Tag Archives: slavery

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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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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“Can You Walk Away?” Opens Today!

A visitor reads Lincoln’s words of wisdom in “Can You Walk Away?”

The long-awaited exhibit on modern slavery in America opens to the public today at President Lincoln’s Cottage. Can You Walk Away? challenges people’s perceptions on this growing humanitarian issue at the very place President Lincoln developed his ideas on freedom in America 150 years ago.

Over 12 million men, women, and children are held in slavery across the globe today, more than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. “Plenty of Americans see slavery as an issue that was resolved during the Civil War or by the 13th Amendment in the war’s aftermath, not as a growing humanitarian crisis in our own country,” said Erin Carlson Mast, Director of President Lincoln’s Cottage. “But fundamentally, the same issue is at stake: People’s right to freedom.”

To create this exhibit, President Lincoln’s Cottage partnered with Polaris Project, a non-profit organization in Washington, DC that focuses on eliminating modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. Polaris Project operates the National Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) that has received about 45,000 calls since 2007. Worldwide Documentaries, Inc., and The mtvU Against Our Will Campaign contributed also content for the exhibit.

Visitors hear testimonies from survivors of human trafficking, learn about the state of slavery today, and have a chance to become a modern abolitionist and join in movement to stop this crisis. The exhibit is open through August 2013 in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at President Lincoln’s Cottage. Mon-Sat 9:30am – 4:30pm, Sun 10:30am-4:30pm. The exhibit is free of charge but visitor discretion is advised as the exhibit contains graphic content that may be too sensitive for some guests.

To read the AP article on the exhibit click here.

Visit the exhibit site: www.lincolncottage.org/canyouwalkaway.html

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New Exhibit Opening Presidents Day Weekend

On February 17, 2012, President Lincoln’s Cottage will open Can You Walk Away?, an exhibit on modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States. This exhibit is part of a year-long commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln developing the Emancipation Proclamation at the Cottage. It will challenge perceptions of slavery in America today and raise awareness of a growing humanitarian crisis. By posing the question “can you walk away?” this exhibit will inspire people to engage with the modern abolitionist movement and to see that slavery is an ongoing issue that requires big thinking and direct action, just as it did in Lincoln’s time.

Can You Walk Away? will be located in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at President Lincoln’s Cottage from February 17, 2012 through August 31, 2013. Visitor Center hours are Monday – Saturday 9:30am-4:30pm and Sunday 10:30am-4:30pm. For more information, visit our website: http://www.lincolncottage.org

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How the Northwest Territory Influenced Lincoln’s Views on Slavery

By Beth Roberts

Recently I have been thinking about the states that made up the Northwest Territory, especially Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It seems to me that the region’s shared values and institutions helped inform Lincoln’s growth over time.

Lincoln’s father, Thomas, was against slavery. That is one of the reasons he moved his family from Kentucky into Indiana. Lincoln had seen slavery; he thought slavery was wrong, but he initially wasn’t an abolitionist. His more moderate views were probably a result of living in Kentucky and southern Indiana until he was 21. When his family moved to central Illinois, it was there that the region’s strong anti-slavery positions influenced Lincoln’s belief that every man … black, white, immigrant … had the right to achieve what he could through persistence and hard work. And I think it was the region itself that provided the impetus for this change.

In thinking about immigration into the Northwest Territory, one need only consider the people who moved there. Some were soldiers who had been given land for their participation in wars. Some were second or third-born sons who, because of inheritance laws, needed to make their own way in the world. Some were immigrants. They packed up their families and moved to areas where they believed if they worked hard, they could bring the land to fruition and/or provide services for communities that grew in the region. Many did achieve success and felt others, African-Americans included, should and could do the same if given equal opportunity.

Once states were formed and communities were being established, these values were manifested in the formation of educational institutions. Leaders from the Northeast wanted to provide missionaries in the region and effect reforms on society. Religious educators established seminaries and colleges, and these institutions promoted the abolition of slavery. Lane Theological Seminary, Oberlin, Hiram, and Ohio Wesleyan colleges (all Ohio schools) had prominent roles in anti-slavery discussions. When Lane Theological Seminary (Cincinnati) refused to allow African-Americans to enroll as students in 1835, several white abolitionist students left for Oberlin College in the north-central part of Ohio. There, they helped influence the decision to allow African-Americans to enroll at Oberlin. Hiram College, then known as Western Reserve (Connecticut) Eclectic Institute, was in northeastern Ohio where anti-slavery sentiment was strong. And in Delaware, Ohio, home to Ohio Wesleyan, Frederick Douglass spoke about the evils of slavery. Closer to Lincoln’s home was Knox College in Galesburg, IL. Knox had indirect connections to Oberlin College, and was founded by social reformer George Washington Gale, a man strongly opposed to slavery.  As a state legislator, Lincoln had voted to grant Knox a charter in 1837.

With settlers’ propensity toward self-reliance, and anti-slavery sentiment espoused in colleges, the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act met great resistance in the region. Lincoln wouldn’t have missed any of those discussions in local and national newspapers. His positions had been forming and were being shaped by discussions in this region over many years, and in 1858, in front of Main Hall on Knox College Campus, it is no surprise that Lincoln, believing that all men had a right to personal success and equal opportunity, denounced slavery as a moral evil during his 5th debate with Stephen Douglas.

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

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