From the introduction:
Inspired by conscience and guided by principle, abolitionists took a moral stand against slavery that produced one of America’s greatest victories for democracy. Through decades of strife, and often at the risk of their lives, anti-slavery activists remained steadfast in the face of powerful opposition. Their efforts would ultimately force the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics, and fuel the split between North and South that would lead the country into civil war.
On display from June 5 through September 27, 2003, “Abolitionism in America” documents our country’s intellectual, moral, and political struggle to achieve freedom for all Americans. Featuring rare books, manuscripts, letters, photographs, and other materials from Cornell’s pre-eminent anti-slavery and Civil War collections, the exhibition explores the complex history of slavery, resistance, and abolition from the 1700s through 1865. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view some of Cornell Library’s greatest treasures, including a manuscript copy of the Gettysburg Address written by Abraham Lincoln, a manuscript copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, and a copy of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln and members of Congress.
Curated by Petrina Jackson and Katherine Reagan. View the exhibit here: “I will be heard!” Abolitionism in America
Image Credits: Featured: Frederick County, Maryland, Court Document. Slave Purchased and Freed by her Mother, 1831. This document alludes to the poignant story of Nancy Richardson, a mother who worked diligently and ultimately purchased freedom for her enslaved daughter, Floria Barnes. This testimony legally certifies that “Floria Barnes a negro woman now before me is the identical negro woman who was heretofore purchased by her mother Nancy Richardson, and who was by the Said Nancy Richardson, manumitted and set free…” Cornell University, Gift of Gail ’56 and Stephen Rudin; Image: Anti-Slavery Tokens, 1838. “These United States issued copper tokens feature Josiah Wedgwood’s famous image of a shackled and kneeling slave, with anti-slavery sentiments on the reverse side.” Cornell University, William P. Stein Memorial Endowment. Both images as seen on “I Will Be Heard.”
The historical record of the American Civil War includes a vast amount of visual material—photographs, illustrated news periodicals, comic publications, individually-published prints, almanacs, political cartoons, illustrated envelopes, trade cards, greeting cards, sheet music covers, money, and more. The era’s visual media heralded an unprecedented change in the production and availability of pictorial media in everyday life and an innovation in the documentation of warfare. In the last decade, a remarkable amount of these materials, previously confined to libraries, historical societies, and museums, has become available on the Web, and in the last generation drawn the attention of humanities scholars.
In July 2012 the American Social History Project held a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on The Visual Culture of the Civil War. For two weeks, thirty college and university teachers from across the United States explored the array of visual media that recorded and disseminated information about the war and the ways these old and new forms of visual representation and communication shaped Americans’ understanding on both sides of the conflict. This website features presentations by historians, art historians, and archivists who discussed their research with institute participants. Each presentation is accompanied by a gallery of archival images; a set of primary documents that illuminates aspects of the subject; and a bibliography of books, articles, and online resources for further investigation….
Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer. Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery. First Edition. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012.
The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most important documents in American history. As we commemorate its 150th anniversary, what do we really know about those who experienced slavery?
In their pioneering book, Envisioning Emancipation, renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery and a way to understand the photos as documents of engagement, action, struggle, and aspiration.
Envisioning Emancipation illustrates what freedom looked like for black Americans in the Civil War era. From photos of the enslaved on plantations and African American soldiers and camp workers in the Union Army to Juneteenth celebrations, slave reunions, and portraits of black families and workers in the American South, the images in this book challenge perceptions of slavery. They show not only what the subjects emphasized about themselves but also the ways Americans of all colors and genders opposed slavery and marked its end.
Filled with powerful images of lives too often ignored or erased from historical records, Envisioning Emancipation provides a new perspective on American culture.
Daniel C. Littlefield, “Reflections on the History Behind the Poetry of Natasha Trethewey.” Historically Speaking 14, no. 1 (2013): 15–18.
Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard: Poems. First Edition. Boston: Mariner Books, 2007.
“Rita Dove, Pulitzer-Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States as well as of the Commonwealth of Virginia, introduced the nation’s newest Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey’s first published volume of poetry by quoting James Baldwin: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”1 In considering Natasha Trethewey’s work, focusing mainly on her Pulitzer-Prize winning volume Native Guard, I will ruminate on the history behind some of the poems, or rather the history the poems suggest rather than the personal story they might tell. I am particularly struck by four themes in this volume. There is the theme of violence, most particularly of domestic violence that recalls a personal tragedy and has ramifications that extend far beyond the South, the locus of her poetry, and even beyond the nation. But there is also the violence engendered by war and racism, by dispossession and deprivation, and although these ills also extend far beyond the South and even beyond the nation, I want to contemplate them mainly in the region James Cobb has called “the most southern place on earth.” He was referring to the Mississippi Delta, or more particularly to the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, “the common flood plain of the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers.” It is an area that David Cohn described as culturally extending from “the lobby of the Peabody hotel in Memphis” to “Catfish Row in Vicksburg.”2 But I will follow the Mississippi River to the Gulf Coast and include Louisiana, as Trethewey does in her work, and as many people do who live and work in this section of the country….”
The Conversation Blog at the Chronicle of Higher Ed hosted a roundtable on Spielberg’s recent release Lincoln:
As viewers flock to see Lincoln, and reviewers rave about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, historians are raising different issues: How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? What does it leave out? The Chronicle Review asked several scholars to weigh in.