This research paper summarizes and assessed the views of Abraham Lincoln (as revealed by editor Zilversmit's cited collection of documents) on race in America.
It would be inaccurate to categorize Lincoln as a racist.
Lincoln always regarded slavery as a moral evil. As President of the United States, his actions (and the Union victory in the Civil War) were largely responsible for the abolition of slavery and for the initial steps taken by the federal government to ensure the political and civil equality of the former slaves, an effort which was tragically cut short by Lincoln's assassination and the resurrection of southern white power after the war. At the same time Lincoln was until the middle of the war a gradualist with respect to abolition and held conservative views on race which reflected the temper of his times. For most of his long political career, he opposed the full political and civil equality of African-Americans and he never favored their full social equality or integration into American society.
Even as a relatively young man, Lincoln found slavery to be morally abhorrent. He describes in Document #6 his repulsion at seeing a dozen slaves chained together by their master on a riverboat on which Lincoln travels to St. Louis (p. 11). In #6, he refers to the institution as a "monstrous injustice," which makes a mockery of America's claim as the home of the free (pp. 14). He stated flatly in #6 that "no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other's consent" (p. 16). In #12, he said "I have always hated slavery . . . a vast moral evil" (pp. 34-35).
Lincoln favored the gradual abolition of slavery. In #16, he said it would come about "in God's good time," referring possibly to its lasting for another 100 years (p. 50). He was opposed to its forceful abolition in the South believing that the framers had given the South guarantees of its constitutional validity. His main emphasis was on curbing...