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Dismantling Lincoln 'Myths'.

Abraham Lincoln was a white supremacist who "wanted to deny Blacks equal rights because of their race and deport them to a tropical clime with people of their own color and kind," argues Lerone Bennett Jr., the executive editor of Ebony magazine, in his latest book, the 626-page "Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream."

Bennett, who also authored the 1961 book, "Before the Mayflower," a survey of African American history, relies on historical documents and accounts from Lincoln's friends and fellow lawmakers to make his argument.

Bennett first dismantles the "myth" of the Emancipation Proclamation. Black and white abolitionists pushed a reluctant Lincoln to sign the act, Bennett writes, and he quotes a congressman who said Lincoln "feared that enlistments would cease, and that Congress would even refuse the necessary supplies to carry on the war, if he declined to place it on a clearly defined antislavery basis."

Still, Lincoln knew the law would not actually free any slaves immediately because it only applied to Confederate areas not occupied by Union troops. The proclamation, Bennett writes, was a largely symbolic gesture intended to sustain enthusiasm for the Civil War.

Lincoln also supported the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which mandated that whites return escaped slaves to their owners or risk punishment, Bennett writes. In practice, the act also enabled unscrupulous whites to arrest free African Americans and sell them into slavery, he adds.

As president-elect, Lincoln "pledged to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act better than any other Southern White man," Bennett writes. "Lincoln distinguished himself by publicly and repeatedly supporting the men and the dogs who were trying to capture the men, women and children who were trying to climb over the American Berlin Wall between slavery and [freedom in] Canada." Once he became president, Lincoln went a step further by making support for the law a litmus test for all potential cabinet appointees, Bennett writes. A decision on whether to admire Lincoln today, Bennett concludes, is a "choice for or against slavery, ... the slavery that is still walking the streets of America."

"Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream" is published by Johnson Publishing Co. in Chicago.
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Title Annotation:Review; Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream
Author:Karp, Sarah
Publication:The Chicago Reporter
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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