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This article is about United States history. For emancipation proclamations in other countries, see Abolition of slavery timeline.
Regarding the Status of Slaves in States Engaged in Rebellion Against the United States
Henry Louis Stephens (c. 1863) untitled watercolor of a black man reading a newspaper with headline "Presidential Proclamation/Slavery"
The five-page original document, held in the National Archives Building – until 1936 it had been bound with other proclamations in a large volume held by the Department of State
Other short titles Emancipation Proclamation
Type Presidential proclamation
Executive Order number unnumbered
Signed by Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862
During the American Civil War, enslaved people in the Confederate States of America declared "free"
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The Emancipation Proclamation, officially Proclamation 95, was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the Civil War. The Proclamation changed the legal status of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the secessionist Confederate states from enslaved to free. As soon as a slave escaped the control of his or her owner, either by running away across Union lines or through the advance of federal troops, the person was permanently free. In addition, the Proclamation allowed for the recruitment of former slaves into the paid service of the United States armed forces.
On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Its third paragraph reads:
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation. After quoting from the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, it stated:
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do ... order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion, against the United States, the following, towit:
Lincoln then listed the ten states still in rebellion, excluding parts of states under Union control, and continued:
I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free.... [S]uch persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States.... And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God....
The proclamation was directed to all of the areas in rebellion and all segments of the executive branch (including the Army and Navy) of the United States. It proclaimed the freedom of enslaved people in the ten states in rebellion. Even though it excluded areas not in rebellion, it still applied to more than 3.5 million of the 4 million enslaved people in the country. Around 25,000 to 75,000 were immediately emancipated in those regions of the Confederacy where the US Army was already in place. It could not be enforced in the areas still in rebellion, but, as the Union army took control of Confederate regions, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for the liberation of more than three and a half million enslaved people in those regions through the end of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation outraged white Southerners and their sympathizers, who saw it as the beginning of a race war. It energized abolitionists, and undermined those Europeans who wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy. The Proclamation lifted the spirits of African Americans both free and enslaved; it led many to escape from their masters and get to Union lines to obtain their freedom and to join the Union Army. The Emancipation Proclamation became a historic document because it "would redefine the Civil War, turning it from a struggle to preserve the Union to one focused on ending slavery, and set a decisive course for how the nation would be reshaped after that historic conflict."
Emancipation Proclamation & General Order No. 3
Through the generous support of The Boeing Company, the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display annually at the National Archives through 2028. The historic document will be featured in the East Wing of the Rotunda of the National Archives building …
Emancipation Proclamation & General Order No. 3
Through the generous support of The Boeing Company, the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display annually at the National Archives through 2028. The historic document will be featured in the East Wing of the Rotunda of the National Archives building on June 18-20, 2022, alongside ‘Juneteenth’ General Order No.3 which will be featured in the West Wing of the Rotunda. Timed entry tickets are recommended for museum entry to avoid long wait times. Click here to reserve tickets.
When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he said, “I never in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper. . . . If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.” The document proclaimed that enslaved people held in areas still in rebellion “are and henceforward shall be free.” By the end of the war, nearly 200,000 Black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. As a milestone along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom.
On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s historic Emancipation Proclamation, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved people were now free. Granger commanded the Headquarters District of Texas, and his troops had arrived in Galveston the previous day.
This day has come to be known as Juneteenth, a combination of June and nineteenth. It is also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, and it is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The official handwritten record of General Order No. 3, is preserved at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
LEARN MOREDC Emancipation Act
The National Archives also holds the DC Emancipation Act.
On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia. Passage of this law came nearly nine months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. It provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to former owners who were loyal to the Union of up to $300 for each freed slave, voluntary colonization of former slaves to locations outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 for each person choosing emigration.
The National Archives’ celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of
Emancipation Proclamation, edict issued by U.S. Pres. Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, that freed the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union. Before the start of the American Civil War, many people and leaders of the North had been primarily concerned merely with stopping the extension of slavery into western territories that would eventually achieve statehood within the Union. With the secession of the Southern states and the consequent start of the Civil War, however, the continued tolerance of Southern slavery by Northerners seemed no longer to serve any constructive political purpose. Emancipation thus quickly changed
United States holiday
Alternate titles: Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day
By The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica • Last Updated: Apr 19, 2022 • Edit History
Juneteenth parade See all media
Related Topics: United States African Americans June emancipation slavery in the United States
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Top Questions What is Juneteenth?
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How did the American civil rights movement affect Juneteenth celebrations?Juneteenth, official name of federal holiday Juneteenth National Independence Day, also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Juneteenth Independence Day, holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, observed annually on June 19. Juneteenth is celebrated on Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Juneteenth: All your questions, answered
Discover the history of Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
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In 1863, during the American Civil War, Pres. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states to be free. More than two years would pass, however, before the news reached African Americans living in Texas. It was not until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that the state’s residents finally learned that slavery had been abolished. The former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, feasting, song, and dance.
Emancipation Proclamation, 1863.
African Americans celebrating the anniversary of the end of slavery in Washington, D.C., 1866.
© North Wind Picture Archives
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What Is the History of Juneteenth?
On June 19, 1865, enslaved Texans first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation—over two years after it was issued. Why did news of it...
The following year, on June 19, the first official Juneteenth celebrations took place in Texas. The original observances included prayer meetings and the singing of spirituals, and celebrants wore new clothes as a way of representing their newfound freedom. Within a few years, African Americans in other states were celebrating the day as well, making it an annual tradition. Celebrations have continued across the United States into the 21st century and typically include prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, family gatherings and picnics, and festivals with music, food, and dancing.
Discover the history of Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States
Learn more about Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is observed every year on June 19.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
See all videos for this article
Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and a number of other states subsequently followed suit. In 2021 Juneteenth was made a federal holiday. The day is also celebrated outside the United States, being used by organizations in a number of countries to recognize the end of slavery and to honour the culture and achievements of African Americans.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen.