Thomas Nast Portfolio



“Emancipation,” Harper’s Weekly, January 24, 1863,
p.56-57. Wood engraving.

     The Emancipation Proclamation culminated the antislavery movement. President Abraham Lincoln promulgated the act on January 1, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. At the top of his cartoon celebrating this event, Nast links emancipation to patriotism with the cheering female figure of Columbia, an early symbol of the United States. As he seeks to answer those who utilized racism to oppose abolition, Nast predicts that free (and northern) institutions will make self-reliant, respectable, and cheerful workers of the formerly brutalized slaves. At the bottom right-center, a plantation owner treats his workers with respect, tipping his hat to them, in contrast to whip-wielding master pursuing a runaway slave opposite. But also note that Nast assumes that freedmen will continue to work as farm laborers who remove their hats completely in respect to their employers. As laborers they will remain subordinate, while planters will learn that fair treatment will make their workers more reliable and productive.

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