Friday, September 28, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation is 150 Years Old!

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which established a date for the freedom of more than 3 million slaves of African descent in the United States.
The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ensure its permanence. With the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was eliminated throughout America (although blacks would face another century of struggle before they truly began to gain equal rights). - History Channel
This historical milestone (150 years!) is significant in two ways:

First, the Emancipation Proclamation recast the American Civil War as a fight against slavery rather than only to preserve the Union. This was a huge political gamble for President Lincoln because he was uncertain that the anti-slavery movement would prevail. After the South seceded, there was no political reason to tolerate slavery. The decree provided moral inspiration for the North and discouraged European countries from supporting the Confederacy (South). It also had the effect of permitting the recruitment of African Americans in the Union (North) army. By 1865, nearly 180,000 African American soldiers had enlisted in the Union army.

Second, the Emancipation Proclamation inspired future generations of African Americans to recognize the United States as their permanent home. This decree solidified the notion that African Americans could fight for equal rights and integration. During the next 100 years, African Americans established churches, mutual aid societies, and educational institutions and adopted nonviolent social change techniques (sit-ins, marches, and court cases) in order to gain political power at the community and national levels. African Americans also joined the armed forces to serve their country against fascism abroad and racial prejudice at home. These efforts would point the way to the rise of the American civil rights movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. highlighted the Emancipation Proclamation's legacy in his famous "I Have a Dream" (1962) speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. A hundred years later, King states:

“This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
Please visit the White House blog for more information.

No comments: