Niagara Gazette

Columns

September 25, 2012

BRADBERRY: Free at last ... but when?

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — We now know that Lincoln drafted the preliminary Proclamation over the summer of 1862 but held off on announcing it because of the tide of the war; after the Battle of Antietam in late August, he finally decided to release it.

Historians, mired in debate and controversy for the past 150 years about Lincoln's painfully deliberative approach point out that neither version of the proclamation covered five slave-holding Union border states that were freed in separate federal actions, but as Ayers says, most scholars now view Lincoln as shrewd.

As Brett Zongker noted in his recent article, “Lesser-known Emancipation Document Gets Spotlight “ (Huffington Post, Sept. 21 2012), “Slaves also had decided by the time Lincoln was drafting his proclamation in the summer of 1862 that they had a role to play in the war”, says historian Thavolia Glymph of Duke University.

They were flocking to Union soldiers to declare allegiance with the north.

"The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation essentially affirms what the slaves have been saying all along – that you can't win it without us," Glymph said.

Lincoln had considered a number of ideas on how to end slavery. In 1861, though it was never enacted, he announced a plan for Delaware and other border states that would pay people to free slaves they owned, and, according to some historians, he also contemplated encouraging slaves to return to Africa.

By the 1970s there was considerably more information available about Lincoln, the Civil War, and the former slaves’ actual contributions to the development of the United States. This was the result, in part, of the civil rights movement's drive to infuse black history into the mainstream American consciousness through the media and especially in the classrooms.

Until now, there has been little written history available about the real connections between the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad, in the Niagara Falls region, African Americans and Afro-Canadians, for example.

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