Emancipation of the Negroes – The Past and the Future (from "Harper's Weekly")

Thomas Nast American, born Germany
Publisher Harper's Weekly American

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On January 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order based on his constitutional authority as commander in chief. All enslaved persons in Confederate territory were declared to be forever free. Nast held strong liberal views and his family had emigrated from Germany to New York in 1848 to escape persecution. Here he created a striking, complex image for Harper’s Weekly that celebrates the promise inherent in the proclamation. In a large central vignette an African American family enjoy domestic tranquility around a "Union" stove while, immediately below, a baby symbolizing the New Year breaks the shackles of a kneeling slave. Scenes at left detail horrors associated with slavery–whipping, branding and the separation of families. At right, these are contrasted with future blessings–payment for work, public education, and enjoying one’s own home, goals that could only be realized if the Union won the war.

Emancipation of the Negroes – The Past and the Future (from "Harper's Weekly"), Thomas Nast (American (born Germany), Landau 1840–1902 Guayaquil), Wood engraving

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