Emancipation Proclamation Anniversary, Part 1

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Amistad will be hosting an exhibition related to slavery, abolition, and emancipation during its 2013 exhibition series. In addition, we will be featuring a series of blog posts from now through June 2013 highlighting items from our collections that speak to the topics of slavery and emancipation. Our first entry is a broadside from the William and Gene B. Haddon Collection:

Broadside poem entitled "Emancipation" by Jacob Emerson, 1863.

Broadside poem entitled “Emancipation” by Jacob Emerson, 1863.

This small broadside includes a poem entitled “Emancipation” by Jacob Emerson. Emerson was born in Bridgton, Maine, in 1776 and appeared to have lived in nearby Harrison in 1863. This broadside was printed by H.C. Little of Bridgton likely in early 1863 following President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. The March 1863 date in the lower left corner may be the date Emerson wrote the poem or the date it was printed by Little or both.

Emerson’s poem begins with the stanza “Eighty-seven years have passed and gone, / Like a dream it seems to me, / When I first breathed the vital air, / Our country was not free” and ends “January first of sixty-three, / Put forth a firm decree / The African blood of every grade, / Henceforth should all be free. / “A jubilee was then proclaimed, / In every state was told, / Just like the Jews in ancient days, / By Mordica of old.”

Although Emerson demonstrates a less-than-agreeable attitude toward Native Americans common to his day, the poem provides an impassioned abolitionist voice in support of Lincoln’s decree.

Posted by Christopher Harter

(Image from the William and Gene B. Haddon Collection. May not be reproduced without permission.)


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