Image 'Emancipation', c1865

TLF ID M008756

This is an engraving printed in black and rose celebrating the Proclamation of Emancipation by US President Abraham Lincoln on 1 January 1863. The artist, Thomas Nast, has placed a domestic scene of a contented ex-slave family in the centre. Above is the Statue of Freedom, which crowns the dome of the US Capitol; below, an idealised portrait of Lincoln. To the left are images of slavery. To the right are the expected results of emancipation. The engraving was made by the printers King and Baird of Philadelphia and the print published by S Bott, also of Philadelphia. It was originally published as a double-page illustration in the Harper's Weekly of 24 January 1863.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This print reflects what many northerners in the USA saw as the evils of slavery and the envisaged outcomes of emancipation. As such, it is a valuable source for modern history studies of the post-Civil War period in the USA and for the year 9 history depth study elective Movement of peoples (1750-1901), which studies the influence of the industrial revolution on the movement of peoples throughout the world, including the transatlantic slave trade.
  • The inhumanity of slavery and the slave trade had been chronicled in the abolitionist literature from the early 1800s and are set out here - the slaving ship loaded with captives; the pursuit of fugitive slaves; floggings; brandings; slaves driven to the fields at the end of a whip; and the sale and separation of families. The family is central to this illustration and it may have been one of the first US illustrations to suggest that a black family could be like a white family.
  • The rosy vision of African American life after emancipation was rarely fulfilled, particularly in the south. Freedom from slavery did not mean equality with white people and racism was deeply engrained. Jim Crow laws in southern and many western states disenfranchised African Americans and set up a system of segregation authorised by Supreme Court decisions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that was upheld by white supremacist violence.
Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Thomas Nast
  • Description: author
  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Person: Thomas Nast
  • Description: author
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.