The emancipation of African-American slaves in the 1863 during President Lincoln's administration represented the nation fulfilling the ideals and principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence of 1776.

The nation's journey to the Emancipation Proclamation was a long and difficult one. It involved the emergence of a northern abolition movement, an increasingly pro-slavery South, and bitter and costly Civil War. During the conflict, emancipation finally occurred due to the actions of African Americans, the Union military, and the brilliant leadership of Abraham Lincoln.

Questions to pose in a lecture and/or class discussion on Emancipation:

1. Why did the nation fail solve the issue of slavery during the era of the American Revolution?

2. How and why did views about bondage become more polarized in the North and South in the decades before the Civil War?

3. What role did African Americans play in the movement toward emancipation, both before and during the Civil War?

4. Assess Abraham Lincoln's leadership on the issue of emancipation. Why did he seemingly resist freeing the slaves in the early part of the Civil War? Why did he eventually embrace emancipation?

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  • The Abolition Catastrophe, or the November Smash-Up

    Lincoln's support of abolition is portrayed here as a liability in his race to the White House against Democratic candidate George B. McClellan. At top a smoothly run train "Union" heads straight for the White House. The engine is labeled…

  • Emancipation Ordinance of Missouri. An ordinance abolishing slavery in Missouri ( Library of Congress )

    One of two splendid, large allegorical prints commemorating the ordinance providing for the immediate emancipation of slaves in Missouri. (See also no. 1865-1.) The ordinance was passed on January 11, 1865, three weeks before the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S.…

  • The House that Jeff Built ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: An extended and bitter indictment of Jefferson Davis and the Southern slave system. The work consists of a series of twelve vignettes with accompanying verse, following the scheme of the nursery rhyme "The House That Jack…

  • Slave Pen -- Alexandria ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: Interior view of a slave pen, showing the doors of cells where the slaves were held before being sold.

  • The (Fort) Monroe Doctrine ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: On May 27, 1861, Benjamin Butler, commander of the Union army in Virginia and North Carolina, decreed that slaves who fled to Union lines were legitimate "contraband of war," and were not subject to return to…

  • In the swamp ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: Card showing runaway slave hiding in swamp from pursuers.

  • Contrabands accompanying the line of Sherman's march through Georgia / from a sketch by our special artist. The last scene. John Garth and Olivia Ruthermayne. The blot on the Ruthermayne escutcheon ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: Four illustrations: contrabands accompaning the line of Sherman's march through Georgia; dead girl(?) on bed and man standing alongside; John Garth and Olivia Ruthermayne seated; Ruthermayne escutcheon (barber supplies).

  • Contrabands escaping ( Library of Congress )

  • Contrabands coming into camp in consequence of the proclamation ( Library of Congress )

    Illustration shows former slaves sitting in and around a wagon drawn by a mule.

  • Bermuda Hundred, Va. African-American teamsters near the signal tower ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: Photograph from the main eastern theater of the war, the Army of the James, June 1864-April 1865. Shows group of seven "contrabands" dressed in old Union uniforms standing in front of a wagon and shack.

  • Culpeper, Va. "Contrabands" ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: Photograph from the main eastern theater of war, Meade in Virginia, August-November 1863. Shows two African American men sitting in front of a tent, one with cigar and the other with a soup ladle.

  • Emancipation ( Library of Congress )

    Library of Congress Summary: Thomas Nast's celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War. Nast envisions a somewhat optimistic picture of the future of free blacks in the United States. The central scene shows…

  • President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation ( Gilder Lehrman Collection )

    Gilder Lehrman Summary: President Lincoln signed only three copies of this printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, produced in San Francisco and designed by a fourteen-year-old boy. Hannah Johnson, the daughter of a fugitive slave, wrote President Lincoln about his Emancipation…

  • The First reading of the Emancipation Proclamation...[engraving after Carpenter] ( Gilder Lehrman Collection )

    Gilder Lehrman Collection Summary: Fully titled "The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet. From the original picture painted at the White House in 1864." Large "premium engraving from 'The Independent.'" The image depicts Lincoln and his cabinet…

  • Abraham Lincoln President of the United States Signing the Emancipation Proclamation ( Gilder Lehrman Collection )

    Black and white engraving showing Lincoln seated at a table, facing forward with a handwritten copy of the Emancipation Proclamation in his left hand. Engraved by John Serz after a painting by W. E. Winner. Published by John Dainty in…