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Thenceforward, and Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

Evening Program

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0351
Print of Abraham Lincoln holding the Emancipation Proclamation, ca. 1862; anonymous (Library of Congress)

Abraham Lincoln’s September 1862 Emancipation Proclamation radically changed the terms of the American Civil War. The proclamation re-framed the Union’s war aims by making the destruction of African-American chattel slavery a formal objective. It was also one of the most controversial and consequential political actions in American history.

In the North, Lincoln's political opponents portrayed it as a tyrannical—and grossly unconstitutional—expansion of the powers of the presidency. Many in the president's own Republican Party criticized Lincoln and the proclamation for doing too little, and failing to strike a mortal blow against slavery. The proclamation, and the manner in which Lincoln implemented it, would profoundly shape the latter years of the war, and has consequences that reverberate more than a century and a half later.

Christopher Hamner, an associate professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University, explores the political, social, and military effects of the Emancipation Proclamation and what prompted Lincoln to make such a dramatic move as the war closed its second year.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)