Each Black History Month African Americans take pride in the extraordinary citizens of African heritage having made significant contributions to the American culture and enrichment of the Black community. Being the presidents’ month as well, many African Americans praise former President Abraham Lincoln as the one who freed them during the Civil War of the 19th century through the Emancipation Proclamation.However, some wariness should be attached to the na’ve consideration that Lincoln set Blacks free. Lincoln only issued an executive order that forced Southern farmers and wealthy Americans (mostly White) to set free their African-blood slaves. Lincoln issued this Emancipation Proclamation as a war strategy to strangle the economy of the Confederate South by weakening its military production, as well as to create an adjunct fighting corps of former Black slaves for the Union Army.
An adroit Lincoln allowed slaves to escape the shackles of forced, labor which would empower the Union to claim some economic hegemony over the agricultural enterprises of the rebellious South. A weakened Civil War Southern economy meant Confederate troops would get lesser supplies on the battlefield, not to mention the loss of morale if the cause they were fighting for namely to maintain the Southern slave plantations was abrogated by an auspicious proclamation.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to kill the fighting spirit of the Southern rebel and to corrode the Confederate economy by decimating the commodity of its slave trade. Former slaves were set free from the tyranny of whips and chains yet they struggled to discover the freedom to pursue self-determination in the American society. After Lincoln’s death, many former slaves were given “40 acres and a mule” to get a fresh start at pursuing the American dream independent of forced captivity.
Under President Andrew Johnson, Southern blacks flourished in gaining wealth and being a vibrant part of the post-Civil War economy. Sadly, however, as Southern Confederate troops were released from their horrible imprisonments in Union war camps, they were chagrined to find former slaves running and controlling their civic institutions.
Most American historians agree that the first homegrown terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, was engendered by disenfranchised Southern White men to restore White economic supremacy over Blacks, and to segregate themselves back into a society of preferred privileges.
President Johnson did little to stop the violent removal of Blacks from elected Southern offices as he had made a nonintervention deal with Southern Dixiecrats (politicians) to garner their votes for re-election. Even worse, poor Black farmers bought contracts against their property ownership in sharecropper deals and loans with ballooning interest debt. They were unable to hold onto their properties into the 20th century.
As Whites reinvented slavery through segregation of its markets and a fledgling economy pumped by sharecroppers, the 20th century for Blacks began to resemble the late 18th and 19th centuries until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s brought a renewal of Black leadership to defy Southern racist institutions.
The shout, “Say it loud I’m Black and I’m proud!” was just a verbal affirmation to awaken mostly Southern Blacks to the idea of self-empowerment through taking actions (sit-ins and protests) to regain self-determination by uniting in solidarity to get equal access and accommodations of the services and economic markets of the American dream.
The finest hours in African-American destiny were not those hours when Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation; rather they were those hours when Blacks finally freed their minds from racist notions of inferiority and marched together against hostile assault to declare themselves free-thinkers and artisans of a greater destiny in America.
Lincoln took away the chains — but freedom of the Black individual became an exercise in the awakening of self-acceptance and unlimited participation in American enterprise through fair access to resources.
Black communities started to pursue the idea of a more perfect union finding its freedom in bringing together its talents and fostering institutions to promote the common benevolent interests that assure the progress of all within. This notion has become their cornerstone of individual freedom and that greater freedom that Lincoln dared us to pursue as a nation.