“Emancipation” painted on the backdrop of the Emancipation Proclamation symbolizes the struggle to end slavery during the civil war. The child picking cotton is symbolic of the immorality of slavery and the hope for a better future free of the scourge of slavery. The cotton plants symbolize the South’s reliance on king cotton, driving economic need for a large and cheap workforce. The cotton bag represents the burden of slavery and the legacy of 100 years of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation, which only addressed slavery in the states in rebellion against the union also represents the nation's symbolic failure to eliminate all vestiges of the racist ideology endemic to slavery in the post-civil war era.
The Emancipation Proclamation is a significant historical document that has its place alongside the Constitution, and Declaration of Independence. It represents a document inspired and ordained by God to expand the founding fathers' promise of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, to African Americans. The image of the child looking out at the viewer invites us to engage in the continuing struggle to expand this unfulfilled promise, to truly be a part of the American fabric. The torn fabric invites us to figuratively strive to mend the fabric of American society. The child's outstretched hand and open palm represent our willingness to reach for a better future and accept the responsibilities of freedom.
The nation's political leadership has lost the moral high ground, turned back the clock of time, to a time that discrimination and bigotry are moral equivalents to those who oppose injustice. The child's eyes beg us for action, a better future, and call for a Second Emancipation Proclamation. This is a call for a Second Emancipation Proclamation that captures the political and moral leadership of our time, to address the issues of discrimination, police violence, the wholesale incarceration of our youth, and the continuing economic inequality of this decade.