Without a doubt, it is one of the most significant documents–and turning points–in U.S. history.
As the late historian John Hope Franklin put it: “Although the Presidential decree would not free slaves in areas where the United States could not enforce the Proclamation, it sent a mighty signal both to the slaves and to the Confederacy that enslavement would no longer be tolerated.” The 13th amendment to the U. S. Constitution, ratified by Congress in 1865, outlawed slavery in all states.
To mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, this year institutions ranging from the Library of Congress, to local churches and civil rights organizations, will sponsor events, panels and presentations. At the National Archives in Washington D.C., for example, the following events are scheduled:
- January 11, Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery. Historians Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer discuss the impact of emancipation. They also have published a book, Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, about this period of history.
- January 24, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865. Annette Gordon Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Professor of Law and History at Harvard University, will lead a panel discussion.
- January 30, A Declaration of Freedom: Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation and its Legacy of Liberty. The National Archives Afro-American History Society sponsors this panel.
In addition, the Library of Congress will display the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, handwritten by President Lincoln, for six weeks beginning Jan.3. The display also includes personal letters and diaries from that period.
But thanks to digital technologies, many resources are conveniently available online. Among them are:
- A 1993 essay written by historian John Hope Franklin, titled, “The Emancipation Proclamation An Act of Justice,” published on the website of Prologue, a magazine of the National Archives and Records Administration.
- Slave narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), 1936-1938. This collection contains more than 2300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. There are also audio recordings of former slaves.
- The History Channel offers two videos that explore the history of emancipation and the Civil War. The titles are The Emancipation Proclamation, and Civil War Turning Point.
- “The Meaning and Making of Emancipation,” a free eBook published by the National Archives. It’s available for your iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, Nook, Sony Reader, PC or Mac. Download this eBook here.
- The Chicago History Museum has placed its Civil War classroom resources online in one location. The resources, which include lesson plans for elementary and high school classes, are arranged by subject including Abraham Lincoln; Emancipation Proclamation; black Soldiers; abolitionist movement and northern racism; the soldier’s experience, and photography.
Read the full text of the Emancipation Proclamation here.
It’s your turn. Seek to understand, and to interpret, the lessons of history. Share your thoughts about this (or any other) period of U.S. history. Consider ramifications of history for institutions, individuals and society.
Voice your reflections in your own blog, infographic, podcast, video, or through your favorite social media outlet.
Know that your voice is unique, valuable–and thanks to ever-improving digital technologies, powerful. Advanced digital technologies have emancipated you (and your voice) from traditional gatekeepers.
Use your voice.