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Major Topics

Iconic image Title Summary
Lobby, House of Representatives, during passage of the Civil Rights Bill, March 13, 1866, zoomable image, detail.
Thirty-Ninth Congress of the United States
Federal Government and Politics, iconic image
Thirty-Seventh Congress of the United States
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Transcendentalism
Eliza's Escape, Advertisement for Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1899
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The Resurrection of Henry Box Brown, March 24, 1849
Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad was a metaphor first used by antislavery advocates in the 1840s to describe the increasingly organized and aggressive efforts to help slaves escape from bondage. The fight over fugitive slaves then became one of the primary causes of the Civil War. (By Matthew Pinsker)
Men of Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, District of Columbia, 1865
United States Colored Troops
Over 180,000 black men fought for the Union army during the Civil War. Most of them served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) which came into existence after the Emancipation Proclamation finally provided presidential endorsement for the much-discussed proposals for arming free blacks and former slaves in what had become the great conflict over slavery. USCT training camps in places such as Camp William Penn, located in historic La Mott (Cheltenham, Pa), provided skills and a new sense of identity to black soldiers, despite unequal pay with white soldiers and other forms of continuing discrimination in a segregated military.  More than 11,000 black soldiers mobilized for service from Camp William Penn. (By Matthew Pinsker)
Siege of Vicksburg, 1863
Vicksburg Campaign
David Wilmot
Wilmot Proviso
The text of the Wilmot Proviso, an anti-slavery amendment originally offered to a special appropriations bill on August 8, 1846, was deceptively simple: "Provided, That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted."  Wimot was a freshman Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.  The language was borrowed in part from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  The proviso itself was never passed into law during the Mexican War, though it was later adopted by the US Congress and signed into law by President Lincoln during the Civil War.  Lincoln claimed that as a single term congressman himself in 1847 and 1848 that he had voted for the proviso "at least forty times."  The language on slavery was  incorporated into the final text of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery in 1865.  By that point, Wilmot, now a Republican, was a federal judge in Pennsylvania.  (By Matthew Pinsker)
 

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