2014 Theme for Black History Month
2013 Theme for Black History Month
At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality:
The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington
Lincoln Reading the Emancipation Proclamation to His Cabinet, by Alonzo Chappel (Boston Museum of Fine Arts - www.mfa.org)
The year 2013 marks two important anniversaries in the history of African Americans and the United States. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation set the United States on the path of ending slavery. A war-time measure issued by President Abraham Lincoln, the proclamation freed relatively few slaves, but if fueled the fire of the enslaved to strike for their freedom. Increasingly those in bondage streamed into the camps of the Union Army, reclaiming ownership of their bodies. As Fredrick Douglass predicted, the war for the Union became a war against slavery. The actions of both Lincoln and the slaves made clear that the Civil War was in deed, as well as in theory, a struggle between the forces of slavery and freedom. The dismantlement of slavery had begun.
A century later in 1963, America once again stood at the crossroads. Nine years earlier, the Supreme Court had outlawed racial segregation in the public schools. Yet, the nation had not committed itself to equality of citizenship. Segregation and innumerable other forms of discrimination made second-class citizship the extra-constitutional status of non-whites. In the White House, John F. Kennedy, another progressive president, temporized over the legal and moral issue of his time. Like Lincoln before him, national concerns out-weighed his personal beliefs. On August 27, 1963, hundreds of thousands of Americans, blacks and whites, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, marched to the memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, in pursuit of the ideal of equality of citizenship. It was on this occasion that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famious speech, , I Have a Dream." Just as the Emancipation Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery, the March on Washington, as it became known, numbered the days of second-class citizenship.
In marking the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History invites all Americans to join us in studying and celebrating how two different generations of African Americans each transfromed America.
2013 Black History Theme summary from the Association for the Study of African American Life & History at www.asalh.org
Download The Meaning and Making of Emancipation, an e-book commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation featuring documents held in the National Archives.
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