Student Contest Resources
Visualizing Emancipation is a map of slavery’s end during the American Civil War. It finds patterns in the collapse of southern slavery, mapping the interactions between federal policies, armies in the field, and the actions of enslaved men and women on countless farms and city blocks. It encourages scholars, students, and the public to examine the wartime end of slavery in place, allowing a rigorously geographic perspective on emancipation in the United States.
The Freedmen and Southern Society Project was established in 1976 to capture the essence of emancipation by depicting the drama of the time in the words of the participants: liberated slaves and defeated slaveholders, soldiers and civilians, common folk and the elite, Northerners and Southerners. Drawing upon the rich resources of the National Archives of the United States, the project’s editors pored over millions of documents, selecting some 50,000. They are presently transcribing, organizing, and annotating them to explain how black people traversed the bloody ground from slavery to freedom between the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and the beginning of Radical Reconstruction in 1867. The documents vividly speak for themselves, and interpretive essays by the editors provide historical context. The documents convey with first-person immediacy the experiences of the liberated: the quiet personal satisfaction of meeting an old master on equal terms and the outrage of being ejected from a segregated street car; the elation of a fugitive slave enlisting in the Union army and the humiliation of a laborer cheated out of hard-earned wages; the joy of a family reunited after years of separation and the distress of having a child involuntarily apprenticed to a former owner; the hope that freedom would bring a new world and the fear that, in too many ways, life would be much as before.