Reconstruction and Emancipation in South Carolina

At the end of America's Civil War, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation finally took effect in the South when previously seceded States rejoined the Union.

Thomas Nast, who created many political cartoons and other illustrations during the Civil War, created this illustration in 1865. It depicts a very optimistic view of the future for the newly freed slaves.

The Library of Congress maintains the illustration. Its curators provide the following information about it (and Nast's objectives in creating it):

Thomas Nast’s celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War.
Nast envisions a somewhat optimistic picture of the future of free blacks in the United States.

The central scene shows the interior of a freedman's home with the family gathered around a "Union" wood stove. The father bounces his small child on his knee while his wife and others look on.

On the wall near the mantel hang a picture of Abraham Lincoln and a banjo. Below this scene is an oval portrait of Lincoln and above it, Thomas Crawford's statue of "Freedom."

On either side of the central picture are scenes contrasting black life in the South under the Confederacy (left) with visions of the freedman's life after the war (right).

At top left fugitive slaves are hunted down in a coastal swamp. Below, a black man is sold, apart from his wife and children, on a public auction block. At bottom a black woman is flogged and a male slave branded. Above, two hags, one holding the three-headed hellhound Cerberus, preside over these scenes, and flee from the gleaming apparition of Freedom.

In contrast, on the right, a woman with an olive branch and scales of justice stands triumphant. Here, a freedman's cottage can be seen in a peaceful landscape. Below, a black mother sends her children off to "Public School." At bottom a free Negro receives his pay from a cashier. Two smaller scenes flank Lincoln's portrait. In one a mounted overseer flogs a black field slave (left); in the other a foreman politely greets Negro cotton-field workers.

Thomas Nast’s dreams for an immediately better future for former slaves did not materialize as he had hoped. After President Lincoln’s assassination, government officials focused less on the President’s hopes for a future with “malice toward none” and more on retribution for the Southern "rebellion" which led to a war between the states.

Click on the image for a full-page view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5186stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 18, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Sep 01, 2017

Media Credits

Illustration by Thomas Nast in 1865. Engraved by King & Baird—and published, in Philadelphia, by S. Bott, circa 1865—the illustration is online via the Library of Congress. Public domain due to lapsed copyright.


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"Reconstruction and Emancipation in South Carolina" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 18, 2016. Apr 25, 2019.
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