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The American Civil War and African American Emancipation: A Documentary Analysis

Abraham Lincoln’s pivotal role in emancipating four million African Americans is examined using primary source analysis. A careful analysis of the documents tells the story of emancipation coming to fruition. Lincoln emancipated African Americans under great duress and conflict, some reluctance and without any intent for it to initially benefit the African American. The documents also reveal Lincoln’s drastic transformation in his position towards slavery over the course of his presidency. And what became clear “is that Lincoln hated slavery not only because of its brutality and inhumanity, but first and foremost because it constituted the theft of another person’s labor-both of the slave and that of the white men who had, in effect, to compete disadvantageously in the market place with slave labor.”(Gates, Lincoln on Race & Slavery, page xxx) However, Lincoln was adamant about maintaining the Union at whatever the cost. This unit will explore how Lincoln came to free the slaves, evaluate the various transformations he experienced to provide a deeper understanding of the changes he endured to make emancipation a reality and to provide a connection to the Civil War using stories of emancipation that give witness to the role African Americans played in securing their own freedom. Upon completion of the lessons and activities in this unit, students will be able to formulate their own conclusions as well as construct their own inferences of the American Civil War and African American Emancipation based on this in depth study of primary source images and documents related to the Civil War and emancipation.

Keysiah Middleton

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