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The Gettysburg Lectures$
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Gabor S. Boritt

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780195089110

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195089110.001.0001

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The Emancipation Moment

The Emancipation Moment

(p.63) 3 The Emancipation Moment (p.64)
The Gettysburg Lectures

David Brion Davis

Oxford University Press

The Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln was a historic moment for men and women alike who continued to experience new forms of bondage and oppression. Martin Luther King's rhetoric at the Lincoln Memorial highlights the curious fact that Americans have customarily honored the abolition of slavery as a glorious moment of national rebirth and in the next breath have acknowledged that emancipation was in many ways a failure. The chapter argues that “manumission” was only a voluntary speech act that annihilated a status without altering the status quo. Therefore, the ritual of “national rebirth” merely legitimated a new relationship that had already evolved. For example, over half the manumissions in Maryland were delayed until an adult had worked for a specified number of years or until a child had reached the age of thirty.

Keywords:   Lincoln, Martin Luther King, manumission, Emancipation Proclamation, slave insurrection, liberal motive

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