Why We Can’t Wait


Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. Dr. King points to him as one of the few presidents in American history who took significant measures to advocate for Black Americans, since he passed the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted legal freedom to enslaved Black people. Although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Dr. King points out that the next 100 years were full of racism and discrimination for Black Americans, meaning that, by 1963, the need for true freedom was 100 years in the making.

Abraham Lincoln Quotes in Why We Can’t Wait

The Why We Can’t Wait quotes below are all either spoken by Abraham Lincoln or refer to Abraham Lincoln. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Why We Can’t Wait published in 2000.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The pen of the Great Emancipator had moved the Negro into the sunlight of physical freedom, but actual conditions had left him behind in the shadow of political, psychological, social, economic and intellectual bondage. In the South, discrimination faced the Negro in its obvious and glaring forms. In the North, it confronted him in hidden and subtle disguise.

Related Characters: Martin Luther King, Jr. (Dr. King) (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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Abraham Lincoln Character Timeline in Why We Can’t Wait

The timeline below shows where the character Abraham Lincoln appears in Why We Can’t Wait. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Complacency, Ignorance, and the Status Quo Theme Icon
...played an important role in the founding of the country. They also know that, although Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years ago, true racial equality has yet to come. (full context)
Chapter 1: The Negro Revolution—Why 1963?
History, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Complacency, Ignorance, and the Status Quo Theme Icon
...it also gave Black Americans an occasion to reflect on how little had changed since Abraham Lincoln tried to establish racial equality. Although Lincoln freed Black people from the horrors of slavery,... (full context)