Cover image for The Children of Lincoln
Title:
The Children of Lincoln

White Paternalism and the Limits of Black Opportunity in Minnesota, 1860–1876
Author:
Green, William D.
Subject:
History
African American Nonfiction
Nonfiction
Description:
How white advocates of emancipation abandoned African American causes in the dark days of Reconstruction, told through the stories of four Minnesotans White people, Frederick Douglass said in a speech in 1876, were "the children of Lincoln," while black people were "at best his stepchildren." Emancipation became the law of the land, and white champions of African Americans in the state were suddenly turning to other causes, regardless of the worsening circumstances of black Minnesotans. Through four of these "children of Lincoln" in Minnesota, William D. Green's book brings to light a little known but critical chapter in the state's history as it intersects with the broader account of race in America.In a narrative spanning the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the lives of these four Minnesotans mark the era's most significant moments in the state, the Midwest, and the nation for the Republican Party, the Baptist church, women's suffrage, and Native Americans. Morton Wilkinson, the state's first Republican senator; Daniel Merrill, a St. Paul business leader who helped launch the first Black Baptist church; Sarah Burger Stearns, founder and first president of the Minnesota Woman Suffragist Association; and Thomas Montgomery, an immigrant farmer who served in the Colored Regiments in the Civil War: each played a part in securing the rights of African Americans and each abandoned the fight as the forces of hatred and prejudice increasingly threatened those hard-won rights. Moving from early St. Paul and Fort Snelling to the Civil War and beyond, The Children of Lincoln reveals a pattern of racial paternalism, describing how even "enlightened" white Northerners, fatigued with the "Negro Problem," would come to embrace policies that reinforced a notion of black inferiority. Together, their lives—so differently and deeply connected with nineteenth-century race relations—create a telling portrait of Minnesota as a microcosm of America during the tumultuous years of Reconstruction.
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Date:
2018/10/23
Digital Format:
PDF

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

How white advocates of emancipation abandoned African American causes in the dark days of Reconstruction, told through the stories of four Minnesotans


White people, Frederick Douglass said in a speech in 1876, were "the children of Lincoln," while black people were "at best his stepchildren." Emancipation became the law of the land, and white champions of African Americans in the state were suddenly turning to other causes, regardless of the worsening circumstances of black Minnesotans. Through four of these "children of Lincoln" in Minnesota, William D. Green's book brings to light a little known but critical chapter in the state's history as it intersects with the broader account of race in America.

In a narrative spanning the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the lives of these four Minnesotans mark the era's most significant moments in the state, the Midwest, and the nation for the Republican Party, the Baptist church, women's suffrage, and Native Americans. Morton Wilkinson, the state's first Republican senat∨ Daniel Merrill, a St. Paul business leader who helped launch the first Black Baptist church; Sarah Burger Stearns, founder and first president of the Minnesota Woman Suffragist Association; and Thomas Montgomery, an immigrant farmer who served in the Colored Regiments in the Civil War: each played a part in securing the rights of African Americans and each abandoned the fight as the forces of hatred and prejudice increasingly threatened those hard-won rights.

Moving from early St. Paul and Fort Snelling to the Civil War and beyond, The Children of Lincoln reveals a pattern of racial paternalism, describing how even "enlightened" white Northerners, fatigued with the "Negro Problem," would come to embrace policies that reinforced a notion of black inferiority. Together, their lives--so differently and deeply connected with nineteenth-century race relations--create a telling portrait of Minnesota as a microcosm of America during the tumultuous years of Reconstruction.


Author Notes

William D. Green is professor of history at Augsburg University and author of Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865-1912 (winner of the Hognander Minnesota History Award) and A Peculiar Imbalance: The Rise and Fall of Racial Equality in Minnesota, 1837-1869 , both published by Minnesota. He is vice president of the Minnesota Historical Society.


Reviews 1

Choice Review

After decades of struggle, the abolitionist movement finally witnessed the end of slavery with the delivery of the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the 13th Amendment. The movement, however, disappeared after the Civil War, leaving former slaves without their most influential advocates when they perhaps needed them the most. In Children of Lincoln, Green (Augsburg Univ.) uses the experiences of four prominent Minnesota abolitionists to illustrate why the quest for emancipation did not translate to a demand for racial equality. As in other areas of the country, some Minnesota abolitionists directed their efforts toward other social causes, such as women's suffrage. Other abolitionists became disillusioned when their fellow citizens, content with the demise of slavery after the defeat of the Confederacy, turned their political attention to other issues. Many, however, were simply tired of pursuing the goal of racial unity in the face of either disinterest in or outright hostility to the idea among many in the supposedly enlightened North. Extensively researched and well written, Children of Lincoln is an excellent state study in the broader context of post--Civil War history. Summing Up: Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty and professionals. --Steven J. Ramold, Eastern Michigan University