Freedom for Everyone? Not quite.

Featured Image Taken From Library of Congress


Context: Slavery of both Africans and African Americans within the United States existed from the creation of our country in 1776 until the 13th Amendment of the Constitution in 1865. Slavery played a pivotal role in the founding of the United States, with the majority of our founding fathers even benefitting from slave labor during their time. While the constitution was written to suggest that everyone deserved basic civil liberties, the actions of politicians during this period of time suggested that they believed otherwise.

Context: Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. Abraham Lincoln is often known as “The Great Emancipator” due to relatively progressive stance (for the time) against slavery. However, despite this, Lincoln’s stance on slavery was not necessarily one based entirely on the grounds of morality. From the beginning, Lincoln ran on a platform of prevention for the spread of slavery, but it took many years for him to finally recommend emancipation as a means of ending slavery. Lincoln argued that someone should not be enslaved simply for having a darker complexion or a lesser intellect, but did not explicitly argue that people from African descent were equal to those of European descent. While Lincoln certainly played a major role in emancipation, it is not entirely clear whether he justified his decision as a political narrative, or if he felt strongly against the unequal treatment of African Americans.

Context: The Emancipation Proclamation effectively changed the focus of the Civil War from that of preserving the Union to that of ending slavery. On January 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln gave The Emancipation Proclamation which served multiple purposes: The first was to emancipate any slaves from territories that were liberated by the Union, and the other was to reduce the potential for European intervention in the war on behalf of the Confederacy. Shortly following the Civil War, the 13th Amendment would be made to The Constitution. However, despite the end of slavery becoming a reality, slaves were not allowed to be citizens of the United States, they could not vote, and they were still subject to many instances of segregation based off of nothing more than their complexion.

Context: This map shows the progression of the Civil War from the years 1861-1864. In particular, it shows the progression of the Union further South as they began to get a greater foothold against the Confederacy.

Questions for Students:
1. Why would the Emancipation Proclamation reduce the potential for European intervention in the Civil War?

2. What other political advantages could come out of ending slavery within the United States?

3. Why would the Confederacy (in Southern regions) be more attached to slavery compared to the Union?

Instructional Goals and Sample Answers:
The learner will analyze the text, the map, and the provided images as context clues to answer the provided questions.

1. The Emancipation Proclamation could reduce European intervention by establishing a different motive for war within the Union. Rather than the war being a simple disagreement where either side could potentially be incorrect, the slavery narrative allowed the Union a definitive motive that was aimed at ending something that made the United States look like hypocrites to the rest of the world, given the wording of our constitution.

2. A few advantages could come out of it. The party that freed the slaves, assuming they could pass voting right acts could have a new source of voters. Another advantage would be that the United States could appear more noble on the world stage, which could benefit foreign policy. Finally, as it was stated above, it allowed for a more “1 on 1” war between the Union and the Confederacy – one of the things that helped ensure Union victory during the Civil War.

3. Slavery was more appealing to those in Southern climates because there was more farming occurring in those areas. In particular, the South is known for fruit growing and cotton plantations. These were huge industries that would be made exponentially more expensive and difficult if slave labor was abolished. The colder Northern climates were more focused on technology and big industries that did not require/ did not benefit heavily from slave labor making it less of a necessity.

4 Replies to “Freedom for Everyone? Not quite.”

  1. Great work, Chris! Lincoln is often viewed as a faultless, moral paragon for his work toward emancipation… this is how I was taught in high school U.S. history! In fact, I thought this was the case until a year ago, when I actually had a college level U.S. history class. Lincoln is certainly a commendable president, but he isn’t without fault. I’m interested in exploring this further in our class tomorrow—your post gave me a great foundation!

  2. Great effort, Chris. I like how you managed to explore the nuances of this topic while also acknowledging how certain historical events played out. Certainly gave me a lot to think about, especially how certain perceptions have formed over time.

  3. I like the sequence that you arranged your sources into, and that these photos prompt your audience to consider specific variables, individually. The concluding photo of the Civil War map allows the reader to investigate how the Emancipation Proclamation played into the conflict as a whole. An interesting read, Chris!

  4. First off, this is great prelude to todays class. We will be examining the context for understanding modern concepts of racism and freedom in the 19th century. You have found some interesting images to support that investigation – I especially like the slaves photograph and manuscript of Emancipation Proclamation.

    Two considerations for increasing the value of these artifacts for students:

    1. Your source links for each image point back to the image itself in the archive. They should point back to the page that has both the image and information about it. For example – who took the photograph of the slaves in front of home. That way readers can follow the sourcing.

    2. Emancipation Proclamation. It would be useful to include a link to readable text so students could explore specifics.

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