1860: A time when African-Americans were owned by slaveholders before and during the Civil War in the United States. On Sept. 22 of 1862, however, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that change was needed, and he issued a date for a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
But what does that even mean? Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th president shortly after the Civil War began, and originally, his mission as president during the war was to encourage restoration of the Union; slavery was not the main concern.
Although he personally believed that slavery was unacceptable, he avoided addressing the slavery issue immediately so he could gain widespread support from the public regarding the repugnant matter.
About a year later, Sept. 22, 1862, Lincoln set a date for the freedom and release of over three million black slaves in the United States, and the new priority of the Civil War was to fight against slavery in the states.
Prior to the proclamation, slavery was legal in the following states:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
At the time when the proclamation was issued, Lincoln exempted the border states (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia) because the slaveholders were loyal to the Union. After a Union win at the Battle of Antietam in September, it was announced that within 100 days, slaves in areas of rebellion would be freed.
The official Emancipation Proclamation was issued and put into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, which stated “‘that all persons held as slaves’ within the rebel states ‘are, and henceforward shall be free,’” according to history.com. In the Union forces, Lincoln ensured the proclamation required recruitment and establishment of military units for those slaves being freed, which prompted 180,000 African Americans to serve in the army and 18,000 to serve in the navy.
Not only did the Emancipation Proclamation free millions of slaves, but it built up Lincoln’s Republican party and allowed them to stay in power for the following two decades.
The original, handwritten document was destroyed in the Chicago Fire, but the official version of the document resides in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Considering the proclamation was not a law, it wasn’t considered permanent, meaning the statement could have been taken as very relaxed unless made an official law. In 1865, slavery was eliminated in America after Lincoln fought for and passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
Just because slavery was eliminated at the time didn’t mean African Americans were considered equals, for they faced many years of struggles before finally gaining equality in 1964 under the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org