Forced into Glory
Abraham Lincoln's White Dream
by Lerone Bennett, Jr.
Johnson Publishing Company
Hardcover,652 pp. Price: $35.00
"I will say then, that I am not, nor
have ever been, in favor of bringing
about in any way, the social and
political equality of the white and
-- Abraham Lincoln -
Abraham Lincoln has long been the most revered of American Presidents.
Though fondly remembered as "The Great Emancipator," he was the beneficiary of
innumerable tall tales spun to shield the populace from the awful truth that he
was an avowed racist. Unfortunately, the chroniclers of history, perhaps
intimidated by the uncritically euphoric shadow cast by the Lincoln legend,
have heretofore avoided attempting to assess the man honestly and objectively
from a proper perspective.
Back in 1968 noted historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., author of Before the
Mayflower, published a controversial article entitled, "Was Abraham Lincoln a
White Supremacist?" Most Americans, black and white, were aghast at even the
suggestion of such a flaw in a demigod whose image had become synonymous with
freedom and racial quality. In response to the furor created by his article,
Mr. Bennett quietly embarked on over three decades of painstaking, scholarly
research, closely examining the words and deeds of our 16th President.
Forced into Glory represents the fruit of Bennett's labors, and this 652 page
biography sets the record straight, exposing the real Abe Lincoln, wart and
all. Virtually every myth gets exploded along the way, as the author uncovers
his subject as an insensitive bigot who, for instance, advocated peace while
waging a war of ethnic cleansing on Native Americans. The reader also learns
that 'Honest' Abe was an inveterate, credit-taking prevaricator who actually
enslaved far more blacks than he ever freed. For, it was the 13th Amendment,
not the politically expedient Emancipation Proclamation, which actually ended
the institution of slavery once and for all. In fact, a remorseful Lincoln
himself had labored to limit the scope of his famous decree immediately in the
wake of its implementation.
While Lincoln is remembered for having come from humble, log cabin roots,
Bennett further informs us that as a young lawyer he had married Mary Todd, an
aristocrat who hailed from a family of filthy rich slave owners.
You might be surprised to know that when Lincoln inherited slaves from his
father-in-law, he didn't even consider emancipating them, but rather condemned
them further to a life of misery. Yep, he and his wife cashed in
on the inheritance by putting their African-Americans up for auction to the
highest bidders, utterly unconcerned about the effects of the ensuing
separation on their families and friends. Does that sound like the behavior of
a 'Great Emancipator'?
Bennett's essential thrust is that Lincoln was an oppressor who went out of his
way to endorse slavery, including his enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.
More precisely, he was a conservative during conditions of clearly intense
exploitation. And the book makes a strong case that to be conservative at a
time of such extreme oppression is to be an accomplice, especially in the face
of a vociferous abolitionist movement.
To some, it may seem tragic that Forced into Glory knocks a national icon off
his pedestal. Perhaps more significantly, it exposes the duplicitous nature of
a national philosophy which has made a habit of extreme disassociation between
its words and its deeds. Thus, this clarifying opus emphasizes the point that
only by owning up to its disgraceful legacy, including Lincoln, can America
ever have a chance of eradicating its seemingly indelible stain which started
with slavery and still saturates the country's subconscious.