Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty

120p. bibliog. chron. glossary. illus. index. notes. photos. reprods. Abrams. Jan. 2013. RTE $24.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0390-4. LC 2012000845.
RedReviewStarGr 5–9—After a dramatic opening description of abolitionists waiting for word that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed, this title reviews the events that led up to the Civil War, examines Lincoln's reasons for writing it, and details the role of abolitionists. Bolden makes excellent use of primary sources; the pages are filled with archival photos, engravings, letters, posters, maps, newspaper articles, and other period documents. Detailed captions and a glossary interpret them for today's readers. Quotations from both Lincoln's contemporaries and modern scholars also break up the text. All the visual elements combine to give pages the look of a scrapbook, making the title a pleasure to browse as well as a source of research material. Bolden has chosen to tell the story in a personal voice, from the perspective of African Americans and abolitionists, "who were pledged to universal liberty." While this narrative technique makes for riveting reading and gives readers a greater understanding of the viewpoint of these groups, they won't find much information here on the Unionist Democrats, moderate Republicans, or those who opposed the Emancipation Proclamation. Pair this with another title, such as Charles W. Carey Jr.'s The Emancipation Proclamation (The Child's World, 2009) to gain that perspective.—Jackie Partch, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
"We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky," said Frederick Douglass in Boston's Tremont Temple on January 1, 1863, awaiting word that Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Bolden adopts Douglass's collective "we" for the narrative voice representing all people -- black and white -- who stood up for "black liberty." Bolden succeeds in taking a complicated story and a dry document (possessing "all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading" as historian Richard Hofstadter wrote) and making the narrative interesting, lively, and personal, if sometimes overly casual in tone. The book is chock full of (even overstuffed with) reproductions of photographs, famous documents, paintings, engravings, cartoons, and maps, all thoroughly captioned, offering an album of visuals that make for fascinating browsing. On that snowy day in Boston, Douglass waits all day for the news, and his wait frames Bolden's narrative, the volume ending where it began, with Douglass and many others around the nation receiving good news. In between, is a clear and thoughtful delineation of the moral and political intricacies Lincoln struggled with as he tried to keep the nation from falling apart and find a way to square his personal beliefs with his duties as president. In the epilogue, the narrative voice is Bolden's own, offering a fair-minded assessment of the importance of the document. Match this with Freedman's Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (rev. 5/12) and Spielberg's 2012 film Lincoln. dean schneider

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