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At the end of the Civil War, Northern officials were not yet sure what exactly freedom would entail for the millions of freedpeople in the South. The following first-person accounts by former slaves and free blacks describe their expectations, [...]
This ink-and-wash drawing depicts Lincoln's dramatic entry into Richmond, Virginia on April 4, 1865, only a day after it had fallen to Union troops in the last major battle of the Civil War. The President and his son Tad made the short journey from [...]
In the 1640s, a group of enslaved Africans petitioned the Dutch West India Company for their freedom. The company's director-general, William Kieft, agreed to grant them "half freedom" (their children were not free and they owed an annual payment to [...]
In May, 1861, Union General Benjamin Butler offered military protection to runaway slaves in Virginia, declaring them wartime "contraband." In every region touched by the war, African-American men, women, and children flocked to the protection [...]
In addition to abolishing slavery in the rebellious Confederate states on January 1, 1863, Lincoln's Proclamation announced that the Union Army and Navy would accept black men in their ranks. Nearly 200,000 African Americans joined Union forces by [...]
In 1862, American painter Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) made trips to Union encampments to witness and sketch the war's events. Throughout the war, African-American men, women, and children escaped slavery by fleeing to Union encampments. Union [...]
After emancipation, many former slaves immediately searched for family members who had been sold away during slavery. They used whatever scant information they had and frequently placed advertisements like this in southern newspapers.
This essay describes the circumsances surrounding one of Eastman Johnson's most famous paintings, A Ride for Liberty–The Fugitive Slaves.
Despite his personal opposition to slavery, when President Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861 he insisted that his constitutional duty was to keep the nation together, not to abolish slavery. He conducted the first year of the war with the goal of [...]
The spirit of the American Revolution inspired some slaveholders to manumit, or free, their slaves. In 1782, Virginia passed a law that allowed slaveholders to set slaves free in their wills, where before manumission required a special act of the [...]