I give fairly regular quizzes in my classes. In my Civil War course I tend to give students a question that integrates their reading for the week. I am interested in both whether they’ve retained the relevant content and the extent to which they can evaluate it. Last week we concentrated on the events that led to Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in July 1862. We discussed the First and Second Confiscation Acts, the actions of Generals Butler and Hunter, pressure from Radical Republicans, the movements of fugitive slaves, the end of slavery in Washington D.C. and the territories and, of course, the flow of events on the battlefield by mid-summer 1862. It is very important to me that my students get beyond the “Great Emancipator” view of Lincoln. Students should understand the complexity of events that led to emancipation and they should be asked to evaluate Lincoln’s place in this overall process. I agree that the “Who Freed the Slaves Debate” has been played out, but that should not prevent us from continuing to reevaluate Lincoln’s importance in this important process. With that in mind I decided to ask my students to respond to the following question:
To what extent was Abraham Lincoln and an actor or a reactor in the chain of events that led to his issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the summer of 1862? Your answer should include references to relevant individuals, events, and concepts.
Want to take the quiz? Go ahead and I will even give you a grade.