The Emancipation Proclamation

Image Exhibit

The following cartoons, illustrations, and photographs - all created between 1862 and 1864 - illustrate the various reactions and views on the Emancipation Proclamation by both the North and South.

This lithograph of the famous painting by David Gilmour Blythe shows the artist's imaginative rendering of a pajama-clad Lincoln drafting the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln's hands rest on the Bible and the Constitution to demonstrate the moral justice and lawful necessity of issuing the Proclamation.

President Lincoln, writing the proclamation of freedom

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This lithograph of Francis Carpenter's painting shows Lincoln reading his initial draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet for the first time, on July 9, 1862. The cabinet's reaction to the Proclamation was mixed. Ultimately, Secretary of State William H. Seward convinced Lincoln to wait to issue the Proclamation until after a Union military victory.

Carpenter EP image 700

The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, provided to be the Union "victory" that Lincoln needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Antietam lithograph

Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, just five days after the Battle of Antietam. This picture shows Lincoln meeting with Union Maj. Gen. George McClellan at Antietam in October 1862.

Lincoln at Antietam

Public reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation was varied, but many viewed Lincoln as the "Great Emancipator" of the slaves, as this 1862 lithograph from Philadelphia illustrates.

Lincoln, the Great Emancipator

This drawing shows a rendering for The Emancipation Memorial, unveiled in Washington, D.C., in 1876. It reflects the vision of Lincoln as the Emancipator of the slaves.

Emancipation Memorial

While many saw Lincoln as the great emancipator, still others, especially in the South, felt that the Emancipation Proclamation directly threatened their way of life, since it promised freedom to the slaves in Confederate states that did not re-join the Union by January 1, 1863. This political cartoon from the Southern Illustrated News portrays Lincoln as a sinister devil, with the Emancipation Proclamation at his feet.

"King Abraham" Before and After Issuing the Emancipation Proclamation

President Lincoln hoped the Emancipation Proclamation would cripple the Confederacy, since the Confederate states were using slaves to help with the war effort. This political cartoon shows a "Confederate" cat trying to tip over the "Union" cat in the cap, when another cat - with the name "contraband" on its collar, to represent the slaves freed by the Proclamation - arrives on the scene to help the Union.

"The Great Remedy" cartoon on Emancipation

This 1863 political cartoon shows Confederate President Jefferson Davis and President Lincoln responding to the issues of emancipation, slavery, and the war. On the left, Davis angrily ponders how emancipation will affect the Confederate war effort, while Lincoln forges ahead with the Proclamation.

Butler Hanged, the Negro Freed (1863)

The Emancipation Proclamation also affected foreign nations' involvement in the war. Some nations, such as Britain, had considered supporting the Confederacy. However, many Europeans were also against slavery, and when the Proclamation was released, they supported Lincoln's decision to free the slaves. Thus, the Emancipation Proclamation was also a brilliant political move on Lincoln's part to keep foreign nations from becoming involved in the war. In this political cartoon, "John Bull" is a caricature representing England. A slave begs him to not support the Confederacy now that Lincoln has issued the Proclamation.

John Bull cartoon

After the Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, slaves escaped to Union army camps to gain their promised freedom. These slaves were considered "contraband" or "property taken during a time of war" in order to make the Proclamation constitutionally valid. This drawing from Harpers' Weekly shows a group of "contraband" entering a Union camp.

Harper's Weekly drawing of contrabands

This stereo view photograph also shows a group of "contraband," recently freed African-Americans.

image of slave family

The Emancipation Proclamation also allowed for the creation of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), allowing African-Americans to fight for their freedom as part of the Union army.


This Harper's Weekly 1864 drawing shows USCT troops freeing slaves in South Carolina.

"Colored Troops Liberating Slaves" (1864)

This 1863 drawing by the famous illustrator, Thomas Nast, contrasts the lives of African-Americans before and after the Emancipation Proclamation. This drawing which demonstrates Lincoln as the "Great Emancipator" illustrates the enduring legacy of President Lincoln.

Emancipation, drawing by Thomas Nast

                                                              All images courtesy of Library of Congress.

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