Book Review: Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race


by George M. Fredrickson

Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press, 2008. Pp. xi, 156. Notes, index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 0674027744

An insightful look at Lincoln’s views on slavery and race as they evolved during his lifetime, and particularly once he became president. 

Based on his 2006 W E.B. Du Bois lecture at Harvard, Prof. Fredrickson (Stanford), author of The Inner Civil War: Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union,  The Black Image in the White Mind, and numerous other works on American history and race relations, takes a hard look at Lincoln’s views on race.  Central to his discussion is the seeming contradiction of Lincoln’s life-long opposition to slavery with his equally long-held racist beliefs about black Americans. The value of the work is that it illustrates how Lincoln’s views on race grew, as he came to know many African-Americans, and become friend with some, such as Frederick Douglass, and as black Americans in their hundreds of thousands rallied to the Union cause in the Civil War. 

An important read for students of Lincoln, the Civil War, and race in America.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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