We’re deep into the third day of our Teaching American History summer session and are busy uncovering all sorts of handy resources and materials. Part of what we’ve been learning is that African Americans of the 1800s played a huge part in their own gradual emancipation.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights and supports that sort of thinking:

Edward L. Ayers, a historian and president of the University of Richmond, calls the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War “the least-understood social transformation in American history.” A new interactive map he helped build shows that emancipation didn’t occur in one moment, he says, but was “an unfolding,” happening from the very first years of the war to the very last. And, he adds, it happened because of African Americans, not merely for them, or to them.

Titled Visualizing Emancipation, this interactive map is an ongoing project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, that sheds light on when and where men and women became free in the Civil War South. It tells the complex story of emancipation by mapping documentary evidence of black men and women’s activities – using official military correspondence, newspapers, and wartime letters and diaries – alongside the movements of Union regiments and the shifting legal boundaries of slavery.

A very cool Web 2.0 way of helping kids see that there was way more to the Emancipation story than just Lincoln, his Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment.

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