• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    The Civil War

Emancipation and the Quest for Freedom

Color painting of a Union soldier reading the Emancipation Proclamation to a slave family.

With the end of the Civil War came the end of slavery in the United States. Legally and constitutionally, the war resolved the single most important moral question that afflicted the young republic and hampered the emergence of the country as a moral and economic leader on the world stage.

For millions of enslaved Americans, however, the end of the war was the beginning of a complex and difficult journey. Many were persecuted for their efforts to achieve and sustain true freedom. The quest for equality by former slaves, their descendants, and other Americans of color was an issue left undecided by the war.

Stories from Emancipation and the Quest for Freedom

Showing results 16-19 of 19

  • The Freedmen's Colony on Roanoke Island

    Photo of African American refugee family

    Roanoke Island is most famous for its "Lost Colony" of the 1580s, but 280 years later was the scene of another bold experiment on a new frontier. Following its capture by Union forces in 1862, Roanoke Island became the site of a Freedmen's Colony for newly freed African Americans, where education and a new way of living could be experienced. Read more

  • The Military Experience

    Engraving of soldier warming himself by a fire
 Photo of U.S. Sanitary Commission office.

    The course of the war was the cumulative result of political, economic, and social policies that affected (and were affected by) military operations and battles waged across a front spanning 2,000 miles. The battles and campaigns of 1861-65 ultimately demonstrated that the simple application of massive military force, even with innovations in technologies and tactics, was insufficient to resolve a conflict between two sections mobilized against one another politically, socially, philosophically, economically, and emotionally. Read more

  • The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

    Photo of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, with Shaw on horseback accompanying his 54th Massachusetts Infantry

    The individuality of the figures in the Shaw Memorial is one of the monument's most striking and affecting characteristics. This version is on display at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site near Cornish, New Hampshire. Read more

  • Civil War Defenses of Washington

    The United States Colored Troops and the Defenses of Washington

    Flag of the 22nd United States Colored Troops

    Coming from free states, or straight off of the plantations, freemen or former slaves, thousands of African Americans fought to destroy slavery once and for all with the United States Colored Troops. Despite the skepticism or outright hostility of some whites, these troops played a major role in both defending the Union capital and taking the Confederate one. Read more