Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"The Abolitionists" Part III: Lincoln, Emancipation, and Abolition

Part III of “The Abolitionists” on PBS American Experience starts with a meeting between Frederick Douglass and John Brown in Chambersburg, PA.  Douglass is astounded at the danger of the planned raid in Harper’s Ferry and goes back to Philadelphia.  After Brown is caught, he practically tries his captors before he is hanged, and Douglass has to escape to Canada, to return in 1860 after Congress agrees not to go after abolitionists.

The film explains the Dred Scott decision, which might have made the entire country permanently "slave". 

Abraham Lincoln gets elected in the new Republican Party, but waffles on whether he will try to end slavery, in order keep the Union together.  He prepares his emancipation order, but then proposes that slaveowners can keep their slaves until 1900. Lincoln even proposes that blacks should emigrate, and that the Union will be white only.  Finally Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. It would take a constitutional amendment, as in the film “Lincoln”, to actually guarantee that the slaves are freed, and to join emancipation with abolition (two good concepts to compare on an essay question on an American History test).

The variability of Lincoln on the slavery issue will surprise a lot of viewers.

Garrison's life proved how much one media person (in his case, a newspaper "printer") could do by "keeping them honest".  

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