Jan. 1, 1863: President Lincoln Signs the Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It declared, “all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

The Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves in the United States. Rather, it declared free only those slaves living in states not under Union control. It also allowed black soldiers to fight for the Union — soldiers that were desperately needed. Lastly, it tied the issue of slavery directly to the Civil War. 

Watch this American Experience video to learn more about the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Image: Photograph of a reproduction of the Emancipation Proclamation, 1864.

On This Day

November 19, 1863 – at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history.  Although only 272 words, the “little speech,” as he later called it, is thought by many today to be the most eloquent articulation of the democratic vision ever written.