Lincoln Seeks Job for Black White House Servant

Saturday, March 16, 1861

President Lincoln looks for a job for William Johnson, an African-American who has accompanied Lincoln from Springfield to act as a valet. White House servants object to his color so Lincoln seeks other employment. He writes Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles: “The bearer (William) is a servant who has been with me for some time & in whom I have confidence as to his integrity and faithfulness. He wishes to enter your service. The difference of color between him & the other servants is the cause of our seperation. If you can give him employment you will confer a favour on Yours truly.”

Lincoln eventually finds employment for Johnson at the Department of the Treasury next door to the White House but Johnson continues to act as a valet and barber to the President. He will accompany Lincoln to Gettysburg in November 1863. Like Lincoln, he will fall ill with variloid. Unlike the President, Johnson will die. Lincoln will pay for Johnson’s funeral and handle his estate in January 1864.

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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