History and Commemoration: The Emancipation Proclamation at 150
Journal of the Civil War Era 3, no. 4 (December 2013): 452-457
Posted: 26 Nov 2013
Date Written: December 1, 2013
Marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation encourages debate about the past. January 1, 1863, does not stand out as a singular event, the commemoration of which silences the past. Instead, these articles capture some of the rich albeit messy past that was the Civil War and emancipation. Recovering that process, one that included congress members, generals, soldiers, sailors, and enslaved people, resituates the Emancipation Proclamation as history rather than myth. We learn how the proclamation was related to Congress’s emancipatory legislation and how its implementation relied on the resistance of formerly enslaved insurgents. The analysis of new sources, including visual culture, means that historical interpretation will continue to evolve. Transnational approaches suggest how the proclamation’s influence was far-reaching in the realms of law and state-building. And while the season of commemoration may draw to a close, historians history and commemoration will have many opportunities to collaborate on exhibitions and films, the sorts of spaces in which confrontations between history and fiction may find a productive tension. Commemoration need not rest on silence.
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