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KNOW YOUR HISTORY

I've read this book ("The Black Man's President," Feb. 10). Not only does it portray Abraham Lincoln on this subject in a very nuanced manner, but it also gives us a sobering picture of race relations in those days. And of course, the scholarship is outstanding.

If you still think Lincoln was a racist, please support your mistaken position with citations sufficient enough to rebut Dr. Michael Burlingame's view. If you continue to hold that Lincoln was a racist because the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the slaves, read this book, my friend, because you don't know history. Bruce Finne

Via illinoistimes.com

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SHORTCHANGED

It's a sad irony that during Black History Month your paper has slighted at least one prominent local African American while lauding Lincoln for not being a racist.

In James Krohe Jr.'s review of Michael Burlingame's new book, The Black Man's President, it says our hometown hero met "educated and sophisticated people of color" only after he moved into the White House. "The Black people Lincoln knew in Springfield were for the most part draymen and servants and barbers. ..."

Well, let's talk about one of those barbers. Haitian William de Fleurville (also spelled Florville) first met young Abraham Lincoln when he arrived by boat in New Salem. Later Lincoln moved to Springfield where de Fleurville already had established a barber shop. The Great Emancipator became a regular customer, but that is hardly the whole story.

Billy the Barber, as he is minimally recalled these days, was a successful entrepreneur, perhaps the wealthiest African American in town. Historians are clear that he hired Lincoln as his lawyer while acquiring commercial properties. Other stories recount closeness between the two men and how Lincoln hired de Fleurville to play music at social events. Some credible accounts say the first Roman Catholic Mass in Springfield was held in de Fleurville's home.

Not having read Burlingame's latest book, I don't know if slighting de Fleurville is his doing or Krohe's, but I do know I am tired of this fascinating character in our community's history getting short shrift, whether it's in February or any month.

Douglas Kamholz
Springfield

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NOTHING NEW

Your Feb. 3 editor's note began, "I was taken aback when President Joe Biden said he would appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Can he do that, just name a category then go find somebody to fit it?" You end with, "But here's old white Joe Biden, ignoring the way we've always done things. History gives him an opening, and he steps in."

I, too, was taken aback by what you have written. This is not the first time a president has signaled what they're looking for in a nominee. Many presidents of both parties have explicitly prioritized the race, gender and ethnicity of candidates in choosing a nominee.

Just two days after the death of Justice Ruth Ginsberg and weeks before the 2020 election, then-President Donald Trump declared he would limit his search for her replacement to only qualified female candidates, which he did.

As the GOP nominee challenging President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan publicly promised – weeks before the election – that he would name a woman to the Supreme Court. Reagan kept his promise by elevating Sandra Day O'Connor to the court in 1981.

Recordings of the Lyndon Johnson White House reveal that Johnson had a deliberate intention to make history with the appointment of the first Black Supreme Court Justice. While he didn't make a public pledge, Johnson had conversations that made clear he saw the nomination of Thurgood Marshall as an extension of his civil rights agenda.

It has taken the U S. 233 years to stand on the threshold of getting its first Black female Supreme Court Justice. The Black women who Biden is reportedly considering are all well-respected and highly qualified with sterling credentials.

It seems the appointment of a Black female Supreme Court Justice will come to pass. And Joe Biden should be applauded.

Phillipa Carroll Porter
Springfield

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