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What Shall We Do with the Negro?: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America

What Shall We Do with the Negro?: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America

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Key Metrics

  • Paul D Escott
  • University of Virginia Press
  • Hardcover
  • 9780813927862
  • 9.16 X 6.4 X 1.14 inches
  • 1.31 pounds
  • History > United States - Civil War Period (1850-1877)
  • English
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Book Description

Throughout the Civil War, newspaper headlines and stories repeatedly asked some variation of the question posed by the New York Times in 1862, What shall we do with the negro? The future status of African Americans was a pressing issue for those in both the North and in the South. Consulting a broad range of contemporary newspapers, magazines, books, army records, government documents, publications of citizens' organizations, letters, diaries, and other sources, Paul D. Escott examines the attitudes and actions of Northerners and Southerners regarding the future of African Americans after the end of slavery. What Shall We Do with the Negro? demonstrates how historians together with our larger national popular culture have wrenched the history of this period from its context in order to portray key figures as heroes or exemplars of national virtue.

Escott gives especial critical attention to Abraham Lincoln. Since the civil rights movement, many popular books have treated Lincoln as an icon, a mythical leader with thoroughly modern views on all aspects of race. But, focusing on Lincoln's policies rather than attempting to divine Lincoln's intentions from his often ambiguous or cryptic statements, Escott reveals a president who placed a higher priority on reunion than on emancipation, who showed an enduring respect for states' rights, who assumed that the social status of African Americans would change very slowly in freedom, and who offered major incentives to white Southerners at the expense of the interests of blacks.Escott's approach reveals the depth of slavery's influence on society and the pervasiveness of assumptions of white supremacy. What Shall We Do with the Negro? serves as a corrective in offering a more realistic, more nuanced, and less celebratory approach to understanding this crucial period in American history.

What Shall We Do with the Negro?: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America

Author Bio

Paul D. Escott earned his B.A. degree cum laude from Harvard College and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Duke University. He taught at UNC Charlotte before coming to Wake Forest, where he served for nine years as Dean of the College.  

He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, has received fellowships from the Whitney Young, Jr., Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and twice won an award for the best non-fiction book published by a resident of North Carolina. 

His most recent book is Lincoln’s Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era. 

He comments: “The history of the Civil War Era looms large in our nation’s struggles to overcome racism and realize its ideals of freedom and equality. Even today popular culture misrepresents the reality of the Civil War era in ways that obscure our understanding of our society’s past. Excessive glorification of the Confederacy or the Union can blind us to the nature of the problems that the United States has had to surmount or struggles with still.”

 

  • Education
     
  • B.A.      Harvard College 1969
    M.A.    Duke University 1972
    Ph.D.    Duke University 1974

 

Source: Wake Forest University 

 

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