5 Things You Didn't Know About The Emancipation Proclamation

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which set a date for the freedom of more than 3 million slaves in the United States. Here are five things you didn't know about the Emancipation Proclamation...


Lincoln Actually Issued The Emancipation Proclamation Twice Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. 

It Didn't Free All Slaves In fact, it didn't free even a majority of slaves. The Proclamation is popularly seen now as this wide-ranging reform, but all it really did was say that the slaves in states that were still rebelling as of January 1, 1863, would be freed. Not the slaves in states that decided to stop rebelling, or slaves in states that had never rebelled, or in those in Union territory, but only those in about ten states that still had a chance to give up fighting. However, the Proclamation was a vital step toward expanding emancipation for all slaves.


It Allowed African Americans to Join Union Armed Forces One part of the Emancipation Proclamation that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention in school is the part that allowed African Americans to join the U.S. military. African Americans had already started fighting; some were in Confederate forces as slaves, and in 1861, Congress issued the First Confiscation Act, which freed all the slaves who were in the Confederate military, either as soldiers or workers. In 1862, all-African-American regiments that were loyal to the Union were formed. By the end of the war, over 200,000 African-Americans would serve in the Union army and navy.

The Proclamation Wasn't Actually a Law The Emancipation Proclamation was... a proclamation. It was an order but not a law, and technically it didn't end slavery. Union-friendly states still got to have slaves according to the terms of the proclamation (remember, it focused on rebelling states), so Lincoln pushed for the proclamation and the end of slavery to be made law. That led to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, which ended slavery in every state.

Lincoln Considered The Emancipation Proclamation The Crowning Achievement President Lincoln considered the Emancipation Proclamation to be the most important aspect of his legacy. “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper,” he declared. “If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."