Document Lab

Here is where we try to introduce students to the process of actually “doing history” by offering direct access to various types of primary source documents.   For historians, reading and analyzing such documents offers the closest equivalent we have to a “laboratory” experience.  And nothing matters more for understanding the complicated story of emancipation’s development as a policy than learning how to conduct a close reading of the key documents.

US Constitution and Slavery

Excerpts from the Constitution and 1787 Debates

Understanding the Federal Consensus

Famous Anti-Slavery Speeches

Contrabands and Confiscation

Contraband of War

Congressional Confiscation Acts

Abraham Lincoln

Selected Quotations on Slavery & Emancipation

Confronting the Slave Trade

September 22, 1862 Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation

Witnesses to Emancipation

See Matthew Pinsker’s essay, “Emancipation Moments,” for a narrative that ties together several of these fascinating first-hand accounts.

Orville H. Browning (1861-64) –Diary entries from a senator and close friend of Lincoln’s

Anna Harrison Chase (1862-63) –1936 newspaper interview with former contraband in DC

James Rumley (1862-63) –Diary entries from North Carolina slaveholder during Union occupation

Prince Rivers (1862-63) –Story of remarkable sergeant in First South Carolina Volunteers

First South Carolina Volunteers (1863)  –Emancipation Day in Port Royal, South Carolina

Thomas Rutling (1863) –Post-war interview with former Tennessee slave

James T. Ayers (1864) –Diary entry from Union recruiting agent in Alabama

Louis Hughes (1865) –Recollections from a former Mississippi slave

Thomas Ashby (1865) –Recollections from the son of a Virginia slaveholder

Booker T. Washington (1865)  –Most famous account of emancipation moment in Virginia

John Greenleaf Whittier (1865) –Poem celebrating passage of the Thirteenth Amendment