Tag Archives: Emancipation Proclamation

New Site Under Construction

Readers of our blog:

You might be wondering why we haven’t posted much to this blog recently (our newsletter notwithstanding). It’s not because there hasn’t been plenty of Lincoln news and anniversaries. Instead, we have something exciting to announce (in addition to the fact that a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln is going to be on display in the Cottage from September 22 until February 2013!!!)

For the last two months we’ve been undertaking a complete redesign of our website, www.lincolncottage.org. The  website combines all of the wonderful content dozens of staff members have written for this blog, with a refreshing, sleek look that is easily navigable. The result is a brand-new website that will make it even easier to: explore detailed information about the history of the Cottage, plan a visit to Lincoln’s summer retreat, and connect with us to make your President Lincoln’s Cottage experience even more meaningful. (Once the site is fully live and navigable, we’re going to shut down this blog since the current site will be routinely updated with press releases, new research, event announcements and a whole lot more.)

We’re in the middle of launching the revitalized website, with the same address of http://www.lincolncottage.org. So stay tuned and bear with us as we start an exciting new chapter of President Lincoln’s Cottage’s online experience.

If you have any questions, please contact us at LCottage@savingplaces.org. Thanks!

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The First Reading of The Emancipation Proclamation: July 22nd, 1862

By Scott Ackerman

As we move through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, 2012 has already seen the anniversary of the bloodbath at Shiloh, and of the meat-grinder known as the Seven Days Battles. This fall, Antietam and Fredericksburg will effect commemorations worthy of the soldiers who fought and died there 150 years ago. Inextricably linked to the events at Antietam and Fredericksburg will be the commemoration of Emancipation, as Antietam provided the victory Lincoln needed to announce his proclamation to the public, while the disaster at Fredericksburg led many to wonder if Lincoln would follow through with his redefinition of the war. Amid all the celebration and thoughtful reflection, the anniversary of Lincoln’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet on July 22nd should not be overlooked. Although it marked neither the beginning, nor the end, of a profound revolution in American society, it was nonetheless a critical moment in the translation of slave agency into federal emancipation policy.

As we pause to remember what this mid-summer moment meant for the slaves still toiling on Southern fields, for the soldiers who would provide much of the Emancipations Proclamation enforcement, and for generations who struggled with the meaning of freedom in the war of the Civil War, let us also reflect on why Soldier’s Home proved so critical to the Emancipation saga. Gaining a respite from the crush of office seekers and social obligations of the White House, while enjoying the cool hillside breezes gave Lincoln the opportunity during those critical summer months of 1862 to fully consider the breadth, scope, and ultimately, the entire meaning of the Union war effort. Consequently, as you (hopefully) visit our site this weekend, this summer, or even this year, take a moment to picture Lincoln wandering these same rooms and grounds exactly 150 years ago, contemplating and crafting a document that would change the nature of the Union war effort, and ultimately, the nation as a whole.

Mr. Ackerman is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Juneteenth: The Emancipation of Texas Slaves

By Curtis Harris

As a nation we can celebrate January 1, 1863, as the day Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect and declared freedom for 3.5 million of America’s slaves held in rebellious areas. December 6, 1865 is an occasion worthy of celebration, too. That is the day Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment thereby making this measure of abolition a part of our Constitution. These twin federal death knells for slavery are only part of the story, though. Emancipation had been an ongoing process in the United States since the Declaration of Independence.

Pennsylvania passed its Gradual Abolition Act in 1780 while the Revolutionary War was still raging. Under the Articles of Confederation, slavery was banned from the Northwest Territory. New York celebrated the final emancipation of slaves within its borders on July 4, 1827. During the Civil War, Missouri and Maryland abolished slavery via state action.

In Texas, the celebration of emancipation takes place on June 19th.

Far removed from most of the major action of the Civil War, Texas and its population were little affected by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the war. In a curious coincidence, one of the few pitched battles of the war in Texas took place on January 1, 1863.

While Abraham Lincoln was signing the Emancipation Proclamation, the prized port of Galveston was the scene of a desperate engagement in the war. The day ended with rebel victory thus ending federal occupation of the city that had been ongoing since October of 1862.

However, with the surrender of the major rebel armies in the eastern theaters of the war in the spring of 1865, federal forces once again landed in Galveston and finally re-established constitutional authority in the Lone Star State on June 18th, 1865.

The next day, Major-General Gordon Granger stepped out on the balcony of the Ashton Villa, a home that served as the headquarters for the rebel army in the region during the war, and read General Orders No. 3:

Gordon Granger

Major-General Gordon Granger, Library of Congress (1860s)

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Ever since this momentous declaration, June 19th has been celebrated as Emancipation Day in Texas with the unique and distinctive moniker of “Juneteenth”.

Along with readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, Juneteenth, like any good summer holiday, also serves as a time for barbecue and a day spent with friends and family. Dancing, singing, poetry recitations and even beauty pageants are held as the day has grown into a wider celebration of black culture in Texas. After over a century of observance by the state’s black population, the Texas legislature officially made Juneteenth a state holiday in 1979 and remains one of the many reminders of emancipation and freedom in the United States.

Mr. Harris is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Reflections on Evolving Views

By Erin Carlson Mast

One hundred and fifty years ago, our country was deeply divided over an issue of individual liberty—slavery.  We are currently divided over yet another issue of personal freedom.   What’s more, political analysts and journalists are drawing comparisons between Obama’s recent self-proclaimed evolving views on the issue of gay marriage to  Lincoln’s evolving views and policies regarding slavery. As a place that spends a great deal of time studying the ideas and actions of our 16th President, as well as the political, economic, social, and religious culture of his day, when Lincoln makes national news, President Lincoln’s Cottage feels an obligation to provide non-partisan, thoughtful comment for reflection.

Consider this: Today, many of our visitors want to know why it took Lincoln so long to act on slavery.  The answer is complex.  Many things only seem obvious in retrospect.  Lincoln is, appropriately, most remembered for the Emancipation Proclamation, developed at the Cottage, in which he helped an entire population take a step closer to enjoying their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But when he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, while living here, there was strong opposition.  (It is worth noting, Lincoln did not have a spotless record when it came to other issues involving civil liberties.  And let there be no mistake, many other populations, such as women, were still being denied rights in Lincoln’s lifetime that we take for granted today.)

On the other hand, consider this:  Enslaved people were unable to change their status through democratic means—they were denied the right to vote.   Many enslaved persons did not let that deter them—they self-emancipated.  Today, more Americans are empowered to affect change if they choose to engage in the political process.   Granted, people are still disenfranchised in our country, but more people today can participate in the process and let their voice be heard than could in Lincoln’s time. Participating in the process is Lincolnian.

Lincoln pledged an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.  But Lincoln notably heralded the Declaration of Independence as the purest statement of who we are as a people.  When some of Lincoln’s contemporaries argued that the Founding Fathers didn’t really mean to imply that all men were truly created equal, he challenged them, suggesting that if we walked down that path, there would be no end to who could be denied their rights.

Ms. Mast is the Director of President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Celebrating United States Citizenship at President Lincoln’s Cottage

oath

The children take the Oath of Allegiance as they become citizens of the United States.

By Alison Mitchell

April 24, 2012 was an especially exciting day at President Lincoln’s Cottage as we hosted our first Naturalization Ceremony at the site. 23 children from 16 countries were sworn in as United States citizens during this special ceremony in the Emancipation Room. Sarah Taylor, Washington District Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), administered a special Oath of Allegiance and presented Certificates of Citizenship to the children, ages 6-14.

Erin Mast

Director Erin Mast congratulates one of the new U.S. citizens.

Cottage Director Erin Carlson Mast gave congratulatory remarks to the children. “Lincoln believed the United States could be a symbol of hope for people around the world seeking liberty, justice, and equality. Each one of you is part of that hope,” Mast said. Following the ceremony, the children and their families received a tour of the Cottage. What a special experience it must have been for those children to hear about how Lincoln rose up the ladder and lived the “American dream” through hard work and perseverance. It is so rewarding to know that those children will now have the same opportunity!

View Erin Mast’s full remarks here.

Ms. Mitchell is the Development Coordinator at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Former First Lady Laura Bush Endorses Cottage Exhibit

Mrs. Laura Bush visiting the Cottage in 2007.

By Alison Mitchell

Mrs. Laura Bush, a Trustee and vocal supporter of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, first visited President Lincoln’s Cottage in November 2007 prior to our Grand Opening. Mrs. Bush recently endorsed our latest exhibit, Can Your Walk Away?, stating: “This is the ideal year to visit President Lincoln’s Cottage, the very place where Lincoln nurtured and developed the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago. The Cottage’s current exhibit, Can You Walk Away?, provides an invaluable lens through which the public can view our country’s ongoing struggle with slavery – both in the historical context and in present day trafficking.  Exhibits like this are evidence of the way historic places can shape the way we live in the present.” We are grateful for Mrs. Bush’s continued work to raise awareness about both historic preservation and the modern crisis of slavery.

Alison Mitchell is the Development Coordinator at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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The Power of Partnerships

partners in exhibit

In the exhibit, from left to right: Callie Hawkins, President Lincoln’s Cottage Curator of Education, Elizabeth Eubank, Content Developer at Howard + Revis Design Services, Tracy Revis, Principal at Howard + Revis Design Services, and Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project.

By Kerry Plunkett

What is a partner? From the time of kindergarten arts and crafts projects to marriage, it’s one of those words that we hear all of our lives. From spouses, to superheroes, and now historic sites, partners are those who share and support each other in a joint endeavor or cause. Historic sites can take a cue from our favorite childhood superheroes, because now we all have a chance to stand against a silent problem.

This past February, the special exhibit, “Can You Walk Away? Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking in the United States,” opened at President Lincoln’s Cottage. This exhibit is an expression of the power partnerships can give to historic sites. We hear all the time that two heads are better than one, right? With the help of Polaris Project, the world’s leading organization working to combat human trafficking, “Can You Walk Away?” offers visitors a call to action. Polaris Project CEO, Bradley Myles, described his hope saying “we believe strongly that with a big enough movement and enough actors joining this fight while using the right strategies to intervene, we can eradicate human trafficking.”[1] Using the inspiration of President Lincoln, we too can now become a partner in working against modern slavery.

But, why consult and collaborate with partners to meet this goal? It’s no secret that teamwork is an important aspect of life, from school projects, to marketing teams, to museum leaders. President Lincoln’s Cottage and Polaris Project can serve as an example for what goals and legacies successful partners can achieve. Slavery has taken on a modern and more hidden life since the time of President Lincoln. It is difficult for Americans to believe such acts still happen in our country today. How can we end the silence? By building on the hope visitors leave the Cottage with, and gathering as many voices as we can to speak out. Not only is 2012 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, but President Obama declared this past January Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Voices are what make the difference. President Lincoln used his oratory to speak against the issue of slavery. Today, Polaris Project and President Lincoln’s Cottage invite visitors to use their voices to do the same. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little more powerful, maybe even the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Have you discovered how many slaves work for you? Take the online survey to discover how widespread and pervasive modern slavery is at: http://slaveryfootprint.org.

Ms. Plunkett is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

[1] The interview with Bradley Myles, and Callie Hawkins, President Lincoln’s Cottage Curator of Education, is available online at http://www.lincolncottage.org/canyouwalkaway.html.

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