The OAH Magazine of History

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Lincoln, Race, and Slavery

from the editor

Contextualizing Lincoln and Race, by Phillip M. Guerty

In October 1855, William Dungey of Clinton, Illinois, hired Abraham Lincoln to bring a slander suit against his brother-in-law, Joseph Spencer. Dungey brought the action after a family quarrel escalated and Spencer began publically claiming that Dungey was “a negro.” What made the matter so serious for Dungey was that, since 1819, Illinois restricted the immigration of free blacks into the state. These restrictions remained in effect into the mid-nineteenth century. The 1848 Illinois Constitution, for instance, required the state assembly to “pass such laws as will effectively prohibit free persons of color from immigrating to and settling” in the state. To Dungey, who claimed to be of Portuguese descent, being considered legally black would have meant the loss of his property, his marriage, and his right to stay in Illinois. Read more >


Lincoln, Race, and Slavery,
by Darrel E. Bigham
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Changing Perspectives on Lincoln, Race, and Slavery,
by Brian Dirck
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Lincoln, Race, and Slavery: A Biographical Overview,
by Allen C. Guelzo
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Lincoln and Colonization,
by Richard Blackett
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“That All Mankind Should Be Free”: Lincoln and African Americans,
by Thomas C. Mackey
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teaching resources

Lincoln, Race, and Slavery before 1858: The Key Documents,
by William Bartelt
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Teaching with Images: Lincoln and African Americans,
by Matthew McMichael
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A Complex Relationship: Lincoln and Frederick Douglass,
by Michael Ryan-Kessler
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Lincoln, Race, and Slavery: 1856—1865,
by James Percoco
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teaching american history with documents from the gilder lehrman collection

Lincoln on the Moral Bankruptcy of Slavery: Inside the Lincoln-Douglass Debates of 1858,
by David W. Blight
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on the cover

James Montgomery Flagg, “Abraham Lincoln the night before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation,” oil painting from The Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana. Photograph by George Alarie. Reprinted with permission.