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Lincoln's Compensation Emancipation

On this last day of February – America’s official month to learn alllll there is to learn about Black people of this land, past, present, and yet to come- I am writing this short post about one of this nation’s most beloved and celebrated presidents. The Great Emancipator himself, President Abraham Lincoln.

Inaugurated as the sixteenth Commander-in-Chief, Lincoln was born in Kentucky early in 1809 to illiterate working-class parents. His mother died when he was quite young, and he shuffled from place to place until he finally settled in Illinois as a young man. In 1832, he lead soldiers in Black Hawk's War, a bloody battle between the United States and Sauk Indians (lead by Chief Black Hawk shown below) over a land dispute, as the Natives had been pushed westward from the state just the year before then went back fighting.

I remember reading about "Honest Abe" as a child and being impressed by him. I read a book which elucidated that he was essentially self-taught because he only attended school a total of less than one year. However, he went on to become a lawyer then eventually the President of the United States. I do not think I knew anything about him "freeing the slaves" at that point nor emancipation at all. I was more wonderstruck that he had not gone to school, choosing, I supposed at the time, to stay home and read books. I felt we were kindred spirits of a sort because I often missed school, too, and stayed home devouring nearly any publication I got my hands on. In retrospect, that is possibly when I got the notion to homeschool, though I had no idea that was an option at the time. But I digress...

For the past 158 years the ending of (most) American chattel slavery has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln. That is true. However, whether or not he did so because he saw the practice as a hellish institution, or because he simply wanted to keep the Union from crashing and burning- or both- has been the butt of debates since way back then.

Whichever way you look at it, whatever side of the fence you reside, documentation shows that not only was Lincoln not fully on board with ending slavery straight out the gate, he was actually not very keen on Black people in general though they he did believe everyone should get paid for any work they did. Initially, he tried to appease both southerners (slave owners) and northerners (mostly abolitionists and anti-slavers) by proposing a compensation emancipation. I know what that sounds like, but no, the compensation was not for the enslaved, it was for owners. The President offered them $300 for every enslaved person set free, but they were not having it.

"...Why should they leave this country? This is, perhaps, the first question for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated..." A. Lincoln 1862

He further offered $100,000 for the colonization of free and soon-to-be-free Blacks elsewhere- first siting Central and South America then sending a few hundred to an island near Haiti where many starved to death. Finally, he settled on Liberia, where thousands had already voluntarily moved in previous years, but most Black Americans left behind vehemently refused. One outspoken opponent of relocation was Frederick Douglass.

"This is our country as much as it is yours, and we will not leave." F. Douglass

As we well know, in time the Emancipation Proclamation was brought to fruition, drafted and signed by Abraham Lincoln, and most Blacks were technically set free- though let us not forget that nearly 200,000 colored troops fought in the Civil War for their own freedom and that of their people themselves, so it was not strictly all due to Abe. Those warriors included at least one of my own ancestors, Joseph Franklin Brown.

Born in Maryland, my 3x great-grandfather and his wife, Jane, self-emancipated themselves, and made their way to East Smithfield, Pennsylvania in Bradford County. It is important to know that Pennsylvania emancipated Blacks in 1856, and multiple free-Black communities had thrived there for many years, though not without racial prejudice. The town where my grandparents settled was not far from Athens, Tioga Point, which was on the Underground Railroad. According to the 1860 United States census they were living in East Smithfield with one child. Ten years later presented four more children, one being named David who grew up to raise my great-grandmother, Elna Williams nee Brown, who raised me.

Father Joseph escaped then returned to the South years later in order to fight for those who had not been able to obtain what he and his family were able to: their right to the freedom Creator had already bestowed upon them. According to his head stone, he was a soldier in the 12th Regiment, Heavy Artillery US Colored Troops. I have to say, something about that fills me with pride, confirms that I am part of a mighty lineage that does not submit to oppression.

Though I do not normally acknowledge February's Black History status because, frankly, I find it at least as ridiculous as I would a 28-day period acknowledging white history, I thought today I would take advantage, share a little information many of you may not have known. Plus, I wanted to publicly give homage to those who fought and, in many instances, died so that we could live, free.

May Allah grant all of those who gave their lives for the people Jannah Firdous. Amin.


Power to the people.

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