Emancipation Proclamation

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On January 1, 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared free all enslaved Africans residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government. This Emancipation Proclamation actually freed few people, because it did not apply to enslaved Africans in border states fighting on the Union side, nor did it affect enslaved Africans in Southern areas already under Union control. Of course, the states in rebellion did not act on Lincoln's order to free the enslaved Africans. However, the Emancipation Proclamation did suggest that the Civil War would be fought to end slavery.
Lincoln had been reluctant to write a proclamation freeing the Africans. He had articulated his view of the African on several occasions, and he was a firm believer in the doctrine of white supremacy. Lincoln, therefore, initially viewed the war only in terms of preserving the Union. But when the political and moral pressure kept mounting in the country, the President became more sympathetic to the idea that blacks should be free in those states in rebellion. On September 22, 1862, he issued a preliminary proclamation announcing that emancipation would become effective in those states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863. The proclamation did not end slavery in America, which was not achieved until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on December 18, 1865, but the Emancipation Proclamation did make that accomplishment a virtual certainty after the war.

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Further Reading

  • Commager, Henry Steele. (1960). The Great Proclamation. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. This was one of the first books that attempts to dissect the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Donovan, Frank. (1964). Mr. Lincoln's Proclamation. New York: Dodd, Mead. This book provides a political overview of how Lincoln accepted the challenge of this proclamation.
  • Franklin, John Hope. (Ed.) (1963). The Emancipation Proclamation. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday. These essays on the proclamation were selected by one of the most distinguished scholars of the century.