by Kelly R. Smith
Today (September 22) is the anniversary of the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The intent was to grant the freedom of more than 3 million slaves in the United States. Of course, we all learned this in school, along with other historical facts, such as the accomplishments of Theodore Roosevelt. But, there is more to the picture.
5 Interesting Facts about the Emancipation Proclamation
- It Didn’t Actually Free All the Slaves. As a matter of fact, the proclamation didn’t even give freedom to a majority of slaves. The document is popularly seen now as an inclusive reform, but in actuality it said that the slaves living in states that were still rebelling as of January 1, 1863, would become free. However, not the slaves residing in states that decided to stop rebelling, or slaves residing in states that had never actively rebelled, or in those in Union territories. It only included those in approximately 10 states that still had an opportunity to cease fighting. However, the Proclamation was a key step towards beginning the emancipation process for all slaves. Baby steps as they say. As time marched on, so did the civil rights movement.
- The Emancipation Proclamation was Issued Twice. President Lincoln issued the first Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd of 1862. It specified that if the states in the south didn’t deist from rebelling by January 1st of 1863, then the Proclamation would go into effect. But the Confederacy did not yield. Therefore, Honest Abe issued the final version of the Proclamation on January 1st of 1863.
- The Proclamation Wasn’t Technically a Law. You didn’t see that coming, did you? It was actually an order, not a law, and “technically” didn’t stop slavery. States that were Union-friendly got to keep slaves according to the details of the Proclamation (recall that it focused on rebel states). But Lincoln pushed for the proclamation and the end of slavery to be made law. The result was the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This passed in 1865 and ended slavery in all the states. Steady progress; as the Irish say, “The road to Heaven is well signposted, but it’s badly lit at night,” meaning that life has many challenges in store for us but the reward is well worth it.
- It Allowed Blacks to Join the Union Armed Forces. A detail in the Emancipation Proclamation that never get a lot of attention in history class is that it opened the door to allowing Blacks join the military. Blacks had already started fighting in a variety of ways. Many were in the Confederate forces in the role of slaves. In 1861, Congress passed the First Confiscation Act. This act gave freedom to all the slaves in the Confederate military, whether as soldiers or workers. Next, during 1862, all-Black regiments loyal to the Union were formed. By the time the war was over, more than 200,000 Blacks would serve in the Union Army and Navy.
President Abraham Lincoln considered the Emancipation Proclamation the most important and transformative part of his legacy. 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.”
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About the Author:
Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.