Curator's Talk: "Who Freed the Slaves?" & Lincoln Birthday Celebration (Feb. 12)

  • February 12, 4pm
  • Curator's Talk: "Who Freed the Slaves?" & Lincoln Birthday Celebration
  • Presented by Dr. John Majewski, Professor of History & Associate Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts
  • UCSB Library, Mary Cheadle Room

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation became law. Conceived as a pragmatic measure to hasten the end of a bloody civil war, the Proclamation declared millions of slaves to be “forever free.” Americans naturally identify this momentous event with Abraham Lincoln, who became widely known as “The Great Emancipator.” While Lincoln undoubtedly played a key role in ending slavery, were political figures alone responsible for this momentous event? Historians have come to see emancipation as the result of a broader social movement which worked tirelessly to force Americans to confront the moral and economic consequences of slavery. The slaves themselves were a key part of this movement. By fleeing to Union lines, serving as Union soldiers, and insisting on full equality, they set the stage for their own liberation.

This talk is based on an exhibit in UCSB Library's Special Collections department co-curated by Dr. John Majewski and graduate student Maria Fedorova . The exhibit showcases documents and artifacts from UCSB’s Wyles Collection—a treasure trove of original nineteenth-century materials about Lincoln, the Civil War, and the American West. The exhibit will be on view before the talk and afterwards until 8pm. For complete hours of Special Collections, visit

The Speaker

Dr. John Majewski is a professor in the history department and Associate Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts. John came to UCSB after receiving his MA and Ph.D. in American history from UCLA. He also holds a M.Sc. in economic history from the London School of Economics, and a BA in economics and history from University of Texas, Austin. John’s research interests have focused on the economic history of Civil War America. His first book, entitled "A House Dividing: Economic Development in Pennsylvania and Virginia before the Civil War," was published by Cambridge University Press. His second book, called "Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation," was published by UNC Press in 2009.