The Emancipation Proclamation is an important document for students to study and understand in in relation to American History. The Proclamation itself serves as a window to the language and ideas of its time and how President Abraham Lincoln aimed to end the raging Civil War. The aftermath of the document still defines the US to this day.
The institution of slavery was one reason the country was engulfed in civil war. States wanted to be able to have more control over whether or not a state, both existing and future, would have legal slavery. Slave labor was extremely profitable for many plantation owners and many people did not want to give up their wealth or dependence on a free labor force. The Civil War began in April of 1861 when South Carolina seceded from the Union.
Created in 1862, the Proclamation was enacted January 1st, 1863. In it, Abraham Lincoln carefully words the provisions and actions that will not only secure a Union victory, but also free those presently enslaved. Lincoln first declares all slaves to be freed in rebellious states, leaving slavery to still exist in the border states to ensure their loyalty. Lincoln also declares that all slaves who choose to fight for the Union will be granted freedom. Over 180,000 African American soldiers joined the Union ranks, proving instrumental in the Union’s victory. The document itself was key to ending both the Civil War, and slavery in the United States.
By analyzing this document, students will be able to connect and explain the motives behind it and its implications for the presidency and the nation. Students will also be able to interpret the complex language of the time, to better understand and connect it to today’s political and social world. Through the activities above, students can gain a holistic perspective on one of the defining documents of human rights.