Find out more about this copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Find out more about this copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.


"...I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated states, and parts of states, are, and henceforward shall be free..." 

Presented here are two commemorative and presentation copies of the Emancipation Proclamation. The significance and importance of the Proclamation was so great that numerous printers and lithographers designed and crafted copies for sale. 

Gordon, a fugitive from Mississippi, became a symbol of that "peculiar institution" called slavery. His image, showing the welts and scars on his back, depicts the cruelty and viciousness of slavery. To northern abolitionists, the photograph represented the evils of slavery. Gordon joined the Union and became one of nearly 200,000 blacks who served in the Army and Navy and fought for their freedom.

Slave auctions were legal in the United States until 1865, the end of the Civil War. Port cities like Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Savannah, Georgia were not only receiving areas for human cargo, but also served as sites for the sale of humans, offering "Negro Sales." In the 1850s, the average cost of a male field slave between 18-30 years old was about $1,200, while a skilled slave (carpenter, blacksmith, cooper, etc.) was approximately $2,000. Females of childbearing age brought an average price of $400.

This CDV shows a slave from New Orleans receiving instruction in reading. Note the caption: "Learning is Wealth." It was illegal to teach slaves to read and to write. Proceeds from the sale of this 1864 CDV in the North were used to educate former escaped slaves (contraband) who were in the Department of the Gulf under the command and supervision of Major General Nathaniel Prentiss Banks. Before the War, Banks served as Governor of Massachusetts (1858-1861) and later as president of the Illinois Central Railroad. Banks' major victories came when he commanded troops at Port Hudson and the Red River Campaign (1864).