A Radical Pocket Book

A miniature Emancipation Proclamation helped to recruit Black soldiers during the Civil War.

107th Regiment, US Colored Troops, 1865. Alexander Gardner/New York Public Library.

Picture the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War-era executive order that changed the legal status of enslaved African Americans in secessionist states, and you might imagine a large broadside, perhaps nailed to a tree or held aloft by Abraham Lincoln. But one of the earliest editions of this document took the form of a thin, pocket-sized pamphlet, no bigger than a playing card. Commissioned by John Murray Forbes, a white entrepreneur and abolitionist, this edition was distributed in the South in hopes of recruiting Black men to fight for the Union Army. 

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