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The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Right before Lincoln was elected president he was a lawyer on the Eighth Judicial Circuit and he had much practice representing people and cases. Lincoln did not attend any law or paralegal schools instead he studied on his own for just three years and passed the Illinois bar exam. Being a lawyer helped Lincoln see more of the injustice African Americans had to endure. He felt they should have the same rights as any white person and when he became president one of the first things he did was fight for the end of slavery. The proclamation would eventually accomplish this while also boosting the popularity of Abraham Lincoln as well as the Union.

The Emancipation Proclamation actually consisted of two executive orders. The first, issued on September 22, 1862, declared freedom for any slaves that resided in a confederate state that did not return to the union by the first of January 1863. At the time, this included the states of Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri were not mentioned specifically in the proclamation, so the slaves in those states were not freed. The first order was a preliminary announcement of the Union's intent to free slaves.

The second order was issued on January 1, 1863 and specifically named the ten states. Tennessee had already returned to the Union and therefore was not listed in the second order.

After the first order was issued, many slaves fled to Union states. By July 1865, nearly all were freed, although slavery was not completely abolished until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865.

Some criticized Lincoln for freeing slaves that the Union had no control over. But, what the proclamation did do was at least provide a legal framework for the eventually freedom of over four million slaves. It also showed the Union's commitment to ending slavery.

The proclamation also had an international impact. The United Kingdom and France both supported the Union's issuance of the proclamation, having themselves already abolished slavery. This killed the Confederacy's hopes of having either country officially recognize it, despite the fact that before the proclamation was issued, the United Kingdom seemed to favor the Confederacy.

For almost 50 years after the release of the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans celebrated the event as a holiday. Some states continue to celebrate Juneteenth , a holiday which celebrates the end of slavery.

But, not all African Americans embraced the proclamation. Several intellectuals, such as authors James Baldwin and Julius Lester as well as civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois, have described the proclamation as worthless. In his book Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream, Lerone Bennet Jr. said Lincoln was a white supremacist rather than a Great Emancipator.

The Emancipation Proclamation is occasionally moved from its home location for certain events. It was at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas in September 2007 to mark the 50 th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School .

The first order can be found at the New York State Library . It was purchase by the New York State Legislature for $1,000 after Lincoln's assassination. The second order issued on January 1, 1863 can be found at the National Archives.