The Graduate Center - City University of New York

"The Emancipation of the Negroes, January, 1863—The Past and the Future."

Consternation as well as celebration greeted the Emancipation Proclamation. Among the few pictorial endorsements that appeared in January, 1863, was a detailed double-page engraving in Harper's Weekly based on a drawing by its news artist and budding editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast. Reflecting the Weekly's alliance with the newly-formed Union League Club—the publication's editor, George William Curtis, was a member of the organization composed of leading New York Republicans—Nast heralded the Emancipation Proclamation by portraying scenes of African-American life in the South before and after freedom. These vignettes of cruel enslavement and potential equality circled around a central domestic scene featuring a black family in a parlor the appearance of which was similar to familiar sentimental prints of white families published before and during the war. An accompanying description delineated the image's many aspects. The engraving proved to be very popular, especially after Lincoln's death when a new, separately published edition substituted a portrait of the president for the image of Lucifer at the bottom of the print.

Creator: Thomas Nast

Date: January 24, 1863

Publisher: Harper's Weekly

Source: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress