Tuesday was the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln that said “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious areas “are, and henceforward shall be free.” This was a major step in ending slavery in the United States and giving the U.S. Civil War a strong moral focus.
As the Library of Congress notes, from the beginning of the Civil War, Lincoln was pressured by abolitionists and some Republicans to issue such a document. Congress eventually passed a measure July 17, 1862, that freed the slaves of everyone in rebellion against the government, the Library of Congress notes. That same month Lincoln created a draft of his decree, said the Library of Congress.
President Barack Obama noted this week that with the proclamation Lincoln opened the Union Army and Navy to African Americans, giving new strength to liberty’s cause.
Lincoln’s cabinet supported the measure because some members believed that it was a military measure designed both to deprive the Confederacy of slave labor and bring additional men into the Union Army, said the Library of Congress. Other members of the cabinet were not as enthusiastic.
The proclamation did not affect slaves in the states that were not in rebellion. It took a Constitutional amendment to end slavery. But Lincoln’s proclamation allowed the military to free slaves in territory that already had been captured and to continue to free slaves as they pushed on to victory in the South.