In the past 30 years, scholars have pushed back against the idea that Abraham Lincoln, “The Great Emancipator,” was the primary force behind emancipation. Instead, some argue, enslaved people worked to free themselves. This inquiry on American slavery invites students to join this historical debate, evaluating the facts behind these arguments and the significance of the arguments themselves. Studying the writing of 20th-century historians alongside 19th-century laws providing gradual emancipation and the 13th Amendment, students practice thinking and acting like historians.
In recent years, Juneteenth, a previously little-known marker of the arrival of the Union army in Texas and the liquidation of slavery in the most distant corner of the Confederacy" has become an anniversary celebration of liberation.