Abraham Lincoln Lee to Jane Addams, February 12, 1913


Shelbyville, Ill., Feb. 12, 1913

Miss Jane Addams,
Editor of the Survey,
Chicago, Illinois.

Kind Friend:

I read an article which appeared in the Chicago Inter-Ocean on Wednesday, Feb, 5, 1913, which was in the nature of an inquiry. (Has Emancipation Been Nullified?) The Inter-Ocean states that Miss Jane Addams is the author of this article, which appeared in the current issue of the Survey, and I wish in my humble way to congratulate you for your well-expressed words of sympathy, and for which I seize this opportunity to express my sincere thanks, not for myself alone but for the entire race of Afro-Americans. The Negro is passing through a desperate crisis these days, caused from racial prejudice, and to have a person of your note, strength, and ability use [your] valuable space and make appeals in our behalf, we have no words at our command sufficient to express to you our heartfelt thanks.

The greatest man, who has ever been elected President of the United States, who believed in a government "for the people, of the people, and by the people", and who made the freedom of 4,000,000 bondsmen the crowning glory of his illustrious life, is being lauded to the skies at this season of the year. Mr. Lincoln's greatest aim in life was the emancipation of the slaves, and he ever kept it in view until the last shackle fell from the lacerated limbs of the slaves of the South. The brightest light that ever dazzled a nation has gone out in the darkness of the grave. He, whom nations adored, now is prostrate, stricken down in the vigor of his manhood by malignity of an enraged assassin, and bearing upon his sacred person the marks of his unutterable hate, in his last moments seemed kind, patient, and forgiving.

Ours is the grief, the depth of which another race may never know.

The Constitution of the United States, the greatest political document ever issued by [uninspired] men, declares that "Liberty is an inalienable right." [page 2]

It follows therefore that slavery is a violation of the Constitution of the United States. Liberty is essential to the full and perfect development of mankind. Slavery dwarfs his manhood, destroys his individuality, takes away all responsibility, which robs him of the one great factor of his elevation. To take away a man's responsibility is to remove him from every inspiration for usefulness and power. Destroy a man's ambition and you destroy the man. Take away a man's personal responsibility, and you at once reduce him to the level of an animal and blast all hope for further development. Slavery is the enemy of progress, liberty is the parent of the highest possibility. The greatest benefactors of the world, those whose names have been written high upon the monuments of fame, are the illustrious lovers of human liberty. Those who have given their time, their fortune, and their lives to the emancipation of an enslaved manhood. Their services have been the most substantial that could have been rendered their race. They have lifted up a downcast people, they have created a nation of responsible and useful men and women out of uncompromising material, and restored them to their rightful place among the sons and daughters of the Almighty.

The martyrs for human freedom are more deserving of glory and renown than the illustrious martyrs for the truth; one suffers for a principle, the other sacrifices all he has for an immortal soul that bears the image of the Divine.

The hardships through which the Negro race is passing are enough to move the heart of stone, and unless another Abraham Lincoln appears suddenly, or a Lovejoy, or a William Lloyd Garrison, or someone, who is charitable enough to take up the Black Man's Burden <as> in their day, we are doomed to despair, desperation, starvation, and death. The door of opportunity is closed against us, and all that is left for us to subsist upon is to gather up a few crumbs that fell from the Anglo-Saxon's table. The Christian Church has turned its back upon us. The educational institutions say no admittance. Labor organizations prevent us from learning trades and working at them. So what is left for us but to moan and sigh? Conditions now are worse than before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. In view of this fact, and I know you are aware of all the obstacles under which we are compelled to labor and struggle, we ask your valuable support through your paper, and earnestly ask your solicitation of others to join with [page 3] you in asking for us a square deal as Afro-American citizens of this United States.

Allow me again to express our sincere gratitude for your kind words in our behalf. We trust that you can find it convenient to use your advice and personal effort on the side of mercy, which we do most heartily appreciate, and we trust that if you have no reward here upon earth, it will be awaiting you in Heaven. We thank you. I am

Very truly yours,

Abraham Lincoln Lee. [signed]

2317 N. Wood St.,
Shelbyville, Illinois.