By Kerry Lester, AP
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — For years, librarians at a small central Illinois library gossiped that a tattered book lying on one of its shelves justifying racism may have been in the hands of none other than Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator.
On Tuesday, state historians confirmed that theory by announcing Lincoln’s handwriting had been found inside the cover of the 700-page text, at the same time taking great pains to offer reassurance that the former president who ended slavery in the U.S. didn’t subscribe to the theories at hand, but likely read the book to better educate himself about his opponents’ line of thinking.
“Lincoln was worried that the whole idea that you could segregate one group of people based on some brand new thinking would just carry on into other realms,” Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Curator James Cornelius Tuesday said of Lincoln. “He could foresee the whole country coming apart over the issue that different people could be barred from different things based on different qualities.”
“Types of Mankind” makes a case that different races were formed at different times and places and thus can’t be equals. It was seized upon by slave owners during the Civil War era as support for their way of life. The authors suggested that Africans and Native Americans were fundamentally different from Caucasians, and enslaving them was part of the natural order.
Like so many other supposed Lincoln artifacts discovered in places the former president frequented, the authenticity of the inscription remained in question for years, until a new library director decided to have it inspected by experts at the state historical museum this summer.
“We didn’t know whether we should take it seriously,” Vespasian Warner Public Library Assistant Director Bobbi Perryman said.