Emancipation Proclamation


Today is Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, it was not enforced in the state of Texas due to a lack of Union troop presence and enforcement in the confederate state.


However on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger and his regiment  entered Galveston, Texas to override the resistance to the law and to enforce the Executive Orders. Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Orders, No.3 to the people of Galveston. It stated:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Since 1865 black Americans have regarded June 19th as the official emancipation day, and on January 1, 1980, the state of Texas proclaimed June 19 an official state holiday thanks to the African American state legislator Al Edwards.

This remarkable photograph shows the then oldest living ex-slave, Mrs. Sally Fickland, viewing the Emancipation Proclamation in the Freedom Train at Philadelphia, on September 17, 1947.  This moving image reminds us of the importance of exhibition lighting policies to control both the intensity and duration of light exposure.  The National Archives carefully limits the light exposure of this landmark document to ensure that it survives for future generations to see.  Emancipation Proclamation, RG 11, ARC # 299998.


June 19th 1865: Juneteenth

On this day in 1865, the abolition of slavery was formally proclaimed in Texas, in an event which has been celebrated as ‘Juneteenth’ (a contraction of ‘June 19th’). President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in rebelling Confederate states not under Union occupation, on January 1st 1863. However, the proclamation had little effect in areas like Texas which were not under Union control. It was two years later, in June 1865, when Union troops under Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, that abolition came to the state. The Union contingent brought the news that the American Civil War was over, following the surrender of Robert E. Lee in April. Upon his arrival, General Granger read General Order Number 3 declaring slavery abolished, leading thousands of former slaves to leave the state to seek employment or to find their families. Slavery was formally abolished throughout the entire United States with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865. Juneteenth was one of the first celebrations commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States, and served as a poignant time for the black community in Texas and elsewhere to come together in solidarity as they endured the hardship of Jim Crow which followed emancipation. The celebration of Juneteenth waned during the early twentieth century, largely due to financial concerns, but resurged with the onset of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas, making it the first state-recognised emancipation celebration. Now, Juneteenth is spreading beyond Texas, and has become a day for celebrating African-American achievement, and remembering the legacy of slavery.

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free”
- General Order Number 3, read by General Granger June 19th 1865

“On December 31, 1862, our Nation marked the end of another year of civil war. At Shiloh and Seven Pines, Harpers Ferry and Antietam, brother had fought against brother. Sister had fought against sister. Blood and bitterness had deepened the divide that separated North from South, eroding the bonds of affection that once united 34 States under a single flag. Slavery still suspended the possibility of an America where life and liberty were the birthright of all, not the province of some.

Yet, even in those dark days, light persisted. Hope endured. As the weariness of an old year gave way to the promise of a new one, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation—courageously declaring that on January 1, 1863, "all persons held as slaves” in rebellious areas “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” He opened the Union Army and Navy to African Americans, giving new strength to liberty’s cause. And with that document, President Lincoln lent new moral force to the war by making it a fight not just to preserve, but also to empower. He sought to reunite our people not only in government, but also in freedom that knew no bounds of color or creed. Every battle became a battle for liberty itself. Every struggle became a struggle for equality.

Our 16th President also understood that while each of us is entitled to our individual rights and responsibilities, there are certain things we cannot accomplish on our own. Only a Union could serve the hopes of every citizen, knocking down the barriers to opportunity and giving each of us the chance to pursue our highest aspirations. He knew that in these United States, no dream could ever be beyond our reach when we affirm that individual liberty is served, not negated, by seeking the common good.“

—President Obama on the Emancipation Proclamation, issued 150 years ago today

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.

The Watch Night Services in Black communities that we celebrate today can be traced back to gatherings on December 31, 1862, also known as “Freedom’s Eve.” On that night, Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863, and all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free.

As early as 1837, as a State Legislator, [Abraham] Lincoln referred to the injustice and impracticality of slavery. Later he wrote of the physical differences between blacks and whites and made it clear that he felt whites were superior. At times he concluded that the white man could not live with the Negro. This accounted for his conviction that the only answer to the problem was to colonize the black man-send him back to Africa, or to the West Indies or some other isolated spot.This view was still in his mind toward the height of the Civil War … Frederick Douglas, a Negro of towering grandeur, sound judgement and militant initiative, sought, without success, to persuade Lincoln that slavery, not merely the preservation of the union, was at the root of the war.

… On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the Negro from the bondage of chattel slavery …

But underneath, the ambivalence of white America toward the Negro still lurked with painful persistence. with all the beautiful promise that Douglass saw in the Emancipation Proclamation, he soon found that it left the Negro with only abstract freedom. Four million newly liberated slave found themselves with no bread to eat, no land to cultivate, no shelter to cover their heads. It was like freeing a man who had been unjustly imprisoned for years, and on discovering his innocence sending him out with no bus fare to get home, no suit to cover his body, no financial compensation to atone for his long years of incarceration and to help him get a sound footing in society; sending him out with only the assertion: “Now you are free.” what greater injustice could society perpetrate? All the moral voices of the universe, all the codes of sound jurisprudence, would rise up with condemnation at such an act. Yet this is exactly what America did to the Negro. In 1863 the Negro was given abstract freedom expressed in luminous rhetoric. But in an agrarian economy he was given no land to make liberation concrete. After the war the government granted white settlers, without cost, millions of acres of land in the West, thus providing America’s new white peasants from Europe with an economic floor. But at the same time its oldest peasantry, the Negro, was denied everything but a legal status he could not use, could not consolidate, could not even defend. As Frederick Douglas came to say, “Emancipation granted the Negro freedom to hunger, freedom to winter amid the rains of heaven. Emancipation was freedom and famine at the same time.”


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Taken from his last book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” (1967) (pages 77-79)

Mr. President

It is my Desire to be free. To go to see my people on the eastern shore. My mistress won’t let me. You will please let me know if we are free. And what I can do. I write to you for advice. Please send me word this week. Or as soon as possible. And oblige.

Annie Davis

On August 25, 1864, Annie Davis, an enslaved woman living in Maryland, wrote this letter to President Lincoln asking if she was free. No reply from President Lincoln has been located, but the answer to her question would have been: “No.”

President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, freeing slaves in states that had seceded from the Union. But it excused slave-holding border states like Maryland that had remained loyal to the Union, as well as parts of the Confederacy already under Northern control. And further the Emancipation Proclamation ultimately depended on a Union military victory.

That means slavery continued to exist in Annie’s Maryland until a rewritten Maryland Constitution freeing slaves came into effect on November 1, 1864. And the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States finally finished the work of freeing the slaves nationwide when ratified after the end of the Civil War on December 6th, 1865—150 years ago this week.

“Our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others—regardless of what they look like, or where they come from, or what their last name is, or what faith they practice.” —President Obama

Find out more about Annie’s letter from USNatArchives​, and watch President Obama’s speech today on the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

This photograph shows 88-year-old Mrs. Sally Fickland, a former slave, looking at the Emancipation Proclamation in 1947.

She would have been 3 years old when Lincoln signed the proclamation in 1862.

The document was in Philadelphia that day on the first stop on the Freedom Train tour. The Freedom Train carried the Emancipation Proclamation and the Bill of Rights across America. During the 413-day tour, 3.5 million people in 322 cities in 48 states viewed these records

Due to its fragile condition–it was printed on both sides of poor-quality 19th-century paper, unlike the Constitution, which is written on more durable parchment–the Emancipation Proclamation can only be displayed for 30 hours each year.

Now you have a chance to see this invaluable document on the 150th anniversary of its signing! We will have extended viewing hours, dramatic readings, music, and family activities, all for free at the National Archives from December 30, 2012, to January 1, 2013. Details here: http://go.usa.gov/gWbA Image: Record Group 64, National Archives.

“I need to know why you hate me.”

My eyes widened and I blinked a few times, confused. He thought I hated him?

“What do you mean?”

He sighed, running his hand through his hair. It was sticking up all over the place and he was just making it worse.

“I mean, you fucking run from me, you won’t look at me or talk to me. The only reason you’re doing it now is because you don’t think you have any other choice because you have to put my laundry away. I mean, fuck, I could do that shit myself but the only way I can get you to stay in the same goddamn room with me is to give you work to do. You have no problem hanging out with my brothers so why the fucking problem with me? Am I that fucking horrible?”

I just stared at him in shock as he rambled it all out in frustration. I was slightly stunned and couldn’t get my lips to move to form words.

“And Christ, now I’m sitting here yelling at you again and cursing, like that’s going to fucking fix anything,” he muttered, shaking his head. “Is that what’s wrong? Is it my temper? Do I scare you?” I shook my head hesitantly. He groaned. “Then what?”

I sighed. “I don’t hate you. I just…” I started, unsure of how to explain it.

“Just what?” he asked.

“I just don’t understand you” Emancipation Proclamation


“Everyone smile!” the photographer shouted. I smiled on demand, ready to get the shit over with, and he snapped off a few pictures in quick succession. “Alright, I think that’s a wrap.”

I exhaled in relief and immediately reached up to loosen my tie. “Thank fucking God. That shit took forever.”

“Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” Isabella said with a laugh. “It was only like twenty minutes.”

I grabbed her hips and she yelped as I quickly pulled her to me. “You’re wrong, Isabella Marie Cullen,” I said, smirking as I said that shit out loud for the first time. “It was that bad, because it was twenty minutes that I couldn’t do this.”

I smashed my lips to hers, kissing her deeply, and heard Rosalie groan nearby. 

“Nauseating,” she grumbled. “I don’t want to see that.”

“Then stop fucking looking,” I spat, pulling away from Isabella’s lips long enough to get the words out. She laughed when I went right back to kissing her again, and wrapped her arms around me as she kissed me back. - Emancipation Proclamation - Chapter 80 ©kha r i z zma t i k

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“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, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence [sic]; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord


one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President:


Secretary of State.

When Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he came from standing in a reception receiving line. He is reported to have said that while his arm was tired and his signature shaky, he was convinced of the rightness of his proclamation. This detail of the signature on the Emancipation Proclamation shows the wavering ink line (top image). The ink lines of the signature have lost their intensity and are in poor condition. The mottled discoloration of the paper is also evident. Emancipation Proclamation, RG 11, ARC # 299998.

This signature by Abraham Lincoln appears on the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued in September 1862 (bottom image). Because the document has been handled and exhibited much less, it is in very good condition. The ink signature is dark and crisp in appearance. Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation RG 11.


On New Year’s Eve, over 4,000 people saw this important document. Then, on January 1, 2013, the National Archives celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation with special guests, songs, and a stamp.

If you didn’t see it this time, stay tuned. Although its display time is limited each year, the document does travel to other venues, and it will be on display here again.

You can learn more about the Emancipation Proclamation and related documents in our free eBook, available to download for iPad, iPad, Android, and other eReaders: http://www.archives.gov/publications/ebooks/