The Emancipation Proclamation and its Role in GPO and African American History

February 5, 2014

February is National African American History Month, also known as Black History Month in the United States. One significant event in African American history happened 151 years ago.  On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing “that all persons held as slaves” in rebellious areas “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” While this Executive Order only freed slaves living in Confederate states during the Civil War, it nevertheless ultimately paved the way for the eventual abolition of slavery in America and became an important aspect of President Lincoln’s legacy.

lincoln-signs-emancipation-proclamation-on-New-Years-Day-jubilee-dayIn his proclamation of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 2013, President Barack Obama encouraged all Americans to acknowledge and celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation and “reaffirm the timeless principles it upheld.

Image: Illustration of President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, in Washington. Source: AP 

As we honor African American heritage this month, I’m reminded of the Emancipation Proclamation and the “timeless principles” President Obama was speaking of.

A symbol of equality and justice

The significance of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Proclamation during the Civil War was two-fold for African Americans. As mentioned earlier, not only did it lay the foundation for the eventual freedom of all slaves, it also allowed black men to enlist in the Union Army and Navy. This strategic Presidential “war measure” provided African Americans the opportunity to join in the fight for their freedom, in effect enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

As history teaches, the Civil War was initially about preserving the Union; however, the Emancipation Proclamation also made it about freeing the slaves– “an act of justice” that would grant African Americans, and generations to come, equal citizenship in the U.S.

For this reason, the Emancipation Proclamation remains a widely recognized symbol of freedom in American History that will forever be revered in Black History.

Fancy-Emancipation-ProclamationImage: Engraving by W. Roberts with the text of the Emancipation Proclamation. Source: Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pga.04067.

GPO’s role in the Emancipation Proclamation

But the Emancipation Proclamation also played a significant role in GPO’s own history. Did you know… the then newly established Government Printing Office printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation for President Lincoln as one of its first major tasks? The original printer’s proof version was displayed for six months at GPO’s 150th History Anniversary exhibit that opened in June of 2011. I (along with many other GPO employees and visitors) was given an extraordinary opportunity to personally view the original historic document, which contained the printer’s actual proofing marks with requested changes!

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERImage: Former Public Printer William Boarman views original GPO printer’s proof copy of the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation with Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray at the GPO history exhibit. In 1862, GPO printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation in general orders format, issued as an Executive Order from President Lincoln in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. GPO printed 15,000 copies for the War Department, which were distributed to military commanders and their troops and diplomats in foreign countries. The copy displayed at GPO contained proofing marks; those corrections were made in the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Source: GPO

The GPO history exhibit is currently open to the public with free admission, Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm at GPO’s Washington, DC, headquarters at 732 North Capitol Street NW. Unfortunately, the landmark document, which was on loan for six months from the Library of Congress, is no longer available for viewing, but many more historic exhibits are on view for free.

Visitor at GPO History Exhibit carrying Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation ISBN: 9780160887048Image: Visitor who has just purchased the GPO history book “Keeping America Informed” views the GPO 150th Anniversary History Exhibit. Source: GPO

To learn more about GPO’s role in the printing of this historic document and other important Federal publications, read GPO’s 150th anniversary history book, Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation.

However, you can view and/or read the entire Emancipation Proclamation online at the National Archives website or visit the National Archives in Washington, DC, to see the original signed document.

Teaching the Next Generation about the Emancipation Proclamation

To help parents and educators teach children about the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation and its role in Black History, the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) published the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Coloring Book: Forever Free.

National Archives 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Children's Book: Forever Free ISBN: 9780160916342Image:  Buy the family friendly 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: Commemorative Coloring Book: Forever Free.

This 150th anniversary commemorative publication about the Emancipation Proclamation is not a typical children’s coloring book. The wealth of information contained within this great little read makes it useful as a history book for the entire family, not just for kids. For example, I learned about the origins of “Watch Night”:

On December 31, 1862, many enslaved African Americans gathered in churches and prayed. Throughout the night, they waited for the moment when the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect. This special night became known as “Watch Night,” and continues to be celebrated today in many African American churches on New Year’s Eve.

The publication opens with a brief history about President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It also provides portraits and short biographies describing historical events involving African Americans, such as Harriet Tubman, a former slave and Union spy who also helped recruit black troops, and Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist who helped Abraham Lincoln recruit black troops during the Civil War. It even includes a reference to this famous image:

reading-emancipation-proclamation-torchlightImage: By torchlight, a Union soldier reads the ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ to a room of slaves and their children, 1860s. The image was published as part of the ‘Life of Lincoln: Additional View’ series by the C.W. Briggs Company. Photo credit: George Eastman House/Getty Images

Other short biographies of important figures in black history covered in this book include Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and President Barack Obama.

National Park Service Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book ISBN: 9780160900181The National Park Service also has produced another children’s publication focusing on black history and mentioning the Emancipation Proclamation: Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book. Young children ranging from ages 5 to 10 and older are taught about the history of the Underground Railroad and the struggles African Americans endured in their quest for freedom. Activities include a wordsearch of terms related to the Civil War; a maze routing the journey to freedom; and a timeline highlighting significant events in Black History, such as the Emancipation Proclamation and much more. Upon completion of the activities, children are encouraged to send in their completed booklet for an official Jr. Ranger Badge. [Read about this and other Underground Railroad publications in our blog post: "The Underground Railroad Leaves its Tracks in History".]

How can you get these publications?

About the author: Guest blogger Trudy Hawkins is a writer and marketing specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division supporting the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).

Images and additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram. Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Librarians Pick Notable Federal Books- 2012 Edition

July 3, 2012

It’s that exciting time of year again if you’re a publisher of Federal publications. It’s the equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards or the Grammy Awards… Well, maybe that’s pushing it, but when the American Library Association’s (ALA) Government Documents Round Table or GODORT convenes the Notable Documents Panel of its Publications Committee to choose the top government-produced publications of the previous year, we can’t help but get caught up in the excitement.

Each year, this ALA GODORT Notable Documents Panel selects what it considers to be the most “Notable Government Documents” published during the previous year by Federal, state, and local governments and includes the list of winners in its prestigious Library Journal (LJ).

According to its website, Library Journal is “the most trusted and respected publication for the library community. LJ provides groundbreaking features and analytical news reports covering technology, management, policy and other professional concerns to public, academic and institutional libraries. Its hefty reviews sections evaluate 8000+ reviews annually of books, ebooks, audiobooks, videos/DVDs, databases, systems and websites.

This year, as usual, many of the Federal publications the panel selected are available through the Government Printing Office’s Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) libraries and GPO’s Sales Program.

Out of all of the Federal Government documents LJ looked at in the past year, here are some of those it found most notable:

  Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation

Publisher: Government Printing Office (GPO)

GPO’s own role in producing excellent Government publications in its 150 years of history gained it a place on the GODORT list for the past year:“Liberally illustrated with historical photographs and facsimiles of famous government documents, this volume will appeal to a wider audience than depository librarians. Historians and history buffs who have an interest in government and how it interacts with both the private sector and public employee unions will find a compelling story that focuses on the federal government’s obligation to keep citizens informed about its activities.” – LJ

  Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Hardcover)

Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Paperback)

Publisher: Commerce Department, U.S. Census Bureau

The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published since 1878, is the standard summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. It is designed to serve as a convenient volume for statistical reference and as a guide to other statistical publications and sources. The latter function is served by the introductory text to each section, the source note appearing below each table, and Appendix I, which comprises the Guide to Sources of Statistics, the Guide to State Statistical Abstracts, and the Guide to Foreign Statistical Abstracts.

The Library Journal adds an important update about this: “In addition to being the quintessential statistical resource of all time, Statistical Abstract is a Notable Document for 2011 simply because this edition will be the last produced by the Census Bureau and distributed through FDLP. Future editions will be published commercially, so librarians will still have options for maintaining the continuity of their print collections. A classic reference tool.” – LJ

  Macondo: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Chief Counsel’s Report 2011

Publisher: National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

“The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was created by President Obama and charged with investigating the root causes of the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The committee concluded that the cause of the blowout was not mechanical. Instead, a number of poor management decisions, combined with an inadequate regulatory structure and an indifferent regulatory agency, overwhelmed the safeguards designed to prevent such disasters. Plenty of illustrations and photographs offer a glimpse into the technology of offshore oil rigs.” – LJ

  Then Came the Fire: Personal Accounts From the Pentagon, 11 September 2001

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, Center of Military History

“In 2011, there were many publications designed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. In addition to the 59 people aboard the flight that struck the Pentagon, 125 people in the Pentagon were killed. The editors of this memorial volume have collected the stories of eyewitnesses, including the military and civilian personnel who escaped the burning building and first responders and reporters at the scene. It also includes hundreds of photographs.”- LJ

  Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, Center of Military History“

In what may be the definitive operational history of black troops in action during the Civil War, [author] Dobak describes the differences in how freedmen and runaway slaves were recruited, how they lived, and how they were trained. Most important, it considers how gallantly these men performed in combat at a time when many of their own leaders questioned whether they would be willing to fight for their own freedom and for that of their families. Much of the documentation comes from the ‘War of the Rebellion’ series.” – LJ

  Legacy of Excellence: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology 1862-2011 

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, US Army Medical Department Center and Schoo1, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Public Affairs Office, Borden Institute

“In 1862, shortly after the Battle of Antietam, army surgeon general Brigadier Gen. William Hammond ordered the establishment of the Army Medical Museum. Surgeons working on Civil War battlefields were encouraged to preserve anatomical specimens, such as severed limbs and diseased organs, and send them to the museum for further research. From the start, the museum made its displays of specimens and instruments, as well as its medical library, available to the general public. Under the leadership of later curators, such as John Billings and Walter Reed, the museum evolved into the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Readers interested in the history of science, especially medical science or in the devastating effects of Civil War weaponry on the human body, will be fascinated by the hundreds of graphic photographs.” – LJ

And a hearty congratulations to all the winning Federal agency publishers for an excellent job!

How can you get these publications from this year’s Federal Notable Government Documents collection?

  • Buy any of these publications online 24/7 by shopping the Notable Government Documents 2012 collection at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy them at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find these publications in a library near you.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


The Underground Railroad Leaves its Tracks in History

February 27, 2012

Last week during National Black History Month, ground was broken on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for what will become the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In his remarks at the ceremony, President Obama mentioned that he wanted his daughters to see the famous African Americans like Harriet Tubman not as larger-than-life characters, but as inspiration of “how ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things.

Image: This original photo of Harriet Tubman in the handbook lists the many roles she played in addition to being a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, including nurse, spy and scout for the Union army during the Civil War. Her quote: “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything… I felt like I was in heaven.” Source: The Underground Railroad: Official National Park Handbook.

One of the most dramatic areas of African American history is the story of the fight against slavery and the profile in courage represented by the ordinary people who did extraordinary things while participating in the Underground Railroad.

The National Park Service (NPS) has produced a number of exemplary publications about it, with three of them available today from the U.S. Government Bookstore, including the

That these items are not your typical guidebooks about a single historic site is due to the fact that the Underground Railroad itself is not a typical American national park.

Congress and the National Park Service act to preserve the legacy of the Underground Railroad

Back in 1990, Congress instructed the National Park Service to perform a special resource study of the Underground Railroad, its routes and operations in order to preserve and interpret this aspect of United States history.

Following the study, the National Park Service was mandated by Public Law 105-203 in 1998 (you can read the law on GPO’s FDSys site) to commemorate and preserve this history through a new National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program to “educate the public about the importance of the Underground Railroad in the eradication of slavery, its relevance in fostering the spirit of racial harmony and national reconciliation, and the evolution of our national civil rights movement.”

What was the Underground Railroad?

What was called the Underground Railroad was neither “underground” nor a “railroad,” but was instead a loose network of aid and assistance by antislavery sympathizers and freed blacks across the country that may have helped as many as one hundred thousand enslaved persons escape their bondage from before the American Revolution through the Civil War.

Image: NY State historical marker in Albany for the UGRR along the American Trails UGRR bicycle route.

Describing one of the most significant internal resistance movements ever, the National Park Service said in a 1996 press release that:

The Underground Railroad was perhaps the most dramatic protest against human bondage in United States history.  It was a clandestine operation that began during colonial times, grew as part of the organized abolitionist movement, and reached a peak between 1830 and 1865. The story is filled with excitement and triumph as well as tragedy –-individual heroism and sacrifice as well as cooperation to help enslaved people reach freedom. 

Where did the term “Underground Railroad” come from?

Historians cannot confirm the origins of the name, but one of the stories reported by the Park Service has the term coming out of Washington, DC, in 1839, when a recaptured fugitive slave allegedly claimed under torture that his escape plan instructions were to send him north, where “the railroad ran underground all the way to Boston.” However it came about, the term was widely in use by 1840, and is often shortened to “UGRR” by “those in the know.”

Image: An 1837 newspaper ad about a runaway slave from the book “The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom” By Wilbur Henry Siebert, 1898. 

Underground Railroad Routes

Another byproduct of the UGRR special resource study was that the National Park Service carried out an analysis of slavery and abolitionism and identified the primary escape routes used on the UGRR.

The map below is included in the Underground Railroad: Official Map and Guide, produced by the National Park Service Cartographic staff at Harpers Ferry Center, shows the general direction of escape routes. Contrary to popular belief, Canada was not the only destination for freedom-seeking slaves–since some fled to Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean– but it was the primary destination as the efforts to catch fugitives increased.

Image: Selected Routes of the Underground Railroad from the Underground Railroad: Official Map and Guide.

Additional outputs of the resource study and the subsequent research are the following three excellent Underground Railroad publications from the National Park Service.

Underground Railroad: Official National Park Handbook

The first book in our trio of publications is the Underground Railroad: Official National Park Handbook. It is comprised of a series of fascinating articles by top Underground Railroad historians that weave together a thorough view of the amazing stories behind the legend, illustrated with many drawings, court records, letters, paintings, photos, and other pictorial representations that help make this history come alive for the reader.

The handbook is broken into 3 major sections and 5 chapters:

  • Part I: An Epic in United States History:
    • 1- Myth and Reality by Larry Gara. This introductory chapter reviews and evaluates the truths vs. the legends that grew about the Underground Railroad.
  • Part II: From Bondage to Freedom:
    • 2- Slavery in America by Brenda E. Stevenson. In this chapter, the author details the rise of the institution of slavery in America and the harsh realities of life for the people who suffered under it. An interesting segment discusses the inequities of life for enslaved women vs. men.  
    • 3- The Underground Railroad by C. Peter Ripley. This fascinating chapter tells the courageous and often harrowing stories of freedom seekers and those who aided them, including Harriet Tubman who made nearly 20 trips to lead 300 slaves to freedom and Henry “Box” Brown who shipped himself in a 2X3’ wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia to escape. Sprinkled throughout are cameos of famous former fugitives and abolitionists including Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, and abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Gerritt Smith, among many others.
  • Part III: Tracking the Past:
    • 4- Tracking the Past by the National Park Service. This chapter outlines some of the work done by the National Park Service and others to discover, verify and catalog the important people, places and artifacts related to the Underground Railroad.
    • 5- Further Reading by Marie Tyler McGraw. In this final chapter, the author provides a recommended reading list for interested researchers of the authoritative works related to different aspects of the Underground Railroad story.

Underground Railroad: Official Map and Guide

This map and guide includes drawings, blurbs, maps and chronologies about different aspects of the slave trade and the Underground Railroad.

Included in this fold-out map and guide are the escape routes map shown earlier, vignettes of key figures from key “conductors” on the Railroad to abolitionists, and even a short glossary of terms related to the UGRR.

Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book

The final item in our trio of publications is the Discovering the Underground Railroad: Junior Ranger Activity Book.

Many National Parks offer visitors the opportunity to join the National Park Service Family as Junior Rangers. Interested students complete a series of activities during their park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger badge or patch and Junior Ranger certificate.

Since there is no one national park site for the Underground Railroad, the National Park Service came up with a different process with this activity book. Aspiring Underground Railroad Junior Rangers have to complete different numbers of activities in the book pertaining to their particular age level, then send the completed booklet in to the National Park Service’s Omaha office. There, “a ranger will go over your answers and then return your booklet along with an official Junior Ranger Badge for your efforts.

This fun booklet includes activities appropriate from ages 5 to 10 and older, from word finders and mazes to essays and historical fact matching.

How can you get these Underground Railroad publications?

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,353 other followers

%d bloggers like this: