Little Known Black History Fact: The Emancipation Proclamation

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  • January 1, 1863, marks the day that Emancipation Proclamation under President Abraham Lincoln would be signed. The order would call for the freedom of over 3.1 million slaves under the Confederacy. It was said that Abraham Lincoln found the practice of slavery barbaric but he knew that that would not appeal to neither the Union or Confederacy as a simple basis for the Civil War. There were countless slaves who joined the Union army to fight for civil human rights as a result. This action spring-boarded Lincoln’s push for the proclamation.

    Lincoln first mentioned the new order in July 1862. He sent a preliminary version that September after the Battle of Antietam. This did not include several states that were not in the Union, like Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and parts of Louisiana. As the Union Army advanced control in the civil war, more slaves and states were included in the proclamation.

    Lincoln could not have jump-started the process without opposition in Congress. Thaddeus Stevens made an argument in 1862 that the end of slavery would ruin the economy. In small steps toward the January 1st decision, the Law Enacting an Additional Article of War was passed, stating that the Union Army was under law not to return escaped slaves to their original owners. That was soon followed with the April decision that slave owners would be compensated for their losses. In the District of Columbia, all slaves had been freed by April 16th.

    It’s important to note that the masses of slaves were not truly freed until the 13th Amendment passed in February 1865, which outlawed slavery. The word about the freedom of slaves was slow to reach the South. Those in Galveston, Texas heard the news on June 19th, which is now the annual Juneteenth celebration. All states had not completed ratifications until December 1865.

    The United States Postal Service has just issued a 150th-anniversary edition stamp commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation. Designed by Gail Anderson aka “Gail Curly,” the “Emancipation Proclamation Forever” U.S. postal stamp goes on sale today. It is a follow-up to the 100th-anniversary stamp by George Olden, who was the first African American to design a U.S. postage stamp. Olden released his version on August 16, 1963.

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