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Lincoln deserves our gratitude, not the label 'racist'

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On April 11, 1865, two days after Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S. Grant, President Abraham Lincoln gave the last speech of his life from a White House window to an exuberant crowd outside. He spoke in the evening, reading his text by candlelight, dropping the pages one by one while his son Tad scrambled about the floor, happily picking them up.

Lincoln used the occasion to offer his thoughts about making the nation whole. Half-way into the speech, he touched on suffrage for Black people, saying, “I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.”

It’s the kind of statement that, without historical context, sounds jarring to modern ears. What? Lincoln supported voting rights for only “very intelligent” African Americans and those in uniform? What a racist. Quick — cancel him!

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