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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: James M. McPherson

Race in America: parallels between the 1860s, 1960s, and today [extract]

The American Civil War remains deeply embedded in our national identity. Its legacy can be observed through modern politics—from the Civil Rights Movement to #TakeAKnee. In the following extract from The War That Forged a Nation, acclaimed historian James M. McPherson discusses the relationship between the Civil War and race relations in American history.

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Lincoln’s finest hour

On August 23, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln wrote the following memorandum and asked his Cabinet members to sign it on the back side of the paper without reading it (to forestall leaks): “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.”

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