Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

Allen Guelzo’s book leads us into contested territory. For more than a generation after the Civil War, Francis B. Carpenter’s painting “The Emancipation Proclamation,” portraying Lincoln as the great emancipator, occupied an honored place in many American—including African American—homes. The terrain began to shift during the 1960s civil rights era, as questions and criticisms emerged about Lincoln and slavery. In the early 1990s the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War increased interest in the war among new audiences, but included the assertion by historian Barbara Fields that the slaves freed themselves—with little credit given to Lincoln. In 2000 Lerone Bennett, former editor of Ebony magazine, charged, in Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, that Lincoln was a racist who, in the Emancipation Proclamation, acted only from cynical military expediency.

 

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