Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson: The American Dilemma of Race and Democracy seeks to explore how the collision of races shaped American democracy in the lives, thought, and actions of three of the nation’s most important presidents. Each of them led the nation in a different epoch, during times that had their own set of historical circumstances that shaped constructions of race: Jefferson at the very beginning of the republic, as the nineteenth century dawned and the institution of slavery flourished; Lincoln when the country had expanded into a continental empire and fell into civil war over slavery; and Wilson when, simultaneously, the United States emerged as a leader on the world stage and consolidated legally sanctioned apartheid at home. As great and brilliant presidents, they constitute a kind of trinity, partly because no other chief executives have communicated the ideals of democracy so effectively or eloquently, to both their fellow citizens and the peoples of the world, even as they violated principles for which they ostensibly stood.
Cooper and Knock have brought these three leaders together in this unique and significant collection of essays written by leading scholars in the field. Contributors include Jean Harvey Baker, David W. Blight, John Milton Cooper Jr., Eric Foner, Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas J. Knock, Erez Manela, Manning Marable, Peter S. Onuf, and Lucia Stanton.