American Political Thought Slavery Term Paper

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American Political Thought-Slavery

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This report is a combination book review, autobiographical evaluation and political and social review. That is because the work will compare and contrast two very great men in American history: W.E.B. DuBois and Abraham Lincoln. Each of these historical figures left their mark on our society questioning dogma and by speaking against what they felt was wrong. Their views were highly critical of the accepted norms of their days and therefore they each suffered public criticisms and hatred related turmoil. DuBois personal philosophies got him labeled as a socialist (a nice way of calling someone a communist in the past) and of course, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated because of his views. This report tries to first get a feel for the Dubois works such as: 'Souls of Black Folk', 'Darkwater', 'The Evolution of the Race Problem', 'Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others'. From the position of Lincoln, this work reviews some of his published ideas on the political struggles he faced as they related to slavery and racism. To better understand President Lincoln the work relies on Eric Foner's 'The Story of American Freedom', 'Address Before the Young Man's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois', 'Speech on the Dred Scott Decision', 'First Inaugural Address' and 'The Gettysburg Address'. A secondary objective of this report is to make a critical claim that addresses various concepts such as class and equality, liberty, and democracy. Therefore, with that being said, the true objective of this work is to do a comparison between Abraham Lincoln and W.E.B. DuBois in regard to the political struggles they faced.

W.E.B. DuBois

TOPIC: Term Paper on American Political Thought Slavery Assignment

William Edward Burghardt DuBois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Alfred and Marry DuBois on February 23, 1868 and died on August 27, 1963. In his life time, he was a civil rights activist, freemason and a scholar that touched upon the topics of racism, politics, personal freedoms and more. Although he was qualified academically to attend Harvard, financial woes forced him to attend Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee when he came of age. The southern experience exposed Dubois to segregation and Jim Crow laws as well as severe levels of poverty. Upon graduation from Fisk, Dubois received scholarships that enabled him to attend Harvard. He was once quoted as having said that he was 'in Harvard but not of it which implied his feeling of isolation and northern racism. He prevailed and in 1895 was the first African-American to receive a PH.D. from the university of Harvard.

With his education in hand, Dubois went on to become one of our nation's most notable activists in regard to politics, slavery and the African-American movement. During his travels in Europe for example, Dubois wrote many works and saw the black Americans' situation from a new light and perspective. Some of his greatest works were 'Souls of Black Folk' and 'Darkwater.' "Interpretation of Darkwater must begin with the fact that its meaning inheres in a collage of parts in several genres and several styles. In a far more pronounced fashion than the Souls of Black Folk, one must read the book by narrative juxtaposition in which rigorous economic logic and pungent analysis can suddenly give way to an intense lyric moment. For example, following "The Hands of Ethiopia" and preceding "Of Work and Wealth," a powerful quasi-socialist critique of the Jim Crow economics that resulted in the violent East St. Louis race riots of 1917, one finds "The Princess of the Hither Isles," an opaque anti-colonial allegory that acts as an iconographic condensation of the analytic essays that surround it, crystallizing historical forces into a tragic figuration of the world conflict DuBois saw being acted out through the agencies of labor and race." Sundquist (1996, p. 481)

In the Souls of Black Folk, Dubois sighted what he believed was the real problem since emancipation. "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." (Sundquist, 1996, p. 97) the book was a compellation of previously published essays. These were 'Of Our Spiritual Strivings,' 'Of the Dawn of Freedom,' 'Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,' 'Of the Meaning of Progress,' 'Of the Training of Black Men,' 'Of the Black Belt,' 'Of the Quest of the Golden Fleece' 'Of the Sons of Master and Man,' and 'Of the Faith of the Fathers'. All had been highly acclaimed when they were published in the Atlantic Monthly, the Dial, and World's Work. He also added five new essays on the request of his publisher. This work has become a foundation text for many modern black history and black studies classes in schools around the world.

In 1909, DuBois helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the NAACP. "In 1905, a group of 32 prominent, outspoken African-Americans met to discuss the challenges facing "people of color" in the U.S. And possible strategies and solutions. Because hotels in the U.S. were segregated, the men convened, under the leadership of Harvard scholar W.E.B. DuBois, at a hotel situated on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls." (Wikipedia, NAACP 2005) Dubois was the only African-American that held a seat on the organization's Board and he also served as Editor-in-Chief of the organization's official newletter. This provided him with a forum 'elevate his position as a spokesperson for my race' and to offer opinions on widely known events.


Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. At age twenty-four, Lincoln, served in the state government of Illinois and was later elected to the legislature as a Whig. Early on, Lincoln was known for his anti-slavery views and was quoted as saying slavery was "founded on both injustice and bad policy." Later that year Lincoln received a law license which also helped to propel his career. He became the leader of the Whig party while practicing law. His personal need for organization made him literally hide important papers in his tall black hat he was known for wearing outdoors. Lincoln eventually married in the fall of 1842. Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States and held the distinction of being the first Republican to receive the majority of the possible electoral votes but only 40% of the popular vote.

The popular vote was highly influenced by the southern and other slave states. During a political debate for the presidency, Lincoln voiced his feelings on slavery and emancipation:

will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race." (Lincoln, 1858)

Upon his election, the southern slave states soon seceded and the foundation of the Civil War was laid. "After the South fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, Lincoln defended his suspension of habeas corpus in a speech to a special session of Congress. His presidential oath required that he faithfully execute the laws, he said, then asked, 'are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?' This argument has practical, but no legal merit. Lincoln advanced the legal argument, 'It was not believed that any law was violated'. The Constitution, he argued, does not expressly prohibit the president from suspending the writ, and it is unreasonable that a danger should run its course until Congress can be assembled." (Kleinfeld, 1997)


The United States had slaves technically before there was a United States. The first imported slaves brought to the British colonies on the rest of continent were landed at Jamestown, Virgina in 1619." (Wikipedia, 2005) Ironically, slave trading was illegal and indentured servitude was the accepted norm. The distinction of indentured servant entailed that those types of 'slaves' were actually white or Native American. There was a migrationary period in slavery that began with whites, moved on to aboriginal and Native Indians and eventually was overtaken by the importation of black Africans.

Over the next two centuries, slavery took on a life of its own and eventually led to the secession of the Southern Confederate States and the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. "Abraham Lincoln cherished the Union. When he swore in his presidential oath to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed',… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"American Political Thought Slavery."  May 1, 2005.  Accessed November 26, 2021.