The Emancipation Proclamation
“The New Place,” published just days before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, underscores the uncertain status of newly freed people. It shows an African American man wearing a star-spangled liberty cap. Turning his back on the door of slavery, he approaches the door of emancipation. As the caption makes clear, he ponders what sort of person his new master will be, as if to suggest slavery might continue, if only under a different name.
This poem by Emily Dickinson reflecting on slavery and liberty was first published posthumously in this 1890 edition edited by Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd. Higginson was an abolitionist and colonel who led the First South Carolina Volunteers, a regiment of black soldiers composed mainly of former slaves. Higginson and Todd added the title “Emancipation” to Dickinson’s untitled poem upon publishing it.