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Emancipation Proclamation Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

The Emancipation Proclamation, given by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, is a key document in U.S. history. Use these discussion questions to help your middle and high school students think critically about the text.

The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order that President Abraham Lincoln issued during the Civil War that ended slavery in states that were in rebellion (the Confederacy) as a war measure. It was first announced in September 1862 and would take affect on January 1, 1863. Under the executive order, all slaves in southern states were (technically) free and no longer bound to slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation had major short- and long-term effects on both the war and the country. The discussion questions in this asset will help your middle and high school students think critically about the document.

Basic Understanding Questions

  • Who does the Emancipation Proclamation actually free? Look carefully at the wording President Lincoln uses throughout the document.
  • Why are certain towns within the South excluded from the declarations of the Emancipation Proclamation?
  • What does the president suggest the newly freed slaves do with their freedom?
  • Why do you think President Lincoln includes this wording in the document: ''the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence?''

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