before, I am in the process of getting my Master’s degree in American History. Slowly but surely, I’m getting closer to being an actual historian rather than just an elementary school teacher who knows a bit about Lincoln’s assassination. My most recent class was titled The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and it was taught by Dr. Peniel Joseph who is pictured above. Dr. Joseph is the author of a new dual biography of X and King titled, The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. This was one of the main texts we used in the course and I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to learn more about these two hugely influential figures in the Civil Rights movement.

As the course progressed, I found myself fascinated by the life story of Malcolm X, a man that I sadly knew very little about. Due to this, I ended up writing most of my papers and discussion posts about this “sword” of a man who was active during the heroic period of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Early on, I decided that my final paper for the class would somehow revolve around Malcolm X. I’m always trying to connect my different classes to aspects of Lincoln’s assassination and while I could have written a comparative piece about Malcolm X’s own assassination, the details of that killing are too unclear and still too recent to be fully understood. In the end, I decided to explore how Malcolm X used the legacy of Abraham Lincoln in his own activism. Many pieces have been written comparing Martin Luther King’s use of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy and words, yet I was not able to find any detailed account of how Malcolm X related to Lincoln. What follows is my analysis of Malcolm X’s often controversial relationship with the legacy of the 16th President.

I do not claim to be an expert on Malcolm X (nor Abraham Lincoln for that matter), so please forgive any egregious errors you may come across. I have tried my best to accurately portray Malcolm X and his views, but I am well aware that I am incapable of truly understanding the lived experiences and struggles of a Black man in 1960s America (and today). At the very least, I hope that this paper may motivate some of you to learn more about Malcolm X and his massive impact on the ongoing fight for Civil Rights.


Malcolm X and Abraham Lincoln

By Dave Taylor

In 1964, author Robert Penn Warren was in the process of collecting material for an upcoming book entitled, Who Speaks for the Negro? The volume was Warren’s attempt to learn more about the ongoing Civil Rights movement and those on the ground working to promote equality and fairness for all Americans. During his research, Warren met with many activists and leaders of the movement. On June 2, Warren found himself interviewing the noted firebrand, Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little. Warren asked the 39-year-old his opinions of politicians, living and dead. Never one to mince his words, Malcolm X spoke honestly of the many ways in which politicians and his fellow Civil Rights leaders had failed the Black community time and time again. Warren then posed the question, “What do you think of Abraham Lincoln?” Malcolm X replied, “I think that he probably did more to trick Negroes than any other man in history.”[1] As one of the most celebrated presidents in American history, often referred to after his death as The Great Emancipator, this harsh generalization of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy in regard to race was a shocking statement. While other Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. often sought out the words and legacy of Abraham Lincoln in their unifying messages, Malcolm X provided an almost startling contrast, actively calling out and challenging the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, a man considered by many white and Black Americans as an untouchable martyr for liberty. By analyzing the few other times that Malcolm X’s views on Abraham Lincoln were recorded and by doing an exploration into the source of Malcolm X’s education on the 16th President, it becomes clear that X’s criticisms of Lincoln were the product of valid historical inquiry. In addition, there is strong evidence to support the idea that Malcolm X embraced the idea of creating controversy over Lincoln’s legacy as a means of promoting his own views of Black self-determination and autonomy.

Just a few months prior to Warren’s interview with him, Malcolm X had been a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam (NOI). However, X’s increased devotion to political matters and his internal conflicts with the NOI’s religious leader, Elijah Muhammad, had caused X’s ousting from the organization. Yet his dismissal from the Nation of Islam had done little to impede X’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Rather, it unshackled him in many ways to be more open with his views as he no longer had to worry about whether they conflicted in anyway with the NOI’s teachings. Warren’s interview with X, dealt mostly with the role and viewpoints of Black Muslims in regards to the greater Civil Rights movement. Though removed from the NOI, X was still a devote Muslim, having converted to the Sunni faith. Warren pressed Malcolm to talk more about the non-violence movement endorsed by other members of the Civil Rights movement like Dr. King. This interview came just a few months after Malcolm X delivered one of his most famous speeches, The Ballot or the Bullet, in which he supported the power of voting in order to enact change, but also warned that Black Americans were tired of having to “turn the other cheek” while their rights and lives were threatened. The Ballot or the Bullet was a clarion call to all Black Americans that appeasement towards white supremacy was to stop, one way or the other.

While many of X’s answers to Warren’s questions did not end up making it into Warren’s finished product, the line about Abraham Lincoln having “tricked the Black man” did. In 1985, over twenty years after this interview, Black historian John Hope Franklin took exception to X’s categorization of Lincoln writing in his essay, “The Use and Misuse of the Lincoln Legacy” that X was, “not at all clear on what the trick was.”[2] Yet, perhaps unknown to Franklin was the fact that X had expanded on his thoughts regarding Lincoln during his interview with Warren and it was Warren who failed to include this additional material in his book. In continuing his explanation of how Lincoln had tricked the Black Americans, X stated:

“He was interested in saving the Union. Well, more Negroes have been tricked into thinking that Lincoln was a Negro lover whose primary aim was to free them and he died because he freed them. I think Lincoln did more to deceive the Negroes and to make the race problem in this country worse than any man in history.”[3]

From this extended response it is clear that Malcolm X put forth some supporting evidence for his view that Lincoln had tricked Black people. For Malcolm, Abraham Lincoln had unjustly been given the role as a white savior to the Black race. Malcolm was engaging in a form of historical analysis by actively questioning whether the veneration Lincoln had received in the period since his death was based on the actions and views of the man, or the mythology that had formed around him. While this off the cuff remark to Warren helps lay the groundwork of his views, additional sources help to define Malcolm X’s analysis further.

Malcolm X’s interview with Robert Penn Warren was not the first (nor the last) recorded example of his views on Abraham Lincoln. A few months earlier, at the end of February, 1964, Malcolm X was in Miami acting as a spiritual advisor of sorts to one of the Nation of Islam’s most high profile converts, Cassius Clay, soon to rename himself Muhammad Ali.

Malcolm X was already in the process of being pushed out of the Nation of Islam at this point but still had hopes that his service in helping to convert Clay would put him back into good graces with Elijah Muhammad. In the hours leading up to Clay’s famous bout with Sonny Liston, where Clay would become one of the youngest heavyweight champions ever, Malcolm X sat at a lunch table with sports journalist George Plimpton who found himself fascinated by X. Plimpton asked many questions to X about Islam, Clay’s conversion, and the overall condition of Black Americans. Plimpton got onto the topic of X’s ongoing troubles with the Nation of Islam, which X claimed were due to remarks about the recently assassinated John F. Kennedy which the NOI deemed in poor taste. But Malcolm did not believe he was wrong in stating that Kennedy had not been a friend to Black Americans. He reminded Plimpton that Kennedy was, above all, “a cold-blooded politician,” and that, “there never had been a politician who was the Negro’s friend.”[4] In Plimpton’s recollections of the discussion, which were published in Harper’s Magazine in June of that year, X then started began talking about Abraham Lincoln stating, “Lincoln? A crooked, deceitful hypocrite, claiming championship to the cause of the Negro who, one hundred years later, finds himself singing, ‘We Shall Overcome.’”[5] Like his later comments to Warren, Malcolm X expresses his frustration at the disparity he feels exists between Lincoln the man and Lincoln the legacy. While, on the face of it, Malcolm’s words may seem like – to use the vernacular of boxing – a sucker punch to Abraham Lincoln, his harsh words stem from legitimate criticisms on Lincoln views and policies on race.

The best source we have for understanding Malcolm X’s thought process on Abraham Lincoln comes from a recorded interview he did with a yet undetermined interviewer around 1960. A short, 29 second clip of what appears to be a televised interview can be found online. Narration starts the clip noting that the, “news media had begun to take notice” of Malcolm X,  before we see the interviewer hold out his microphone to X. While we do not know the exact phrasing of the interviewer’s question, the response makes it clear that Malcolm X was asked directly about Abraham Lincoln. Malcolm X then gives the following response:

“Abraham Lincoln tricked the so-called Negro into thinking that he was free and when you read some of the books that were written by the so-called Negro historian J. A. Rogers, one of his books Africa’s Gift to America, he points out plainly how Abraham Lincoln did nothing but trick the Negro, fool the Negro, and use the Negro the same as every other politician who has been in the White House has been tricking and fooling and using the Negro as a political football ever since America has been America.”[6]

This interview very much echoes Malcolm X’s words to George Plimpton in 1964 as the Civil Rights leader equates Lincoln to generations of politicians who have used and misused Black Americans for their own benefit. However, the key to this interview is that X provides the source of his material. He essentially advertises for the Black historian Joel A. Rogers, specifically mentioning his book, Africa’s Gift to America.

Joel Augustus Rogers was a groundbreaking Black historian who, “dedicated over fifty years of his life to writing about and debunking the fallacies of racist European and American scholarship that denied people of African descent had a history worth writing about.”[7] Among Roger’s numerous works were books and articles titled, “What are We, Negroes or Americans?”, “The Negro in European History”, World’s Greatest Men and Women of African Descent, “The Suppression of Negro History”, and the aforementioned Africa’s Gift to America: The Afro-American in the Making and Saving of the United States. This last volume was one of Roger’s final books, having been published originally in 1959 with an updated version coming out two years later in 1961. Joel Rogers was also a regular contributor to the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading Black newspaper of the day, in which he wrote a column entitled History Shows. Malcolm X had a long familiarity with Rogers. On January 1, 1959, Malcolm X invited Rogers to speak to over 1,600 Nation of Islam members at New York’s Temple No. 7, where he was the leader. While not a Muslim himself, Rogers spoke glowingly of the NOI and how its followers were educating themselves about their history. “Not only do they, themselves, want to learn, but they want to spread this knowledge to the rest of our people,” Rogers stated to Malcolm X’s audience.[8] Joel Rogers was one of the pioneers of what we would now refer to as African American Studies.

In many ways, Joel Rogers was a kindred spirit to Malcolm X. When asked about his writing on the topic of Black history, Rogers stated that his motivation stemmed from his, “early childhood when it was firmly impressed on me by the ruling class that black people were inherently inferior and that their sole purpose for being was to be servants to white people and the lighter-colored mulattoes.”[9] Rogers rejected the white supremacist doctrine of his youth that Blacks were inherently inferior to whites. Similarly, Malcolm X vividly recalled his own childhood memories of being called by racial epithets and being treated poorly by whites of all classes. Yet, like Rogers, Malcolm witnessed the inherent strength and promise of the Black race, even while a white supremacist society tried to keep him down. Malcolm had the benefit of having been born to activist parents and in his autobiography, Malcolm recalled being transfixed by meetings his father organized: “I remember how the meetings always closed with my father saying, several times, and the people chanting after him, ‘Up, you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will!”[10] It is no surprise then that Malcolm X was a firm proponent of Joel Rogers’ work. Rogers helped to provide Malcolm with a historical basis for the strength and self-dignity that Malcolm X knew Black people possessed, despite the attempts of white supremacy to deny them this heritage.

Therefore, to understand Malcolm X’s views on Abraham Lincoln, it is important to analyze the historiographical work of Joel Rogers on the subject. In Africa’s Gift to America, Roger heads the corresponding chapter on the Civil War as, “The Negro In the Saving of America” and this perfectly encapsulates his overall thesis. Rogers recalls the process of the Civil War and the struggles the Union had in gaining the upper hand over the Confederate states. When describing the Emancipation Proclamation, Rogers quickly dismisses the oft held idea that the true purpose of the decree was to end slavery. Rogers writes, “Did it free the slaves? Definitely not. It was a gesture rather than a reality since it ‘freed’ only those slaves Lincoln had no power to free and kept in slavery those he had the power to free.”[11] While other historians made find exception with Rogers’ directness and candor on this, he is not incorrect with his assessment of the direct effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. The order only claimed to free the slaves in the states then in rebellion, and had no effect on the enslaved people still held in bondage in the Union border states. Granted, it did result in the freeing of those held in bondage in Union occupied areas of the South, but direct emancipation as a result of the proclamation was very minimal. Rogers opines the mythology of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation as having singlehandedly freed the slaves, writing, “Perhaps no other important document in all history has been more misinterpreted.”[12] Yet, Rogers does acknowledge that the Emancipation Proclamation was incredibly vital for the survival of the United States, for, while it did little to free those still held in bondage, it created a pathway for Black men to become part of the Union army and fight for the freedom of their brothers and sisters. Rogers spends most of the remaining chapter demonstrating how the tireless devotion and bravery of the newly formed United States Colored Troops helped the Union emerge victorious after four long years of fighting. Rogers recounts moments of both regimental and individual acts of selflessness and sacrifice on the part of Black soldiers even in the face of incredible adversity and racism on the part of white Confederate and Union citizens alike. Malcolm X no doubt appreciated and valued Rogers’ work in showing how men who were once enslaved themselves, fought and freed those still held in bondage.

While Rogers’ accounts of glory personified Malcolm X’s views on Black power, his critical assessment of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln also spoke to X’s distaste of white savior myths which disregarded Black autonomy and self-determination. In his efforts to bring the mighty image of Father Abraham off of his pedestal, Rogers spends a considerable amount of space in his book quoting Lincoln’s distasteful racial views. Rogers recalls how, in his debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858, Lincoln stated, “there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”[13] For Rogers, this was evidence that the image of Abraham Lincoln as a benevolent friend of all Black people was misguided. Rogers also criticized the delayed nature of Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation after years of war. Since the beginning there had been the near constant call of abolitionists, both white and Black, asking for the chief executive to make it explicitly known that the cause of the war was to end slavery. From the abolitionists’ point of view, this was what the Confederate states had understood it to be when they seceded in the first place. Included in the Lincoln portion of Rogers’ book is a quote from Frederick Douglass. At the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1876, the famous Black abolitionist and orator recalled that Lincoln, “was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people in order to promote the welfare of the white people.”[14] When Rogers presented these quotes and wrote about Lincoln in Africa’s Gift to America, he was not breaking new ground in Lincoln research. Lincoln’s record on race relations and devotion to the preservation to the Union were well documented in other Lincoln texts of the day. One of the sources Joel Rogers uses for his book was the groundbreaking series by Carl Sandburg’s called Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. The first volume in this series contains a letter Lincoln wrote to abolitionist newspaper editor Horace Greeley in 1862 in which the President stated:

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; 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.”[15]

This assertion that the preservation of the Union was the first and foremost goal in Lincoln’s mind during the Civil War is also combined with Lincoln’s support, even during his time as President, for colonization movements. Believing that the different races could not live together in harmony, Lincoln proposed for Black Americans to be sent to Africa and establish colonies there. When told of this plan in person, Frederick Douglass and many others balked at the idea of being sent from their homeland to a continent they knew nothing of. In recounting Lincoln’s words and opinions on race, Joel Rogers makes a compelling argument that humanizes Lincoln as a complicated man which disassociates him from the otherwise held myth of Father Abraham, patron saint of the Black race.

Yet, even as Joel Rogers uses Lincoln’s own words to criticize the 16th President, the historian is not unfeeling or ignorant of the circumstances Lincoln found himself in. Rogers writes, “There is much I admire about Lincoln and I sympathize greatly with him for the many trying problems he had to face but in all fairness it must be said that he owed vastly more to the Negro than the Negro to him.”[16] As Rogers posited, it was the Black troops that helped to turn the tide of war in the Union’s favor. The increased manpower brought about by the enlistment of Black soldiers and the devotion with which they fought for the cause of freedom, saved Lincoln from suffering the fate as vanquished Confederate President Jefferson Davis. But, more importantly, Rogers defends his criticisms of Lincoln’s words and personal views even if it seems contrary to the popularly accepted interpretation of the Great Emancipator. Rogers writes, “Lincoln became the bible of the great Negrophobes.”[17] According to Rogers, Black Americans put too much stock in Lincoln the politician who only directly freed a miniscule amount of enslaved people in order to win a war. This mythology caught on so much that the power of Black Civil War soldiers was diminished so as to essentially remove them from the narrative. Black Americans were expected to bow and pay reverence to Lincoln for their freedom rather than acknowledge their own success. Perhaps this idea is personified best by the nature of the statue Frederick Douglass helped to unveil in 1876 which shows a formerly enslaved man kneeling at the feet of Lincoln who is beckoning him to stand up.

Joel Rogers and Malcolm X could both see the way in which this legacy of Abraham Lincoln could be weaponized against Black people. In his autobiography, Malcolm spoke of the way in which he worked to change the narrative in order to include the stories of Black strength completely independent of white savior imagery. There was a considerable backlash to Malcolm’s refusal to pay heed or enough reverence to the man the white press thought should be an icon to the Civil Rights leader. Malcolm recalled:

“I can remember those hot telephone sessions with those reporters as if they were yesterday. The reporters were angry. I was angry. When I’d reach into history, they’d try to pull me back to the present…They would unearth Lincoln and his freeing of the slaves. I’d tell them things Lincoln said in speeches, against the blacks.”[18]

It was in this way that Malcolm sought to engage his interviewers in the process of historical analysis but was met with anger due to his perceived disrespect for an American icon.

In August of 1963, many Civil Rights leaders and activists were busy preparing for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march would culminate at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with Martin Luther King giving his now timeless, “I Have a Dream” speech. Malcolm X, the ever-reliable contrarian, took issue with the ways in which the planned march had been co-opted by the government. He stated that when the, “white man heard about this mass demonstration in the beginning which was to consist of sit-ins etc. on the White House lawn, airports and other public grounds, he decided to control it.”[19] A proponent of Black strength in the face of white supremacy, Malcolm regularly criticized the Civil Rights movement for failing to act in what he considered to be the proper, revolutionary way. He felt that King and other leaders spent too much time capitulating to white supremacists and their laws rather than actively fighting against them. At this point in his life, X did not see integration as a feasible or desired outcome. His lived experience as a Black man in America, his religious conversion to the Nation of Islam, and his readings from historians like Joel A. Rogers, had collectively taught him that white America would not accept true integration and social equality. Malcolm sought Black autonomy as a means of protection for his people. The hard lessons of life had trained him to be suspicious of most white people, especially those who claimed to be liberal minded and on the side of Civil Rights. Thus, King’s inclusion of white activists and leaders into the March on Washington was seen by X as a neutering element. X echoed this idea in the months after the March on Washington:

“It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak. If you pour too much cream in, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it’ll put you to sleep. This is what they did with the march on Washington.”[20]

Malcolm X’s compelling criticisms of the non-violence and non-confrontational nature of the march in response to acts of violence and discrimination against Black Americans was perfectly aligned to his overall opposition to Dr. King’s vision for the Civil Rights movement in general. Malcolm was tired of acquiescing any ground to white supremacists and those who supporting their agenda, whether knowingly or otherwise. He was tired of the strength and ability of Black people being ignored or diminished. For X, Civil Rights would only be gained when Black people actively rejected all forms of white supremacist indoctrination, including the internalized kind. By understanding this, it is easier to address why Malcolm X vehemently rejected what he believed to be a mythicized interpretation of Abraham Lincoln and his legacy.

In an Associated Press article that was published in newspapers around the country just two days before the March on Washington, X repeated his message charging that King was allowing the government to co-opt what should otherwise be a revolutionary act. He lamented that the march was now being, “controlled by the government and is being used for political expediency.”[21] However, this larger message was overshadowed in the press due to X’s decision to make mention of Abraham Lincoln and the fact that the march was to end at the Lincoln Memorial. Instead of headlines for the article highlighting the Civil Rights leader’s critique of outside influence on the march, many of the nation’s leading newspapers carried the article under headlines like, “Black Muslim Leader Knocks Lincoln’s Image”, “Lincoln No Hero, Malcolm X Insists”, and “Lincoln Didn’t Free Slaves – Malcolm X”. In Abraham Lincoln’s former hometown of Springfield, Illinois, the Illinois State Journal titled the story with “Abe Failed Negroes: Malcolm X”. The change of focus away from the march and onto Abraham Lincoln was due to X, once again, engaging in a form of historical analysis on Lincoln’s legacy. In the article Malcolm X stated:

“For all these Negro leaders to bring Negroes from all over the country and go down to a dead man’s statue, a dead president’s monument who was supposed to have issued an Emancipation Proclamation 100 years ago, and if what he had issued had any authenticity or sincerity and had gotten the job done this whole problem wouldn’t exist now.”[22]

By reading this quote closely, it appears that X was actually using Lincoln as a metaphor for the generational failures that prevented those freed from slavery from achieving any sort of equality in the century of so-called progress that followed. This criticism was as much a condemnation of X’s time as it was a shot across Lincoln’s bow. Malcolm X seemed to be challenging everyone to look at the world around them and decide whether the condition of Black Americans in his time could easily be rectified if Lincoln’s mythicized legacy of the white savior was to be believed. In this way, X was engaging in his common pattern of trying to get his audience to question long held and internalized views of white supremacy in order to help them find their own power.

When further pressed about his personal opinion of Lincoln, Malcolm stated, “I don’t think anyone who reads the true history of Lincoln, his motives, regards him as any hero.”[23] Malcolm is once again showing his acceptance of Joel Rogers’ thesis that Abraham Lincoln’s actions on behalf of African Americans was a result of political necessity rather than higher moral conviction. However, as noted above, even Rogers tended to give Lincoln a bit more sympathy and understanding than Malcolm X did in his public comments. Malcolm X, would not dispense any such sympathy with Lincoln, at least not publicly, because it wasn’t really Lincoln that Malcolm X was sparring against, but the way in which the legacy of Lincoln had been used to the benefit of white supremacy. By putting the end of slavery solely on the shoulders of Abraham Lincoln, the contributions of others, namely the sacrifice of thousands of African American troops and the enslaved themselves, were dismissed and buried. Lincoln’s legacy as the Great Emancipator had been used against Malcolm X and his call for Black autonomy. Even though Lincoln had done well in helping to bring about the end of slavery, Malcolm X saw how the adulation of Lincoln could have a negative effect when it stripped Black Americans of knowledge of their own contributions and reinforced the idea that a white savior was needed for any significant change to their circumstances to happen.

Lincoln historians have long taken issue with Malcolm X’s criticisms of the 16th President. They acknowledge the truth contained in Rogers’ book in so far as Lincoln did express racial views that would not be acceptable today. They also acknowledge that Lincoln was, at one time, a proponent of the colonization movement which aimed to send Black Americans to Africa. However, most Lincoln historians will also be quick to point out that Lincoln was capable of great change and growth. Part of the reason Lincoln is admired in the way that he is, is due to the way he continually adapted to changing circumstances and evolved in his views. This was also true when it came to his views on race. This is evident in the last speech he gave from the balcony of the White House on April 11, 1865. In that speech, Lincoln discussed how the former Confederate states were to be allowed back into the Union. He discussed the new state Constitution of Louisiana, taking a moment to touch on the concept of Black suffrage. Lincoln stated, “It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.”[24] While the enfranchisement solely of Black soldiers and those arbitrarily deemed “very intelligent” would not have satisfied Malcolm X, the gesture helps to demonstrate the evolution that X often denied Lincoln in his comments. It can be argued that Lincoln’s racial evolution contributed to his death as John Wilkes Booth was in the audience of that last speech and allegedly took such umbrage at the idea of Black citizenship that he then vowed to murder Lincoln. Still, while historians are quick to come to Abraham Lincoln’s defense with examples of Lincoln’s complexity and growth, it appears that few are willing to accord the same level of detail to understanding the context behind Malcolm X’s criticisms.

In a 2000 article by Eric Foner entitled, “Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist”, the noted historian lamented the “full scale assault on Lincoln’s reputation” by Black author Lerone Bennett who presented an updated version of Joel Rogers’ thesis. Foner provided the context for many of Lincoln’s more egregious racial comments and laid the groundwork to show Lincoln’s growth on racial issues. In this way, Foner falls in around Lincoln, helping to defend the 16th President’s legacy from what he believes are misguided misinterpretations of a far more complex individual. The Lincoln field is full of both professional and amateur historians, always ready to defend Lincoln’s legacy from any perceived slights. However, Foner should be noted for his likewise ability to analyze and engage with Malcolm X’s criticisms rather than tossing them aside. Foner becomes one of the few historians to provide Malcolm X with the same degree of understanding as scholars generally give Abraham Lincoln. Foner noted that, “In the early 1960s, Malcolm X urged blacks to ‘take down the picture’ of Lincoln – that is, to place their trust in their own efforts to secure racial justice rather than waiting for a new white emancipator.”[25] Unlike the press and white public in Malcolm X’s time, Foner acknowledged that Malcolm X’s criticisms of Lincoln were a product of his own lived experiences and activism.

From Malcolm X’s study of history, the widely held view that Abraham Lincoln was a true abolitionist with a lifelong devotion to the freedom and elevation of African Americans was at odds with the evidence shown in the historical record. While Lincoln’s actions did help bring about the end of slavery and such a step was crucial in the advancement of civil rights in the United States, Malcolm X took exception to the elevation of Abraham Lincoln above all others in the cause of abolition. Malcolm X observed that the veneration for Lincoln could sometimes produce toxic results as it overshadowed the acknowledgment of Black Americans who fought for their own freedom and future. Lincoln was also sometimes used against those in the Civil Rights movement as even white supremacists invoked Lincoln as a way of demanding obedience, as if Black Americans still owed the white race for Lincoln’s magnanimous actions a hundred years earlier. It was for all these reasons that Malcolm X rejected and spoke out against the mythicized Abraham Lincoln. He knowingly created controversy through his criticisms of Lincoln in order to reframe the discussion away from the century dead, white marble martyr seated in his shrine and towards the conditions Black citizens faced in the U.S. in the 1960s.

While he gave interviews to white reporters and authors, Malcolm X’s audience was always his Black brothers and sisters. When Malcolm X referenced Lincoln’s racist views, he did so to start conversations among Black Americans about their own form of internalized white supremacy. During his short time on earth, X channeled the words he heard as a child, doing all that he could to motivate Black citizens to rise up and, “accomplish what you will.” Malcolm X rejected the internalization of Abraham Lincoln as a white savoir. He rejected this mythicized view of Lincoln and sought to replace it with stories of Black autonomy and strength. In the end, Malcolm X’s criticisms of Abraham Lincoln were based on legitimate historical evidence. This evidence was provided through the lens of historian Joel Rogers who shared in Malcolm X’s view that the accomplishments of Black Americans had been drastically overshadowed and rejected. Malcolm X had grown up with a legacy of Abraham Lincoln which, through his study, he came to see as a myth. As a result, Malcolm X fought against that mythology because he came to see Lincoln’s legacy as a form of white supremacy. By challenging Lincoln’s legacy through historical analysis, Malcolm X worked to counter the mythology that he felt detracted from the accomplishments of Black Americans in shaping and claiming their own destinies.


Notes

[1] Malcolm X, Interview by Robert Penn Warren, June 2, 1964, tape 2, transcript and recording, University of Kentucky, https://whospeaks.library.vanderbilt.edu/interview/malcolm-x.
[2] John H. Franklin, “The Use and Misuse of the Lincoln Legacy,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 7, no. 1 (1985): 35.
[3] Malcolm X, Interview by Robert Penn Warren, June 2, 1964, tape 2, transcript and recording, University of Kentucky, https://whospeaks.library.vanderbilt.edu/interview/malcolm-x.
[4] Malcolm X, The Portable Malcolm X Reader edited by Manning Marable and Garrett Felber, (New York: Penguin Books, 2013), 290.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Malcolm X in interview by unknown reporter, 1960, Budget Films, http://www.budgetfilms.com/clip/13991/.
[7] Thabiti Asulkile, “J. A. Rogers: The Scholarship of an Organic Intellectual” The Black Scholar 36, no. 2-3 (Summer/Fall 2006): 35.
[8] Pittsburgh Courier, Jan. 10, 1959, p6
[9] Thabiti Asulkile, “J. A. Rogers: The Scholarship of an Organic Intellectual”, 38
[10] Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1964), 9.
[11] Joel A. Rogers, Africa’s Gift to America: The Afro-American in the Making and Saving of the United States, (New York: Futuro Press, 1961), 157.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Joel A. Rogers, Africa’s Gift to America, 202.
[14] Joel A. Rogers, Africa’s Gift to America, 198.
[15] Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years Vol. One, (Philadelphia: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1926), 567.
[16] Joel A. Rogers, Africa’s Gift to America, 203.
[17] Joel A. Rogers, Africa’s Gift to America, 203 – 205.
[18] Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 264.
[19] Malcolm X, The Portable Malcolm X Reader, 243.
[20] Malcolm X, The Portable Malcolm X Reader, 272.
[21] Malcolm X, “Abe Failed Negroes: Malcolm X” Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, IL), Aug. 26, 1963.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Isaac Arnold, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, (Chicago: Jansen, McClurg, & Company, 1885), 415.
[25] Eric Foner, “Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?” Los Angeles Times (CA), Apr. 9, 2000.

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