How to Use this Map

Visualizing Emancipation gathers a wide array of data from readily available Civil War sources, including the Official Records, newspapers, and letters and diaries in order to give a view on the process of emancipation. Our current mapping framework is in Google Earth. In order to view the data, pull apart the beginning and end markers of the Google Earth slider in the upper left of the map, then use the 'step forward' and 'step backward' controls to see where and when we have record of slavery's demise. Click on any of the grey dots to get information about what happened there. To close the information balloon, click on any section of the map. For one month, June 1864, we have also plotted the movements of major Union and Confederate armies, shown in blue and red, respectively. We will continue to add more data, detailed descriptions, and document excerpts over the course of 2010 and 2011. For more about this project, click 'About the Visualization' above. Back to Top

About the Vizualization

Visualizing Emancipation gives its users a new vantage point and way of organizing at least a small part of what we know about the end of slavery in the Civil War. Thanks to innovative work over the last two decades, we now see that freedom came as a result of many struggles-in cataclysmic battles and in protracted debates, on farms and in bureaucracies, in political parties and on lonely roads. Freedom demanded action on many fronts because slavery was entrenched throughout American society. A full understanding of emancipation requires that we put the pieces together. To do that, to comprehend the patterns, proportions, and timing of emancipation, to see multiple forms of power in interaction in space and time, we need an analytical framework that is inclusive, self-aware, and disciplined. Part of that framework must answer the simplest questions: where were men and women changing slavery and even escaping from it? Where was slavery eroding, and how? This map shows some of these movements in the larger process of U.S. emancipation. Back to Top


The data-gathering and visualization platform have relied on a number of techniques. Our research team has collected data by searching through online sources for a number of keywords that have a high likelihood of involving African Americans: "contraband", "refugee", "slave", "negro", "colored", along with variations of these and other, similar words. They then evaluate whether the sections identified are discussing enslaved men and women or the institution, or whether the passage in question is concerned with another subject. If the section identified pertains to slavery, information about that event and the document is recorded. If not, it is left out. Events that are recorded are then tagged with an initial "type", to indicate the substance of the event or process described in the document. This way, general descriptions or opinions about slavery that do little for an understanding of how men and women became free can later be quickly filtered in the dataset.

For our initial stage of research, we have gathered data about each document (database, sub-collection, document title, document author, and author rank if in an army, place of origin or publication, the date it was written, and for letters, recipient and recipient's rank, volume, page, and url if applicable) and event (a brief description or title for the datum, an event "type", an excerpt of the document describing the event, the place(s) it occurred, when it occurred) into a spreadsheet. Locational information was derived in two ways. First, we attempted to locate places using the United States Geodetic Survey gazeteer. For places we could not find in the gazeteer, we compared against maps taken from the Atlas of the Official Record of the War of the Rebellion. We are in the process of migrating our data into a relational database, which will allow for more complex querying of data. Back to Top