Abraham Lincoln’s New Orleans Journey by Sydney Beveridge
February is full of special occasions and holidays, and this Tuesday marks two of them–Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and Mardi Gras. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, and the famed president’s birth is celebrated every year, along with President’s Day. This year, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday)—the day before the 40-days of Lent begin—also falls on February 12.
Social Explorer look at an intersection of these two events with related data.
One of the cities most associated with Mardi Gras is New Orleans. The city also played a significant role in the life of a young Abraham Lincoln, and might have helped set him on the path towards the Emancipation Proclamation and ending slavery.
Back in 1828, a teenaged Lincoln got a job sailing a flatboat down the Mississippi River. This was the midwesterner’s first trip down south. Three years later, he and two friends were hired for another boat trip.
The contrast between living in Springfield, Illinois, and venturing into the South was striking. According to the 1830 census, in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield (Sangamon County) had just 13 slaves (nine women and four men) out of a population of 12,960 people (0.1 percent). Meanwhile, in New Orleans, one out of every three residents was a slave (33.4 percent of the 49,826 people).
Various accounts state that the prominent southern slave trade that the young Lincoln saw on this trip heavily influenced him. On this journey, he witnessed the horrors of a slave auction—an experience said to have prompted him to proclaim an oath to combat slavery, which he fulfilled decades later as president.