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Lincoln’s Assassination and the Battle for America


On April 14, 1865, Good Friday of that year, one of the greatest tragedies of American history occurred in Ford’s Theater. A crazed Confederate sympathizer, infuriated at Republican President Abraham Lincoln’s indication of support for black civil rights, assassinated the president.

It is always difficult to speculate on what “might have been,” but I think we can say with certainty that, had Lincoln not died, the history of America would have been very different. Lincoln, who was increasingly concerned at the plight of former slaves, was determined to maintain the union yet eager to extend the hand of charity to former traitors. Instead of that great man, Democrat Vice President Andrew Johnson oversaw Reconstruction. Johnson, one of the most rabidly racist men to plague the White House, sabotaged Reconstruction with his poisonous and short-sighted policies. In many ways, the bullet that killed Lincoln was a bullet right through America’s heart.

Lincoln, though increasingly convinced of the necessity of full civil rights (as the Constitution’s framers originally intended), partly due to his friendship with former slave Frederick Douglass, understood that progress could be slow at first. But there were many Confederates/Democrats who wanted no progress at all and who were determined to enslave and oppress black Americans through laws even if they could not do so anymore with chains and whips. John Wilkes Booth, the actor, racist, and Confederate sympathizer who played the main role in a group conspiracy to assassinate the president, was one such. From the Indiana State Museum:

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