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Today in History
The Emancipation Proclamation | Nathan Hale
Today in History - September 22
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The Emancipation Proclamation
On September 22, 1862, partly in response to the heavy losses inflicted at the Battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, threatening to free all the enslaved people in the states in rebellion if those states did not return to the Union by January 1, 1863. The extent of the Proclamation’s practical effect has been debated, as it was legally binding only in territory not under Union control. In the short term, it amounted to no more than a statement of policy for the federal army as it moved into Southern territory.
First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet / painted by F.B. Carpenter; engraved by A.H. Ritchie. c1866. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division
Never in all the march of time,
Dawned on this land a more sublime
A grand event than that for which
To-day the lowly and the rich,
Doth humbly bow and meekly send
Their orisons to God, their Friend.
A Poem read by J. Madison Bell. Published in The Centennial Jubilee of Freedom at Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, September 22, 1888. p.87. Xenia, Ohio: The Aldine Printing House, 1888. African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection. Rare Book & Special Collections Division
Preliminary Draft of Emancipation Proclamation. Abraham Lincoln, July 22, 1862. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division.
In larger terms, however, Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation was enormous. This event, combined with the determination on the part of African Americans to flee across Union lines as the federal army advanced into Southern territory, framed the Civil War as a struggle for freedom and against slavery. In more practical terms, the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation prevented European nations from intervening in the war on behalf of the Confederacy and enabled the Union to enlist nearly 180,000 African American soldiers to fight between January 1, 1863 and the conclusion of the war.
Emancipation Day, Richmond, Va. 1905. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division
Throughout the intervening years, the public has commemorated the Emancipation Proclamation with marches and celebrations. In American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940, two people share their memories of these events. “Mrs. Ella Boney,” born in Henry Country, Kentucky on October 12, 1869, remembers childhood celebrations in Hill City, Kansas in her 1938 interview:
One of the biggest events of the year for Negroes in Kansas is the Emancipation Proclamation picnic every fourth of August. We celebrate four days in a large grove just out side of Nicodemus, and Negroes come from all over the state. There are about twelve barbecue pits dug and they are going all day barbecuing chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, sides of beef, etc.
[Mrs. Ella Boney]. Albert Burks, interviewer; Lincoln, Nebraska: November 26, 1938. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division
In a 1939 interview, John Wesley Dobbs, a Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons, recounts his Emancipation Day speech for “Wings over Jordan,” a radio program heard every Sunday morning in the 1930s on station WGAR in Cleveland:
Over the doorway of the nation’s Supreme Court Building in Washington, D. C. are engraved four words, ‘Equal Justice Under Law’. This beautiful American ideal is what the Negroes want to see operative and effective from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf – nothing more or less.
[I Saw the Stars]. John Wesley Dobbs, interviewee; Geneva Tonsill, interviewer; Atlanta, Georgia, December 2, 1939. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division
From African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection come speeches and sermons, including an oration delivered by Reverend A.L. DeMond to members of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on January 1, 1900. In “The Negro Element in American Life: An Oration,” DeMond describes the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation as
…two great patriotic, wise and humane state papers…Both were born in days of doubt and darkness. Both were the outcome of injustice overleaping the bounds of right and reason. The one was essential to the fulfilling of the other. Without the Declaration of Independence the nation could not have been born; without the Emancipation Proclamation it could not have lived.
“The Negro Element in American Life: An Oration,” delivered by Rev. A.L. DeMond in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, Jan. 1, 1900. Montgomery, Ala.: Alabama Printing Company, 1900. African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection. Rare Book & Special Collections Division
10 Facts: The Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation is arguably one of the top ten most important documents in the history of the United States; however, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Here are ten facts providing the basics on the proclamation and the history surrounding it.
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10 Facts: The Emancipation Proclamation
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Added by 107 EducatorsThe Emancipation Proclamation is arguably one of the top ten most important documents in the history of the United States; however, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Here are ten facts providing the basics on the proclamation and the history surrounding it.
Fact #1: Lincoln actually issued the Emancipation Proclamation twice.
Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863.
Library of Congress
Fact #2: The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the states in rebellion.
President Lincoln justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure intended to cripple the Confederacy. Being careful to respect the limits of his authority, Lincoln applied the Emancipation Proclamation only to the Southern states in rebellion.
Fact #3: Lincoln’s advisors did not initially support the Emancipation Proclamation.
When President Lincoln first proposed the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in the summer of 1862, many of the cabinet secretaries were apathetic, or worse, worried that the Proclamation was too radical. It was only Lincoln’s firm commitment to the necessity and justice of the Proclamation, along with the victory at Antietam, which finally persuaded his cabinet members to support him.
Fact #4: The Battle of Antietam (also known as Sharpsburg) provided the necessary Union victory to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
President Lincoln had first proposed the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet in July 1862, but Secretary of State William Seward suggested waiting for a Union victory so that the government could prove that it could enforce the Proclamation. Although the Battle of Antietam resulted in a draw, the Union army was able to drive the Confederates out of Maryland – enough of a “victory,” that Lincoln felt comfortable issuing the Emancipation just five days later.
Fact #5: The Emancipation Proclamation was a firm demonstration of the President’s executive war powers.
The Southern states used slaves to support their armies on the field and to manage the home front so more men could go off to fight. In a display of his political genius, President Lincoln shrewdly justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a “fit and necessary war measure” in order to cripple the Confederacy’s use of slaves in the war effort. Lincoln also declared that the Proclamation would be enforced under his power as Commander-in-Chief, and that the freedom of the slaves would be maintained by the “Executive government of the United States.”
Fact #6: The Emancipation Proclamation changed the focus of the war.
Up until September 1862, the main focus of the war had been to preserve the Union. With the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation freedom for slaves now became a legitimate war aim.
Fact #7: The Emancipation Proclamation helped prevent the involvement of foreign nations in the Civil War.
Britain and France had considered supporting the Confederacy in order to expand their influence in the Western Hemisphere. However, many Europeans were against slavery. Although some in the United Kingdom saw the Emancipation Proclamation as overly limited and reckless, Lincoln's directive reinforced the shift of the international political mood against intervention while the Union victory at Antietam further disturbed those who didn't want to intervene on the side of a lost cause.
Fact #8: The Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for African-Americans to fight for their freedom.
Lincoln declared in the Proclamation that African-Americans of “suitable condition, would be received into the armed service of the United States.” Five months after the Proclamation took effect; the War Department of the United States issued General Orders No. 143, establishing the United States Colored Troops (USCT). By the end of the war, over 200,000 African-Americans would serve in the Union army and navy.
Fact #9: The Emancipation Proclamation led the way to total abolition of slavery in the United States.
With the Emancipation Proclamation, the aim of the war changed to include the freeing of slaves in addition to preserving the Union. Although the Proclamation initially freed only the slaves in the rebellious states, by the end of the war the Proclamation had influenced and prepared citizens to advocate and accept abolition for all slaves in both the North and South. The 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, was passed on December 6th, 1865.
Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation
On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which sets a date for the freedom of more than 3 million
Year 1862 Month Day September 22
Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation
On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which sets a date for the freedom of more than 3 million enslaved in the United States and recasts the Civil War as a fight against slavery.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration as America’s 16th president, he maintained that the war was about restoring the Union and not about slavery. He avoided issuing an anti-slavery proclamation immediately, despite the urgings of abolitionists and radical Republicans, as well as his personal belief that slavery was morally repugnant. Instead, Lincoln chose to move cautiously until he could gain wide support from the public for such a measure.
In July 1862, Lincoln informed his cabinet that he would issue an emancipation proclamation but that it would exempt the so-called border states, which had slaveholders but remained loyal to the Union. His cabinet persuaded him not to make the announcement until after a Union victory. Lincoln’s opportunity came following the Union win at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. On September 22, the president announced that enslaved people in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free.
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” The proclamation also called for the recruitment and establishment of Black military units among the Union forces. An estimated 180,000 African Americans went on to serve in the army, while another 18,000 served in the navy.
After the Emancipation Proclamation, backing the Confederacy was seen as favoring slavery. It became impossible for anti-slavery nations such as Great Britain and France, who had been friendly to the Confederacy, to get involved on behalf of the South. The proclamation also unified and strengthened Lincoln’s party, the Republicans, helping them stay in power for the next two decades.
The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ensure its permanence. With the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was eliminated throughout America (although Black people would face another century of struggle before they began to gain equal rights in the U.S.A. a century after the passage of the 13th Amendment).
Lincoln’s handwritten draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, the original official version of the document is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.READ MORE: America's History of Slavery Began Long Before Jamestown