Many of you have viewed the Open Yale Course on the Civil War and Reconstruction taught by David Blight. It’s a wonderful opportunity to take a survey course with one of the nation’s most respected Civil War scholars. I am currently making my way through Professor Jonathan Holloway’s course, African American History: From Emancipation to the Present. Below is the first lecture. [Interested in the American Revolution? Check out Joanne Freeman’s course.]
I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying James Oakes’s new book, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865. At some point soon I will share some thoughts, but for now I wanted to highlight the cover art by Theodor Kaufmann. “On to Liberty” is in my mind the most compelling visual interpretation of the emancipation experience of tens of thousands of slaves during the Civil War. Here we have a group of fugitive slaves walking confidently toward the sound of Union guns off in the distance. The flash of the cannon and United States flag function as a beacon for this particular group. It’s interesting that there are no adult black men present. But what I want to point out is that apart from one child, who is wearing boots, everyone else is barefoot. Whose boots might they be? Are they military? If so, Confederate? Perhaps they belong to the boy’s former owner? What might that mean?
Unfortunately, this may be the closest we get to any formal acknowledgement of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation by the federal government. I love the broadside/poster theme and the use of one of the oldest letterpress print shops in the country to create the image. In addition to the stamp, you can also purchase a limited number of signed copies of the poster. Planning on picking up a sheet today.
Update: Thanks to the Virginia Civil War 150 Commission for reminding me that the White House released a Presidential Proclamation acknowledging the EP 150.
For a nation that prides itself as the leader of the free world, I’ve always found it curious as to why this day is not set aside as a national holiday. On this day 150 years ago President Abraham Lincoln did what he promised he would do 100 days earlier by issuing his final Emancipation Proclamation. We can quibble about whether the proclamation ought to be understood narrowly as a military or moral document, but what we are always left with is the fact that it paved the way for the eventual freeing of 4 million slaves. That it did so can and should be celebrated by all Americans.
Click here for Eric Foner’s excellent Op-ed column on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation in the New York Times.
Just arrived home from a wonderful 10-day trip to Germany. My wife and I spent time with family in Bremen before moving on to Bonn/Koenigswinter and Frankfurt. This was my first trip to Germany during Christmas and I have to say that this Jewish kid from New Jersey was impressed. There really is something special about the way Germans celebrate the season, from decorating their trees with real candles to meeting friends and family at the local Christmas market. It’s much less commercial and much more family oriented.
The food was simply amazing. I could easily hibernate for the rest of the winter on the amount of Bratkartoffeln and German meats that I ate during the week. And let’s not even go into the pastries, chocolates and cookies. Every morning started with a relaxing trip to the local cafe. No one bothers you with a check or with having to vacate your table. You can sit as long as you like. My kind of place. As always I am sad at having to return. I find Germany to be completely absorbing and I can even envision spending a year abroad if the opportunity ever presents itself.
On this 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year. Let’s make it a good one.
For now it’s off to bed.