A Timeline of Emancipation
In Forever Free, Eric Foner, the leading historian of America's Reconstruction era, reexamines one of the most misunderstood periods of American history: the struggle to overthrow slavery and establish freedom for African Americans in the years before, during, and after the Civil War. Forever Free is extensively illustrated, with visual essays by scholar Joshua Brown discussing the images of the period alongside Foner's text.
1787 The United States Constitution is ratified, containing several protections for slavery, including the Fugitive Slave Clause, three-fifths clause, and a cause prohibiting the abolition of the slave trade from Africa before 1808. 1829-31 Publication of Appeal ... to the Coloured Citizens of the World by David Walker and The Liberator, a weekly newspaper edited by William Lloyd Garrison, marks the emergence of a new, militant abolitionist movement. Diagram of a slave ship from an 1808 report 1831 August 22 Nat Turner launches a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, resulting in the deaths of 55 whites persons before the uprising is crushed. 1846 August Congress adjourns after intense sectional debate over the Wilmot Proviso, a proposal to prohibit slavery in all territory acquired in the Mexican-American War. 1860 November 6 Election of Abraham Lincoln as president, representing the anti-slavery Republican Party 1861 February 4 Seven seceded southern states form the Confederate States of America April 12 The Confederate attack on South Carolina's Fort Sumter begins the Civil War. A woodcut published in an 1831 account of the Nat Turner uprising May 24 Gen. Benjamin F. Butler declares fugitive slaves at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, "contraband of war," who will not be returned to their owners. August 6 First Confiscation Act provides for the emancipation of slaves employed as laborers by the Confederate army. 1862 April 16 Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation to loyal owners, and also appropriates funds for "colonization" of freed slaves outside the United States. July 17 Second Confiscation Act frees slaves of disloyal owners. September 22 Five days after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln issues the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which warns the South that if the rebellion has not ended by January 1, he will emancipate the slaves. It also promises aid to states that adopt plans for gradual, compensated emancipation and refers to colonization of freed people outside the country. 1863 January 1 Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in areas under Confederate control. It exempts Tennessee and parts of Louisiana and Virginia and does not apply to the border states, and also authorizes the enlistment of black soldiers. "Contrabands" in Cumberland Landing, Virginia, May 1862 July 30 Lincoln insists black Union soldiers captured by the Confederate army be treated as prisoners of war, not escaped slaves as Confederate president Jefferson Davis has threatened. December 8 Lincoln issues the Proclamation of Amnesty of Reconstruction, offering a pardon and restoration of property (except slave property) to Confederates who take an oath of allegiance to the Union. 1864 September 5 New constitution of Louisiana abolishes slavery; new constitutions in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee follow suit in the next six months. November 8 Lincoln reelected as president. January 16 Gen. William T. Sherman issues Special Field Order 15, setting aside land in coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida for settlement by black families in 40-acre plots. March 3 Congress orders emancipation of wives and children of black soldiers. March 13 Confederate Congress authorizes enlistment of black soldiers. April 11 In the last speech before his death, two days after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox, Lincoln favors limited black suffrage in the South. Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, Washington, DC April 14 Assassination of Lincoln. December 18 Ratification of the 13th Amendment irrevocably abolishes slavery throughout the United States. 1866 April 9 Over the veto of President Andrew Johnson, Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, establishing citizenship of black Americans and requiring that they be accorded equality before the law, principles later written into the Constitution in the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868. John Wilkes Booth assassinates Lincoln, April 1865 1867 March 2 Congress passes the Reconstruction Act, again over President Johnson's veto, extending the right to vote to black men in the South and inaugurating the era of Radical Reconstruction, America's first experiment in interracial democracy. 1877 February After intense bargaining to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876, Democrats agree to recognize Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as president, and Hayes agrees to end federal support for remaining Reconstruction governments. A March 1867 cartoon, following the passage of the Reconstruction Act, shows President Johnson and his southern allies angrily watching African Americans vote.
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