Civil War and Emancipation

Abolitionists during the Civil War ... and Beyond
Sojourner Truth

The Civil War presented previously unrivaled opportunities and challenges for abolitionists. As the nation divided over the question of slavery, abolitionists worked to change the war for union into a war for freedom. Who freed the slaves? Was it the Union Army, abolitionists, Abraham Lincoln, or did slaves themselves destroy the institution through thousands of acts of resistance? Finally, how did the destruction of slavery change or not change existing racial injustice? Destroying slavery was one thing, but the fight for racial equality proved to be quite another. In evaluating the Civil War as an abolitionist event, we must answer three questions.

Key Questions

Did abolitionists cause the Civil War?

Who freed the slaves?

How did Americans react to emancipation?