Black History Month – Lincoln’s Birthday – Did Lincoln Actually Free the Slaves? Well, Sort of, In a Way…..

Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, was born on February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky.

Among his great achievements, “freeing the slaves” is usually high on the list. But many people aren’t aware that The Emancipation Proclamation did not in fact free all the slaves.

The first part of the Emancipation consisted of an executive order issued by President Lincoln on September 22, 1862. This order declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. In other words, the South had one hundred days to renounce secession before Lincoln would make official the emancipation of southern slaves.

The second order, issued January 1, 1863, put the emancipation into effect and named the specific states where it applied.

The Proclamation did not free any slaves of the border states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia), or of any southern state (or part of a state) already under Union control. By limiting emancipation so that it would affect only those areas in rebellion and only those individuals who supported that rebellion, Lincoln could retain the loyalty of pro-Union slave owners, and for that matter, pro-Union racists. So concerned was he lest soldiers would fight not to end slavery but only to save the Union, that he published the provisional emancipation in the form of a booklet on September 24, 1862, to be distributed throughout the Army.

Thus, at first, the emancipation directly affected only those slaves from the South who had already escaped to the Union side. Lincoln was declaring slaves free in areas that he did not control, while leaving slavery untouched in areas that he did. But hearing of the Proclamation, more slaves quickly escaped to Union lines as the Army units moved south. As the Union armies conquered the Confederacy, thousands of slaves were freed each day until nearly all (approximately 4 million, according to the 1860 census) were freed by July 1865.

After the war, abolitionists feared that since the proclamation was a war measure, it had not permanently ended slavery. Although several former slave states passed legislation prohibiting slavery, some slavery continued to be legal. The institution was not officially ended until a sufficient number of states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865.

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12 Responses to Black History Month – Lincoln’s Birthday – Did Lincoln Actually Free the Slaves? Well, Sort of, In a Way…..

  1. Julie P. says:

    Very interesting — it’s always about politics, isn’t it???

  2. Barbara says:

    Excellent post! I grew up in Springfield, IL so I’m a natural born Lincoln addict and member of the Abraham Lincoln Association. This is something that people need to understand about Lincoln; he was a politician with well-honed political skills, although he did abhor slavery and was shocked at conditions the slaves endured. Above all he was a realist and because of that, he accomplished great things.

  3. Ceri says:

    Really interesting post. 🙂 I don’t know about the rest of the British schools but we didn’t learn a lot about American history. I did do a course about the American West during my GCSEs but never really explored it that much.

  4. Sandy says:

    I guess I knew that, from my kids’ history classes, but had forgotten. That was a nice little history booster shot!

  5. Ti says:

    I had no idea that the emacipation was limited to only certain states. I suspect that I will be re-introduced to history in a big way when my son starts junior high in August. Right now, grade school doesn’t cover too much history.. the big stuff, but not in any detail. It’s sort of sad actually and he goes to a really good school.

  6. Lisa says:

    I was just wondering today if we would even be able to pass emancipation under any other circumstances. Would a president have the nerve and the backing to suggest that a huge part of the country needed to make changes to their livelihood that would significantly increase their operating costs. I guess we should all be grateful that so many circumstances combined to make emancipation at any level possible.

  7. That was interesting…I didn’t realize that the Emancipation didn’t free all of the slaves.

  8. Alyce says:

    I knew that it only applied to those Southern states that didn’t fall into the Union, but I was vague on most of the details other than that.

  9. stacybuckeye says:

    I didn’t know that. A President playing politics? Say it ain’t so! Thanks for the history lesson. I can dazzle my husband with my smarts later 🙂

  10. ds says:

    Thank you for this; I had no idea that the Emancipation Proclamation had so many strings attached. Puts Mr. Lincoln in a slightly different light…

  11. Margot says:

    Excellent post. I really liked the map and the clarity you brought to this important bit of history.

  12. Jenners says:

    Be sure to keep blogging so I can use all these posts for my Little One’s homework someday!

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