The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Today in Civil Rights History: President Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation

September 22, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the first part of an executive order known as the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Emancipation Proclamation was a set of two executive orders made during the American Civil War that declared that all slaves in the Confederate States of America be freed. 

The first order was given following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam and threatened to grant freedom to slaves in Confederate states that did not rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863.  This threat was followed up shortly with the second order, given on January 1, which officially freed slaves in 10 states that had failed to return to the Union.

It is estimated that up to 20,000 slaves were freed by the second order on that very day, and many more slaves were freed each day as the Union forces advanced further South to take control of states named in the proclamation.  In total, it is estimated that about four million slaves were freed by the proclamation by July of 1865.  Some of those freedmen used their newfound freedom to join the Union Army and assisted in their eventual victory over the Confederacy.

In effect, the Emancipation Proclamation was much more important because of what it symbolized rather than what it actually did.  The proclamation was a war measure that was limited because it was aimed at freeing slaves in states that the Union had no control of.  While the proclamation did free some slaves at the time, slavery was officially abolished in the United States in December of 1965 when the 13th Amendment was ratified.

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