In this segment from Looking for Lincoln, historians Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and David Blight examine the complicated historical reality behind the romanticized myth of Abraham Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.” They explore Frederick Douglas’s impatience with Lincoln’s reluctance to make slavery the fundamental issue of the Civil War and describe Lincoln’s proposed compromise solution, in which slaves would be purchased by the government and deported to “colonies” in Panama and Liberia. Blight observes that such a “cushioned overthrow of slavery” was never truly possible, insisting that slavery “was going to have to be bludgeoned out of existence.”
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