Was Abe Lincoln Racist?

April 12, 2015

Harvard University historian John Stauffer talks with Steve Paulson about whether or not Lincoln was a racist. Stauffer is the author, most recently, of "Giants: the Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln."



Was Lincoln a racist? Of course he was. Everyone was at the time. I think that is an unfair question. What is worse is the interviewer saying "Lincoln used the n word" - OMG everyone used the n word. It didn't carry the same weight and meaning then as it does now. That comment from the interviewer was said in very strong ignorance of history, and thus was sensationalistic. Nobody seems to ask that question as it relates to a contemporary writer of the time: Mark Twain. Was Tom Sawyer a racist? Or Huck Finn? There are other words that have changed over time to mean something different or now carry a much different connotation than they did. You guys are better than that. I love your show, but little lapses like this can be bigger issues later...

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