From Antietam to Chancellorsville: September 1862 to May 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation

Who was actually freed by the Emancipation Proclamation?

Almost no one was freed on the spot. But the promise of freedom was very close, so close that some of the slaves who read—or heard—the Proclamation could taste it:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever, free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons.

It had finally happened. Thirty-four years after the first abolitionist groups were founded, eleven years after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and four years after John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, a bold, powerful step had been taken, and as of January 1, 1863, millions of black people would be free.


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