‘Emancipating Lincoln’: A Pragmatic Proclamation by MELISSA BLOCK
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. The 150-year-old document has suffered damage from handling and light deterioration. You can learn more and get a closer look at the five-page proclamation at the National Archives website.
One hundred fifty years ago, in the summer of 1862, the Civil War was raging and President Abraham Lincoln was starting to scribble away at a document, an ultimatum to the rebellious states: Return to the Union, or your slaves will be freed.
Emancipation was a “military necessity,” the president later confided to his Cabinet. Lincoln called it “absolutely essential to the preservation of the Union. We must free the slaves,” Lincoln said, “or be ourselves subdued.”
“He knew that emancipation would start the tidal wave of freedom and that it was irreversible once it started,” says Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, “but he also knew that more work would be required.”
Holzer offers a rethinking of the Emancipation Proclamation in his new book, Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory. It’s his 42nd book on Lincoln and the Civil War.
Though revisionist critics now say the proclamation was weak — “delayed, insufficient, and insincere” — Holzer disagrees. He says Lincoln very carefully calibrated the timing and delivery of this act. READ/LISTEN TO MORE