U.S. History: Civil War- Views on the Emancipation Proclamation

In this lesson students will study political cartoons created in response to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that illustrate differences in public opinion. Students will analyze these sources to determine their effectiveness in conveying opinion.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Describe Abraham Lincoln's presidency and his significant writings and speeches, including his House Divided speech in 1858, Gettysburg Address in 1863, Emancipation...
Explain the roles of leaders during the Civil War, including Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and soldiers on both sides of the war,...
Describe African-American involvement in the Union army, including the Massachusetts 54th Regiment and the 13th U.S. Colored Troops in the Battle of Nashville.
Cite textual evidence analyzing the life of the common soldier in the Civil War, including Sam Watkins and Sam Davis.
Trace the critical developments and events in the war, including geographical advantages and economic advantages of both sides, technological advances and the location...
Assess the impact of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on both the North and the South.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

Students will compare and contrast primary source documents to learn about different reactions to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

Essential and guiding questions: 

How did the public view the Emancipation Proclamation? 
What can political cartoons tell us about public response to historical events?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Have the students study the Emancipation print, and the Behold Oh! America, Your sons print. Have them write a paragraph that answers the following questions: Is Lincoln presented as a hero or a villain?
What are the similarities in the portrayals? What is the audience for the prints? Do you think the artists are Union sympathizers or Confederate sympathizers?
Have the students create a print commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 2013. 

Helpful Hints


  • Primary Source Analysis Tool
  • Analyzing Photographs and Prints Teachers Guide
  • Analyzing Political Cartoons Teachers Guide