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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