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Emancipation Proclamation: A Primary Source Analysis

Lesson Plans by Richard Cleggett

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Emancipation Proclamation Lesson Plans


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.

Student Activities for Emancipation Proclamation Include:



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What Was the Emancipation Proclamation?

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.


Discussion Questions for The Emancipation Proclamation

  1. What was the document's purpose?
  2. How did the Emancipation Proclamation influence the outcome of the Civil War? Slaves’ status?
  3. How can we interpret the Proclamation as a military tactic? A moral document?
  4. How did different segments of Americans view and interpret the document? What did it mean to them and why?
  5. Why is the Proclamation a defining document of American History?
  6. Why/how did the Emancipation Proclamation set a precedent of human freedom for future generations?

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•   (English) Emancipation Proclamation   •   (Español) La Proclamación de la Emancipación   •   (Français) Proclamation de L'émancipation   •   (Deutsch) Die Emanzipationsproklamation   •   (Italiana) La Proclamazione di Emancipazione   •   (Nederlands) The Emancipation Proclamation   •   (Português) A Proclamação da Emancipação   •   (עברית) ההכרזה על שחרור העבדים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) إعلان تحرير العبيد   •   (हिन्दी) मुक्ति उद्घोषणा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Прокламация об Освобождении   •   (Dansk) Den Emancipationserklæringen   •   (Svenska) Emancipationkungörelsen   •   (Suomi) Vapautuminen Julistus   •   (Norsk) The Emancipation Erklæring   •   (Türkçe) Kurtuluş Beyannamesi   •   (Polski) Proklamacja Emancypacji   •   (Româna) Proclamatia   •   (Ceština) Proklamace Emancipace   •   (Slovenský) Vyhlásenie o Emancipácii   •   (Magyar) Az Emancipáció Kiáltvány   •   (Hrvatski) Procjena Emancijacije   •   (български) Прокламацията за Еманципация   •   (Lietuvos) Emancipacijos Aktas   •   (Slovenščina) Emancipacija Razglasitev   •   (Latvijas) Emancipāciju Proklamēšana   •   (eesti) Emantsipatsiooni Väljakuulutamine