Historian James Oakes will deliver “The Emancipation Proclamation: Myths and Realities,” a public lecture on the document’s history and significance, on Thurs., Sept. 27, 6 p.m. at New York University’s Center for the Study of Transformative Lives (20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, between 5th and 6th Streets).
Oakes, a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is a winner of the Lincoln Prize for his book, The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics. The lecture coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, through which President Abraham Lincoln stated his intention to free all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states. One hundred days later, he issued the final Emancipation Proclamation.
The free event is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Transformative Lives and the university’s Biography Seminar. An RSVP is required to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 212.998.4291. Subways: 6 (Astor Place); N, R (8th Street).
Reporters wishing to attend the lecture must RSVP to James Devitt, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6808 or email@example.com.
“Even before it was issued, the Emancipation Proclamation was shrouded in mythology,” Oakes observes. “Critics were already speculating about why it was taking Lincoln so long to issue it, some arguing he was a reluctant emancipator and others that he was a brilliant statesman who bided his time until the American people were ready for emancipation. Skeptics were dismissing the impending proclamation as an empty gesture that would not free a single slave, and others predicting it would free every slave in America.”
Oakes notes that by the time it was issued, the arguments over the Proclamation had hardened into myths that have endured for 150 years, adding, “To this day, we still can’t answer the simple question: ‘What did the Emancipation Proclamation actually do?’ ”
The Center for the Study of Transformative Lives at New York University fosters research, teaching, and education centering on the lives of exemplary individuals whose dedication, genius, and moral vision helped shape the course of human events. The work of the Center is motivated by the conviction that the example of a great and good life, studied in depth and at length, can become a guiding influence on people’s lives today as they confront their own choices, decisions, and opportunities. Focusing on well-known and less-well-known figures
from the present and the past, students and researchers study inspiring individuals in the context of their times and the circles in which they moved, using them as powerful lenses through which to view history and understand societal change. For more, click here.
The New York University Biography Seminar was founded by Aileen Ward, the highly acclaimed biographer of John Keats, in the 1970s. It has been a distinguished location for discussion of issues and projects in biography. From its origin, it has been a place where biographers in the academy could meet and discuss issues in biography with established career biographers. Its leaders have included Fred Karl, Kenneth Silverman, Joan Peyser, and Patricia Bosworth.