Date of Award

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program

History

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Thesis Advisor

Jason Silverman

Committee Member

Eddie Lee

Committee Member

Gregory Crider

Abstract

Abraham Lincoln is perhaps the most popular president in American history to date. American collective memory centers on his legacy as the Great Emancipator, a man who was beyond his time in terms of social equality and paved the way for later advancements in civil rights for African Americans in the United States. This caricature of Lincoln is fundamentally inaccurate, however. Lincoln himself repeatedly stated his devotion to the restoration of the Union, which at its fundamental core was a political entity that only encapsulated white Americans. In fact, Lincoln’s eventual issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation was intended to be followed by his plan to colonize blacks out of the country in order to make the nation more economically beneficial for the white population. Lincoln, who held racial views which corresponded with the times in which he lived, was not influenced by any humanitarian motives to end the system of slavery in the South, but instead was encouraged to do so because of the Hamiltonian economic beliefs that he inherited from his idol Henry Clay. Despite these facts, Lincoln is still remembered as an early champion of African American civil rights in the popular American collective memory. This work seeks to understand that fact by examining what role the southern media, particularly that of South Carolina, played in initially perpetuating the image of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator and how the resulting caricature of Lincoln that was rooted in these sensational newspaper articles became cemented in the American public conscious immediately following his assassination.

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