The Emancipation Proclamation’ – 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation by Holzer, Medford, & Williams

‘The Emancipation Proclamation’ is arguably one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. Since its announcement by the then President Abraham Lincoln on the first of January 1863 it provided a great tool of empowerment to the African Americans in the U.S. it is with the effect of proclamation that Holzer, Medford, and Williams provide a three-dimensional view of the executive order effected by the then U.S President. In their book, the authors provide an analysis on the influence of the presidential proclamation on African Americans by exploring the legal, political, and military exigencies of the document. The authors proceed by outlining the role of the proclamation; however, it is evident that they are not contended with the policies outlined in the document. To them, the proclamation failed to ‘clearly convey the importance of freedom to its beneficiaries’ (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 2).

Holzer, Medford, Williams (2006) proclaim Lincoln’s desire to end the slavery and bring ‘black freedom’ (2). To Lincoln, the need for members of the ‘black community’ to contribute in all aspects of the society was imminent. From the book, it can be determined that ‘blacks’ contributed largely to the growth of White Americans (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 3). Thus, the move to end slavery brought about rifts from the Whites. To Holzer, Medford, and Williams (2006), Lincoln’s earlier opposition to slavery contributed much to the rise of the civil war (p. 3). At this point, it is important to mention that, each author provides their view of the ‘The Emancipation Proclamation.’ Edna Medford covers the ‘imagined promises,’ with Frank Williams and Harold Holzer focusing on the political, legal, and military and freedom aspects of the proclamation respectively.

In the book, Edna Medford believes that Abraham Lincoln deserves to be accorded the title of being a “Great Emancipator” (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 3). Her views are based on Lincoln’s efforts to tackle the problem that was a restraint to the founding fathers by providing “equality and opportunity” to the members of the African American community (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 3). Medford claims that the draft of the proclamation was perpetuated on the need for Africans to enjoy the true meaning of “freedom” (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 4). However, at the advent of the civil war, fewer people remained concerned about relinquishing freedom to the “Blacks” (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 3). Their determination to have a grasp on the true meaning of “freedom” could only be realized through the “black men and women” taking action (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 3).

Edna Medford’s essay also reveals that Abraham Lincoln was strongly opposed to “slavery” even before he took office in 1861 (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 4). In any case, Lincoln’s desire to end “slavery” was opposed to an earlier declaration that exposed members of the African American community to slavery (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 3). In this essay, it can be revealed that the “Kansas –Nebraska” required the slaves to be regarded as “human property” and the owner could take their property wherever they wished to (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 5). Certainly, Lincoln, in his own words, proclaimed that “White or Black, everyone is equal of every other man” (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 3). Lincoln’s thoughts about ending slavery failed to garner much support for the Senate rate; however, it increased his political mileage nationally (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 5).

After Lincoln had taken office, Medford asserts that Lincoln’s thoughts slightly steered away from ending the slavery (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 10). However, Lincoln would slowly bring out the relevance of “black freedom” to the American citizens (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 39). However, Medford expresses her discontent on the proclamation by claiming that it did not create enough opportunities to members of the African American community (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 40). The author supports her arguments by pointing out that, most of the freed slaves languished in poverty and even though they were experienced labourers, acquiring or leasing land remained out of sight (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 42). To her, slavery took a new shape when the freed slaves ultimately found their way back in the hands of their previous “Confederate owners” (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 42).

In the second essay of the book, Frank Williams tackles Lincoln’s braveness to push for a declaration that would be met with resistance from the slave owners. Williams views Lincoln as a “political genius” whose efforts to end slavery could not even be deterred by the American Civil War (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 48). Unlike other authors’ Williams provides a legal perspective of the presidential proclamation by stressing on its effectiveness rather than the weak points of the directive. Williams state that Lincoln took a “risky” political stance by publicly campaigning against slavery (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 51). In this essay, it can further be established that the sixteenth president of the U.S took ‘a hard line” on the opposition by suggesting that no single citizen had the right of “doing wrong” (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 52).

Williams essay mentions the prejudice that Abraham Lincoln faced during his reign to advocate for the abolishment of slavery especially emanating from the media (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 80). In fact, Lincoln would dedicate his time to read through newspaper editorials. To some, he was viewed as the “wooden head in Washington” and this made him question his existence as a human being by comparing himself to a “dog” (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 80). Despite the eminent challenges, the then U.S President managed to convince the military to take heed of his directive and his genuine leadership to the Congress made it possible for the amendment of the constitution. It is on this notion that Williams sees Lincoln as a person who “brought change” in America (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 81). On the other hand, Harold Holzer takes a different approach in the book by providing a wider perspective on the benefits of “freedom” among the African Americans (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 84). His focus is based on the presentation of the proclamation in art, celebrations, and print. Through examining various presentations, Holzer comes to the conclusion that “The Emancipation Proclamation” was the “crowning achievement” of President Lincoln (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 85).

In summary, “The Emancipation Proclamation” remains among the most important periods of history in America. In their book, Holzer, Medford, and Williams provide three distinct perspectives of the proclamation. However, Medford takes a different twist by looking at the negative side of the presidential directive. True to her words, Medford clearly outlines the areas where the declaration failed by mentioning that much did not change after freeing the slaves. On the other hand, Holzer’s essay is based on already published articles to give his positive opinions, sharing the same sentiments with Williams. Nonetheless, the book is an interesting read providing important details about the transformation of America from a country that promoted slavery to a nation that leverages on “equal opportunities” regardless of racial background among all people (Holzer, Medford, Williams, 2006, p. 90)





Holzer, H., Medford, E., & Williams, F. (2006). Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views.

Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

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