Period Highlight: Art of the Civil War

Slavery was part of Delaware’s history from its beginnings as a European colony through its transition to the First State. Before and during the Civil War, Black slavery was legal in Delaware. Yet, the state joined the Union to fight against the pro-slavery South. After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 (which only applied to Confederate states), Delaware continued practicing enslavement. Throughout the conflict, as thousands of freedom seekers self-emancipated on the Underground Railroad, Wilmington was a crucial point en route to Pennsylvania. After the war, Delaware refused to ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, and the 14th and 15th Amendments, which granted equal citizenship and voting rights. This legacy of physical and political violence against Black Americans continued into the Reconstruction period with segregationist policies. American artists grappled with the viciousness of the Civil War through their work. Some depicted battle scenes, while others focused on the long-term scars the war left on the nation.