A vivid depiction of the issues and tensions surrounding abolition and the development of Lincoln’s responses to them as the United States plunged into the Civil War.
From the first, Bolden adopts a personal voice that infuses her narrative with urgency—“Over the years, we rejoiced when a Northern state abolished the abomination. We agonized when a slave state entered the union.” The account opens with scenes of hushed abolitionist vigils as the hour that the proclamation would officially go into effect approaches; it closes with glimpses of the joyous celebrations that followed. In between, the author tracks rising tides of both rhetoric and violence, as well as the evolution of President Abraham Lincoln’s determined efforts to forge a policy that would serve military, political and moral necessities alike. Along with relevant sections of the Constitution and the final proclamation’s full text (both with glosses), the author adds to her narrative a heavy infusion of impassioned rhetoric from contemporary writers and orators. These, plus a spectacular set of big, sharply reproduced prints, photos and paintings, offer cogent insights into major events and the overall tenor of the public discourse.
A convincing, handsomely produced argument that the proclamation, for all its acknowledged limitations, remains a watershed document. (endnotes, bibliography, extensive timeline) (Nonfiction. 12-15)