After Words with Paul Escott “What Shall We Do with the Negro?”

This is an erudite discussion from 2009 with Professor Paul Escott of Wake Forest University on Abraham Lincoln, slavery, and African-Americans during the Civil War. It’s based on his book, “What Shall We Do with the Negro?”: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America. Professor Escott has some very astute observations, but it seems to me, based solely on what I heard in the discussion, that he forgets the old adage that “Politics is the art of the possible.” He seems to want to hold Lincoln to a more modern standard and expects Lincoln to do what Lincoln didn’t think was possible at the time.

Nevertheless, this is a book I want to read. I think Professor Escott is right on a number of things he says, and on others if not right at least probably has some primary source backing for his interpretation.

The video’s description reads, “Paul Escott talked about his book ‘What Shall We Do with the Negro?’: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America (University of Virginia Press; March 31, 2009). The title of the book was taken from a headline that appeared in the New York Times in 1862. Once slavery became a target of the Northern war effort, the question arose everywhere. In his book, Professor Escott argues that the policies of President Abraham Lincoln presented a politician more concerned with reunification than the future rights of slaves. Professor Escott discussed his book with Professor Censer, and following the interview took questions from students and faculty in the audience at George Mason University.”


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