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Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (1 January 1863) and the abolition of slavery in the United States, from colonial days until the end of the Civil War (1865).
Last Updated: Mar 15, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Public Internet Sites

Many primary source items, including letters, cartoons, and artwork, have been digitized and are freely available online. 

Lincoln Papers: Emancipation Proclamation This online exhibition of Library of Congress materials includes a timeline of Emancipation, drafts and letters pertaining to the Proclamation, and "The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet" (1866), painted by F.B. Carpenter and engraved by A.H. Ritchie.

Emancipation Proclamation.  Abraham Lincoln and Freedom, Liberty.  Lewis Lehrman.   Extensive research essays on Lincoln's personal beliefs and his Presidency, including timelines and artwork.

The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (issued September 22, 1862).  New York State Library.  Digitized copy of Lincoln's plan, with comments by abolitionist and  Secretary of State William Seward.  Includes essay by Harold Holzer, "The Second Declaration of Independence: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation." 

"The Emancipation of the Negroes, January 1863." (1863).  Drawn by Thomas Nast.  Cartoon by famous 19th century artist, originally published in Harper's Weekly.

"Contrabands . . . Under the Proclamation."   (1863).  Drawn by Thomas Nast.  Illustrates hoped-for reception of fugitive slaves by Union forces.  Originally published in Harper's Weekly.

Juneteenth. Teresa Paloma Acosta.  Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Describes this anniversary of the delayed announcement of freedom to Texas slaves.

Beyond Face Value: Depictions of Slavery in Confederate Currency (Louisiana State University) - digital image gallery of images printed on notes issued by southern governments, businesses, and railroads showing African-Americans working on plantations.  Note variations between styles used before and after the Civil War.

Resolution Proposing Amendment XIII to U.S. Constitution (American Treasures of the Library of Congress) - digital image of engrossed copy of language adopted by Congress on 31 January 1865, including signatures of Senators and Representatives voting for its passage and that of Abraham Lincoln.


The Abolitionists (PBS American Experience)

The PBS documentary, The Abolitionists, introduce the myriad of Americans, black and white, North and South, who challenged the accepted practices of slavery.


The Emancipation Proclamation

More than one hundred and fifty years ago, the festering sores of American freedom caused by slavery (euphemistically referred to as the South's "peculiar institution") became a sepsis which threatened its existence.  The political, social, and economic conflict became armed conflict in the Civil War between the nation and the states which claimed the right to secede from the Union.  About 17 months after Confederate (secessionist) and Union forces met in battle, President Abraham Lincoln announced his intention to emancipate slaves in states that continued in rebellion.  

View here the preliminary, handwritten draft of the Emancipation Proclamation (22 Sept. 1862), with edits.

His Emancipation Proclamation was issued on 1 January 1863 (a print transcription of the Proclamation is available at the linked National Archives and Records Administration site.

"When you are dead and in Heaven, in a thousand years that action of yours will make the Angels sing your praises."

-- Hannah Johnson, mother of a Northern Black soldier, writing to President Abraham Lincoln about the Emancipation Proclamation, July 31, 1863.  National Archives and Records Administration. 

Although Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Deleware, and Washington, D.C. were slave states, they did not secede.  Virgnina split into West Virginia (which stayed in the Union) and Virginia (which seceded).  As shown in the map below, the Emancipation Proclamation was target to areas not controlled by Union forces and continuing in armed rebellion.

Areas Under Emancipation Proclamation

 Map from "34a. Emancipation Proclamation" in

 Visualizing Emancipation (University of Richmond) - interactive site mapping  collapse of southern slavery, mapping the interactions between federal policies, armies in the field, and the actions of enslaved men and women on countless farms and city blocks; includes teaching resources.


Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

Cover Art
Act of Justice: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War - Burrus M. Carnahan
Call Number: eBrary
ISBN: 9780813124636
Publication Date: 2007-09-21

Cover Art
Lincoln's sword : the presidency and the power of words - Douglas L. Wilson
Call Number: E457.2 .W74 2006
ISBN: 9781400040391
Examines the style and rhetoric of three of Lincoln's most famous writings: July 4, 1861; Emancipation Proclamation; Gettysburg Address.

Cover Art
The Civil War : primary documents on events from 1860 to 1865 - [compiled by] Ford Risley
Call Number: E464.C54 2004
ISBN: 0313321264
Includes both official texts and contemporary editorials, cartoons, etc.

Cover Art
The Emancipation Proclamation : three views (social, political, iconographic) - Harold Holzer, Edna Greene Medford, Frank J. Williams
Call Number: E453.H645 2006
ISBN: 9780807131442
Describes the hopes and realities of the Proclamation from the perspectives of the slaves, the military, and popular thought; includes contemporary art.

Cover Art
Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory - Harold Holzer
Call Number: eBrary
ISBN: 9780674064409
Publication Date: 2012-02-27

Cover Art
Lincoln : a life of purpose and power - Richard Carwardine.
Call Number: E457 .C43 2006
ISBN: 9781400044566
Following the first half of the book (describing Lincoln's rise to the Presidency), the British historian-author describes Lincoln's transition to War-President and the challenge to negotiate between the various factions. [Also available in eBrary collection.]

Cover Art
Emancipating Lincoln - Harold Holzer
Call Number: eBrary
ISBN: 9780674064409
Publication Date: 2012-02-27
These seventeen hundred words are Lincoln's most important piece of writing, responsible both for his being hailed as the Great Emancipator and for his being pilloried by those who consider his once-radical effort at emancipation insufficient and half-hearted. Examining his agonizing revisions, we learn why a peerless prose writer executed what he regarded as his greatest act in leaden language.

Cover Art
The Emancipation Proclamation - Michael Vorenberg
ISBN: 9780312435813
Publication Date: 2010-01-05

Reference Librarian & Guide to Information Jungle

Ask the Reference Librarian

Ask the Sacred Heart Reference Librarians your questions about the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery in the United States.  Answers will be posted on the library's LibAnswers page and can be e-mailed to you.


Subject Headings

Abracadabra! To find the resources you want, use the "magic words" (the official Subject terms used in the library catalogue and to describe articles and books in our databases).  Information science professionals have agreed on certain key phrases to describe the subjects of library materials.  Use these terms in a subject search. If you'd like help selecting the best words or phrases, as your reference librarian for assistance. The Sacred Heart University libraries use the system developed by the Library of Congress for multi-disciplinary research libraries.  Some important subject headings for your research include:

  • Abolitionists
  • Antislavery Movements
  • Freedmen
  • Fugitive slaves
  • Indian Slaves
  • Slave insurrectionn
  • United States. President (1861-1865 : Lincoln). Emancipation Proclamation
  • Slave narratives
  • Slaveholders  
  • Slaves — Biography  
  • Slaves — Emancipation   
  • Slaves' writings, American
  • Slavery  
  • Slavery in literature
  • Slaveholders  
  • Slavery and the Church  
  • Slavery — Moral And Ethical Aspects  
  • Slavery — Social Aspects  
  • Women Slaves  

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