Thanks to generous donations from our supporters, we created “Q & Abe” – a podcast that investigates real questions from visitors to the Cottage. This bonus episode accompanies the first episode of Season 1, “Was Lincoln a racist?”
As we talk to all kinds of experts for the show, we sometimes end up with cool tidbits that don’t quite fit in the main episode, but we don’t think that should keep you all from hearing them. Richard Blackett told us about one of the obstacles folks promoting emancipation in the US faced before the Civil War, and Seth Levi told us about a project he’s working on to help support voting rights in communities descended from the formerly enslaved, among others.
In addition to the embedded media player below, you can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts or wherever you get podcasts. You also can read below for a transcript of the episode
Callie Hawkins: Hi everyone – This is Callie and Joan from Q&Abe, a podcast by President Lincoln’s Cottage.
Joan Cummins: As we talk to all kinds of experts for the show, we sometimes end up with cool tidbits that don’t quite fit in the main episode, but we don’t think that should keep you all from hearing them.
CH: This bonus episode accompanies episode 4.1, Was Lincoln a racist?, so if you haven’t listened to that one yet, it might be a good place to start.
JC: In our conversation with Richard Blackett, he told us about one of the obstacles that folks promoting emancipation in the US before the Civil War faced:
Richard Blackett: the question that is lobbed at you, if you promote emancipation, is what are you going to do with all these people who are going to flood into the North, who are going to run away from the plantation and flood into the North and compete with other people and create problems? So, that has always been one of the sticking points for those people who are suggesting that we need to emancipate the slaves. Because, you say, well – what do you do with them? And keep in mind the one experiment of emancipation by 1860, that is the one in the Caribbean. And the British Caribbean people are saying has been an utter, an unmitigated disaster. So slaveholders and their supporters, or even people who are not supporters of slave holders are looking at this and saying, ah that experiment didn’t work. Incorrectly, I may add, but they are saying the economy’s crashed. And that becomes the yardstick by which you measure whether or not people who have been freed have benefited from their freedom. Because given the opportunity, many people realize that the slaves are not going to stay on the plantation. Why would I stay and work there, uh, for a person who has been exploiting me for donkey’s years? And that is what happened in places like Jamaica, emancipation, the slaves, the ex – the former enslaved said, I’m outta here. And I’m going to create my own alternative economy and they did. But for those people who are looking on from the outside, all they see is the collapse of the sugar economy, and that is all that matters. So for people who are considering emancipation in the United States, there’s this experiment that seemed to have failed, to be an unmitigated disaster, and they didn’t want to go there. So what do you do if you promote emancipation and you bring it about? Can you ensure that those people stay there as opposed to come in here?
JC: Right. How could we free them from slavery, but have as little else as possible change?
RB: Yes. Yes. Because plantation, there’s nowhere, in any system of emancipation that had taken place In the 19th century up to the American Civil War, where emancipation in an agricultural economy results in land reformation. So you, you free, you free the people who worked on the land for donkey’s years and they get nothing but their freedom. So you leave all, you leave all the property in the hands of the property owner and America has never been able – and this is not just America, but no society, no capitalist society has ever been able to wrap its head around the notion that what you have to do is reform the land.
CH: There are people across the American South now who are descendants of those folks who were emancipated but didn’t have the kind of economic empowerment and support they might have hoped for. Seth Levi from the Southern Poverty Law Center also told us about a project he’s working on to help support voting rights in those communities and others.
Seth Levi: I’m working on our, uh, Vote Your Voice project, which is a fund that we created to help support organizations that are engaged in, uh, voter registration, voter outreach, and other civic engagement work in our states focusing specifically on, um, voters who are voters of color, voters who are, um, low propensity, um, vote infrequently and voters who are living in rural areas and therefore don’t, uh, often get a lot of contact from organizations that are doing this work. And so we’re this year have funded a 55 groups giving them multi-year grants. We’ve – between 2020 through 2022, we’re going to spend $30 million on this. And our board just authorized us to spend another a hundred million dollars on it through, uh, 2032. So I’m working on that and it’s just really exciting to, you know, help support these organizations and seeing the results where they are successful in getting turnout, at registering more voters and just engaging voters on various important issues that are occurring in their communities.
JC: If you’d like to learn more about the project, you can visit their website at splcenter.org.
CH: We’ll see you in a week with our next full episode!
JC: This episode was produced by me, Joan Cummins, with Callie Hawkins and support from the President Lincoln’s Cottage team. Music for Q&Abe was written, performed, and is copyrighted by Clancy Newman.
CH: Q&Abe is possible thanks to generous supporters of President Lincoln’s Cottage. To find out how you can support this podcast and other programming, visit www.lincolncottage.org. You can also write to us at email@example.com.
JC: President Lincoln’s Cottage is a home for brave ideas. Stay curious!