Published: September 11, 2012
One hundred and fifty years ago this month, President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. In it, he announced that on January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Today, Lincoln is remembered as ‘The Great Emancipator’ — but the story of emancipation is a complicated one. After all, the Emancipation Proclamation only affected the rebellious states. Slavery remained untouched in the loyal slave states Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri. And Lincoln himself was skeptical about the possibility of black and white Americans living together in the aftermath of slavery. He pursued multiple colonization schemes, convinced, for a time, that the answer lay in sending freedpeople to start new societies in Liberia, Panama, Haiti, or Honduras.
So how can we best understand Emancipation — a moral imperative, a military necessity, a political strategy? All of the above?
Please help us shape this show! Share your stories, ideas, and questions below. Do you celebrate Juneteenth? What were you taught about the end of slavery in school, and how does that square with what you know now? What would a national monument to emancipation look like?