But popular culture, historians argue, often overlooks that questions around slavery had been debated 30 years before the war began, and some say, since the country's inception.
"There is a long pre-history that involves black and white abolitionists. They visualized an end to slavery long before the Civil War, and they struggled to put it on the national agenda," said Manisha Sinha, author of the forthcoming book, "The Slave's Cause". "If you look at the long roots of the abolitionist movement, (they) really made it a central issue of the country even before the war."
Myth 3: Due to limited freedoms, blacks and women were constrained in affecting the change and freedoms outlined in the Emancipation Proclamation.
In fact, despite limited freedoms, many became the agitators to address slavery.
"Despite a prevailing sense among so many white Northerners and politicians that the war's principal aim was to save the Union and not destroy slavery, free and enslaved black people insisted otherwise," said photographer and historian Deborah Willis, a co-author of "Envisioning Emancipation".
Abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, famed rescuer and spy Harriet Tubman and noted author and lecturer Fredrick Douglass, along with countless other women and blacks, were key in making the country address slavery.
"In many ways, fugitive slaves were architects of their own freedom," Sinha said. "It doesn't take away from Lincoln's role. Emancipation was a huge event; it involved many actors, not the least of which were slaves."