This map accompanied President James K. Polk’s annual message to Congress in December 1848. It represented Polk’s conception as a Southern Democrat of how to divide up the new territory acquired through the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. It became the starting point of debates in Congress over slavery and westward expansion.
Map of the United States Including Western Territories (2127339), 12/1848, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Learn more about this map in Cartography, Politics—and Mischief: Ephraim Gilman’s 1848 Map of the United States, Now Expanded Coast to Coast from the National Archives’ Prologue Magazine.
The movie “12 Years A Slave” tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped. His journey into slavery can be found in our records.
In the slave manifest for the brig Orleans, Solomon Northup is gone, but Plat Hamilton is present.
A ban on federal slavery legislation was written into the Constitution in 1787. But an 1807 Act of Congress outlawed foreign importation of slaves. Slave manifests that documented each slave’s name, sex, age, and color were then required.
When slaves were forced into the haul of the Orleans on April 27, 1841, the Port of Richmond collector Thomas Nelson approved the slave manifest. When the ship docked in New Orleans on May 24, 1841, the inspector matched Solomon Northup’s description to the name Plat Hamilton. And Solomon Northup the free man of color ceased to exist.
Northup was transported on the Orleans with approximately forty other slaves to New Orleans where he was later sold to Edwin Epps, who owned a cotton plantation in the Louisiana Red River area. Northup was enslaved for the next twelve years. All rights and privileges that come with freedom, beginning with his given name, were stripped away from him.
To see more documents related to the life of Solomon Northup, go to the National Archives Education blog: http://go.usa.gov/WBjw
Image: Slave Manifest for the Brig Orleans, including Solomon Northup, listed as Plat Hamilton (#33)
Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent Drawing
Designed to separate cotton fiber from seed, Whitney’s cotton gin, for which he applied for a patent on October 28, 1793, and received a patent on March 14, 1794, introduced a new, profitable technology to agricultural production in America, but also led to an increased dependence on the plantation system and slavery.
"To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department"
The Confederacy depended on enslaved people to build fortifications, cook, drive supply wagons, work in hospitals, and produce munitions. Slave labor also planted and harvested many Southern crops, especially when white males were away fighting. The Union’s decision to emancipate, enlist, and arm black men was an enormous threat to Southern independence. This broadside urged owners to move their slaves away from the advancing Union Army and contribute their “servants” to the cause.
Broadside “To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department”, 09/15/1863. From the War Department Collection of Confederate Records
FREEDOM, Protection, Pay, and a Call to Military Duty!
After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the U.S. Army began recruiting black men in earnest to fight for the Union Army. The Confederate government regarded captured black soldiers as fugitive slaves, not prisoners of war. It threatened to execute or sell them into slavery. This broadside reassured potential black recruits that the U.S. Government would treat all of its troops as soldiers and retaliate in the event of Confederate mistreatment of black U.S. soldiers, as detailed in Lincoln’s General Order 233, issued July 30, 1863:
"It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person on account of his color, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.
The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession. It is, therefore ordered, for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.”
Lincoln may have signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but for the enslaved men and women in Texas, emancipation did not reach them until June 19, 1865.
Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with more than 2,000 Union troops. He announced General Order No. 3, which began “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The 250,000 former slaves celebrated the news, and over the years it became an annual tradition with singing, barbeques, rodeos, and other festivities. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas.
This photograph was taken during this year’s 11 annual Juneteenth celebration at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Texas. The community event featured Elizabeth Kahura as the featured story teller.
-from the US National Archives
"…I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion, with reference to the emancipation of slaves…”
This oath was James Hicks’s first step to reclaiming his land that was held by the Freedmen’s Bureau. One of the major activities of the Bureau was the leasing of abandoned and confiscated property. Although their numbers were small, freedmen who had means were allowed to lease land ranging from 10 to 100 acres.
Oath and Allegiance of James Hicks, 6/5/1865
From the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands
From May 22 to 31, the digital collection of the USCT Service Records will be free on www.Fold3.com.
On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. With this order, all African American regiments were designated as United States Colored Troops (USCT).
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the USCT, and the National Archives is pleased to announce the completion of the USCT Service Records Digitization Project. In partnership with Fold3, the project provides online access to all service records—more than 3.8 million images—of Union volunteers in USCT units.
Remember: All National Archives collections on Fold3.com can always be viewed for free at a computer at any National Archives facility nationwide.
The photo and paperwork above come from the compiled military service records of former slave Edmund Delaney. Read his story on the Prologue blog.
Happy DC Emancipation Day!
DC Emancipation Act (by usnationalarchives)
Predating the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the District of Columbia Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862, freeing enslaved persons in Washington, DC and ending “the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital. Unlike the later terms of the Emancipation Proclamation, slave owners in DC were compensated by the U.S. Treasury Department.
In this Inside the Vaults video short, Documentary Archivist Damani Davis discusses the petitions filed by owners and slaves under the Act and the details they reveal about the enslaved African-American community at the time. Archivist Robert Ellis explains how the process worked.
Learn more about the DC Emancipation Act and the journey to Emancipation in the new free eBook from the National Archives: The Meaning and Making of Emancipation, in ePub, iBook and Scribd formats.
“‘Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer.’
The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture.”
Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 4/2/1863
This 1863 photograph of “Peter,” a former slave displaying scars from his overseer’s whippings, was widely reproduced as evidence of slavery’s cruelty. The image was sometimes paired with a photo or drawing of “Peter” after his enlistment in the U.S. Army. “Peter” was sometimes identified as “Gordon.”
Letter from Brigadier General W. Sooy Smith to the Commander of the 1st Division of the 16th Army Corps. 3/27/1863
After the Emancipation Proclamation, the stream of slaves running to freedom swelled to a flood. Gen. W. Sooy Smith, who commanded Union troops in Tennessee, faced a dilemma. Men loyal to the Union wanted their property returned. But Smith’s orders were to refuse such requests. This letter asks how to avoid “the charge of furnishing Asylum to the Servants of loyal men.” The War Department usually advised that runaways be employed by the Army.
The Thirteenth Amendment, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865:
The news of the Emancipation Proclamation was greeted with joy, but it did not free all the slaves. Because of the limitations of the proclamation, and because it depended on a Union military victory, President Lincoln knew the Emancipation Proclamation would have to be followed by a constitutional amendment.
After the Senate passed a bill for an amendment in April 1864, but the House of Representatives did not, Lincoln suggested that the bill be taken up by the Republican Party in its 1864 platform for the upcoming Presidential elections.
His efforts met with success when the House passed the bill in January 1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865.
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution formally abolished slavery in the United States. It provides that ”Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Image: Joint Resolution Proposing the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 01/31/1865–01/31/1865; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789–2008; General Records of the United States Government, 1778–2006, Record Group 11; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 1408764)
H.R. 4982, a bill granting a pension to Harriet Tubman Davis, late a nurse in the U.S. Army, 01/19/1899
During the Civil War abolitionist and former slave Harriet Tubman Davis served the Union side as a scout, nurse, cook and spy. After the war she received a pension as the widow of a Union veteran. Tubman later petitioned Congress for additional benefits for her own service. Congress received numerous documents and letters supporting Tubman’s claim. In 1899 Congress passed, and the President signed, H.R. 4982, which authorized an increase of Tubman’s pension to twenty-five dollars per month for her service as a nurse.
via the Claim of Harriet Tumban from the Center for Legislative Archives
A stern warning
Four days after President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, U.S. Brig. Gen. R. H. Milroy put the citizens of Frederick County and Winchester, Virginia, on notice with this order. It warned that all those who opposed the Proclamation would be treated as “rebels in arms.”
U.S. Brigadier General R. H. Milroy’s Order to Citizens of Winchester and Frederick County, Virginia in Reference to the Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 01/05/1863
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, 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; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence [sic]; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State.