I read somewhere that post-civil war, many freed slaves kept a portrait/drawing of Abraham Lincoln in their house, and that this "tradition" went on for some time. Is this true, and can anyone share a source?

1 Answer 1


Most likely, yes

Lincoln was very popular among Blacks in US right until 1960's and rise of leftist Democrats whom somewhat tarnished his image (Lincoln was Republican, of course) . This essay explains this changing image, noting that after the Civil War many in Black community considered him not only a liberator but a saint and martyr, because of his death. Or in other words, they believed that he payed their emancipation with his blood.

Popularity of surname Lincoln among Blacks is also evident. Before emancipation Black slaves usually didn't have surname (or used surname of their masters) . After the war they were free to chose one, and Lincoln was among most popular.

Finally, there is lot of evidence of his popularity among Blacks even before his death . From this :

When Lincoln's carriage passed a brigade of black soldiers supporting the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864, they broke ranks and jubilantly surrounded Lincoln's entourage with shouts of "Hurrah for the Liberator, Hurrah for the President." The black wartime correspondent Thomas Morris Chester watched Lincoln pass through the joyful crowds of Richmond's blacks, and wrote: "The colored population was wild with enthusiasm. Old men thanked God in a very boisterous manner, and old women shouted upon the pavement as high as they ever had done at a religious revival.... Even then they thought [freedom] must be a pleasant dream, but when they saw Abraham Lincoln they were satisfied that their freedom was perpetual. One enthusiastic old negro woman exclaimed: 'I know that I am free, for I have seen father Abraham and felt him.'"

In light of this evidence, it is very likely that former slaves (those who could afford it, of course) had in their homes portraits of Lincoln depicting him in saintly manner, like this below

enter image description here

  • 2
    Throwaway linking language tarnishes an otherwise good answer. You should find some way of describing the Civil Rights era's decline in Lincoln hagiography as coming from something other than "the rise of leftist Democrats". The source you provide does not support that.
    – Spencer
    Nov 1, 2018 at 9:09
  • As someone who knows a lot of black folk, I'd want some backup for the assertion that the affection for Lincoln has faded significantly at all. I'm not saying its wrong, I'm just saying it doesn't entirely jibe with my anecdotal data.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 1, 2018 at 14:53
  • 2
    @Spencer Civil Rights movement devolved into toxic racial baiting we witness today. Leftist Democrats often malign Lincoln as yet another White "racist" because of his views more then 100 years ago, that would be un-PC in today's world.
    – rs.29
    Nov 1, 2018 at 19:00
  • 1
    Do you have anything a bit more prominent or mainstream? I've never heard of either of those authors and can find no information on either of them online (unless the 2nd happens to be the power forward for the Orlando Magic). The publication source for the first is supposedly for " essays that promote innovations of ideology that run counter to conventional theory". The second publication looks a bit more legit, but the article from a historian, doing what a historian is supposed to be doing (looking at the nuances), and the mag's circulation is tiny so one can't really argue popular impact.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 1, 2018 at 19:37
  • 1
    @T.E.D. Just google "was Lincoln racist" and you will get more then enough articles, mostly from leftist Democrat circles. Here is one form "prominent" NY Times and another from Washington Post. And believe me, they are relatively mild compared to some other texts on this matter: nytimes.com/2017/06/23/books/review/… washingtonpost.com/opinions/…
    – rs.29
    Nov 1, 2018 at 21:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.