June 11, 2020 / 2:35 PM / a month ago

Fact check: Photograph of unidentified black man mislabeled as ‘the real Abraham Lincoln’

Users on social media are sharing the portrait of a black man falsely claiming it shows “the real Abraham Lincoln”. The original version of the photograph, which features an unidentified man, is visible in the archive of the Library of Congress.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

The image includes the text “Africanus President Abraham Lincoln 24th President of the United States” and alleges the picture is hidden in the Library of Congress.

The most popular iteration of the image visible here was posted on September 6, 2015 and has been shared over 221,000 times on Facebook. Recent shares of the post are visible here , here and here

The original photograph used in the claim, visible here ( bit.ly/2AZ427Y ) , is actually a daguerreotype ( here ) of an “unidentified man with beard” made between 1854 and 1860.

It is part of the American Colonization Society Records, a collection that includes material related to African-American emigration to Liberia, Africa ( here ).

The portrait was taken by Augustus Washington, one of the few African-American daguerreotypists, whose career has been documented here and here . Washington moved from Hartford, Connecticut to Liberia in the early 1850s. Other portraits by Washington are visible here ( bit.ly/2B18keY and bit.ly/3hkhZy8 ).

The posts refer to Lincoln being the 24th president of the U.S. Lincoln became the 16th president of the U.S. in 1861. He won re-election in 1864 and was assassinated on April 14, 1865 ( here ). Grover Cleveland, the only president to return for a second term four years after his first, was the 24th president of the U.S. ( here )

Abraham Lincoln was portrayed throughout his life. There are about 130 known photographs of him (here , here) and his portraits have been collected and archived by multiple institutions (here , here , here , here).

Rumors about Lincoln’s racial heritage have been circulating for years, as well as other presidents’ including Thomas Jefferson, Warren Harding and Dwight Eisenhower ( here , here ). These claims, however, are considered unsubstantiated and have not been acknowledged by historians ( here , here ).


False. The man portrayed in this photo is not Abraham Lincoln. The picture was taken by daguerreotypist August Washington and shows an unidentified man. It can be viewed on the Library of Congress’ website.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts   here  . 

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