The Emancipation Proclamation

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The Emancipation Proclamation 


New Year's Eve watch meeting - the night before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect Blacks met for prayer

Heard and Moseley,
Waiting for the hour Emancipation, December 31, 1862, National Archives

You probably know that the Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation formally ended slavery in the Confederate states during the Civil War. But did you know that the Proclamation actually did not free a single slave? It specifically did not end slavery in states which were loyal to the Union. To do so would have lost the Union valuable support in swing states. It did end slavery in the Confederate States but of course the proclamation could not be enforced there until the war was over.

Nevertheless, there were widespread celebrations on January 1, 1863 when the Proclamation took effect. At Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, the well-known abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher preached a special sermon to a huge audience. "The Proclamation may not free a single slave," he declared, "but it gives liberty a moral recognition." And after January 1, 1863, every advance the Union army made into Confederate territory freed more slaves. The Proclamation also invited Black soldiers to enlist in the army and navy. Many thousands served the Union cause.

Because of the promise and commitment that the emancipation proclamation delivered, it has its place among the cornerstone documents of freedom and equality in the world.


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