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Emancipating Lincoln is a long-overdue contextual analysis of Lincoln's evolving emancipation program and its place in historical memory. Holzer, an authority on Lincoln..., pinpoints when, why and how the president moved toward freeing the slaves.
— John David Smith
Holzer's book brilliantly and quite convincingly aims to restore Lincoln's place as a courageous American civil rights pioneer by considering the 16th president's actions, attitudes, and the Emancipation Proclamation itself within the political, military, and racial context of the time...In putting Lincoln's greatest achievement in historical context, Holzer has done the Emancipator, and historical scholarship in general, a valuable service.
— Chuck Leddy
What emerges from Holzer's research is a portrait of Lincoln as a man of vision who was adept at manipulating the news media. He was also discreet, even with his friends (both political and personal)...Holzer describes Lincoln's care in selecting the proper words, the right timing and the right context to effect the enactment of the proclamation. The portrait that emerges is one of a leader able to build consensus during the development of an important policy and in the middle of a war.
— Michael L. Ramsey
Crucial insights into Lincoln's dodgy and downright dissembling strategy in formulating and promulgating the Proclamation during the darkest months of the Civil War are brightly illuminated by Harold Holzer on the eve of the document's 150th anniversary. Holzer, a Lincoln scholar and vice president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, puts the fine points on the limited declaration, and embellishes the effect it produced through an excursion into the iconography, art and memorials depicting "The Great Emancipator."...In fusing the politics and the "art" of the Proclamation, Holzer adds handsomely to the Lincoln canon with this modest but highly insightful work.
— Jonathan E. Lazarus
Chapter 3: Sacred Effigies
The scene was wild and grand. Joy and gladness exhausted all forms of expression, from shouts of praise to joy and tears.” That was how Frederick Douglass described the moment when the words of the Emancipation Proclamation finally arrived over the telegraph wires on January 1, 1863. As he had written in a similarly jubilant mood three months earlier, when Lincoln first announced his emancipation policy: “We shout for joy that we live to record this righteous decree.” Certainly the word joy could not describe the reigning mood at the White House ceremony at which Lincoln actually signed the document that Douglass and others first celebrated on that momentous holiday afternoon. In fact, calling it a ceremony at all would constitute an exaggeration; that it lacked emotion or fanfare of any kind is beyond dispute. All Lincoln did that day was quietly slip away from a long New Year’s reception in the East Room and walk upstairs to his office to affix his name to the document in almost total privacy. More over, he maddeningly took his time to do so, delaying his formal action for hours even as the nation waited anxiously for the fulfillment of a promise on which many people were absolutely convinced he would renege. It did not help relieve tensions that the holiday began, and continued well past midday, without any definite word from Washington. “Will Lincoln’s backbone carry him through?” wondered apprehensive New York diarist George Templeton Strong. “Nobody knows.”
Lincoln knew— he just kept his intentions to himself. But as he had confided to his wife, who argued that he should indeed refuse to sign the order, it was too late to waver: he was “a man under orders” from God to approve it. Perhaps just as formidably, he was also under orders from the First Lady to keep his promise to host their annual East Room New Year’s levee without interruption. For a time, Mrs. Lincoln’s influence proved the more powerful, especially after the sharp- eyed Lincoln noticed an imperfection in the hand- engrossed copy prepared by a scribe and brought to him for his signature earlier in the day. Lincoln sent it back to be recopied and joined the holiday levee as scheduled. Observing him there, one journalist noted: “The President seemed to be in fine spirits and cracked an occasional joke.”
Posted August 1, 2012