My father owned a lot of books. One of them was the complete text of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
I didn’t crack that one open until after I’d graduated college. And I was surprised to discover that Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas were debating the very essence of “race” in America... the legal and moral status of black people.
Stephen A. Douglas, one of the nation’s most powerful politicians at the time, didn’t hesitate to declare Negroes a lower form of humanity, unworthy of the rights of citizenship.
Abraham Lincoln, notwithstanding his opposition to slavery, likewise disavowed the ideal of “political and social equality” between blacks and whites.
How did I make it through the public school system and then earn a bachelor’s degree without knowing that Lincoln and Douglas were debating about black folks?
Last month, BBC Audiobooks released a complete audio version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, performed by David Strathairn (as Lincoln) and Richard Dreyfuss (as Douglas).
I’m streaming a 5-minute excerpt on my Vox blog. It starts with Dreyfuss and ends with Strathairn. Click here to listen and learn.