African Americans, slavery, emancipation, race relations
Thomas Nast drew these scenes as illustrations for Harper's Weekly on January 24, 1863, three weeks after Abraham Lincoln signed his Emancipation Proclamation. This later lithograph was a slightly altered depiction with a portrait of Lincoln in the bottom center. Nast reissued the lithograph in 1865 to celebrate the end of the Civil War. The central scene shows a comfortable domestic view, anticipating a happy future for free people. On the left, slavery-era scenes depict escaping slaves pursued through a swamp, a family torn apart on the auction block, and punishments of a woman being whipped and a man being branded. Juxtaposed on the right depicting postemancipation scenes, a couple sits outside a cabin, the man playing a banjo; children happily leave home for school; and African Americans are paid wages. Yet, a small scene shows African Americans field-workers deferentially removing their hats for a white man on a horse, who tips his hat to them. Even in a world of freedmen, African Americans were relegated to agricultural work and a lower position than that of white people.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs (LC-DIG-pga-03898)
Philadelphia: S. Bott
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Nast Emancipation LOC 03898u
Thomas Nast, “Emancipation,” Remaking Virginia: Transformation Through Emancipation, accessed November 28, 2023, https://www.virginiamemory.com/online-exhibitions/items/show/422.