- Cultural Calendar
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which is still incorrectly assumed by many to be the moment that freed all U.S. enslaved people. The truth is much more complicated.
Unfortunately, in reality, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all of those enslaved, but only those living in states in actual rebellion. It did not apply to slavery in the border states, nor to Confederate states that had already been taken under the control of the Union. It was also dependent on the Union achieving military victory in the Civil War, so that hundreds of thousands of enslaved people in Southern states continued to suffer under slavery just as before.
For Black citizens, the Emancipation Proclamation turned the Civil War into a personal fight for their own lives, liberties, and freedoms. By the end of the war, over 200,000 Black soldiers and sailors had joined the fight in the U.S. Army and Navy, spreading news of the Proclamation along the way as they fought their way against the Confederacy into the South, even as they also helped many enslaved people to escape behind Union lines as they did so.
Learn more about the Emancipation Proclamation (and its ties to Juneteenth)