Why Is Abraham Lincoln’s Handwriting In This Racist Book?

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum says the handwriting of an inscription found in a racist book belonged to Abraham Lincoln.

Why Is Abraham Lincoln’s Handwriting In This Racist Book?
Courtesy Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Check this out: These are very likely the words of Abraham Lincoln.

What it says is actually kind of boring — just the name of a lawyer and friend. But where it is is what makes this fascinating. 

​And it makes for a pretty irresistible headline: Historians announce Abraham Lincoln's handwriting found in a racist book.

Lincoln — as in the Great Emancipator.

A little backstory: There was a copy of a book — called Types of Mankind — that sat in the Warner Public Library in Clinton, Illinois. The book was written in 1854 and essentially argued that not all human races were equal.

It was popular among slave owners who pointed to the book as justification for slavery.

The curator of the The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, which distributed the photo, told us he thinks the former president borrowed the book in 1855 for a case he was working on and might have held onto the book for as many as six years. 

Fox News called the discovery "a fascinating piece of American history." According to historians, this inscription is likely Lincoln's handwriting because of those distinctive Es and Ns.

But the fascination with this story is likely the seeming contradiction in the idea of the Great Emancipator reading a book that seemed to justify slavery — which might be why the announcement also included this:

ABC: "Historians believe Lincoln read the book so he could better make his case against slavery."

Then again, there's really no way to tell why he would have had the book. 

And of course, his critics have often pointed to some of the former president's speeches to suggest Lincoln never intended for the races to be considered equals. 

​Which is a whole other debate. In any case, curator James Cornelius told us he's pretty sure Lincoln read at least part of the book, which was almost 700 pages long. 

This video contains images courtesy of The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.