January 1, 2022 not only marked the beginning of a new year, but also the 158th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, enacted in 1863.
When the Proclamation was issued, the states were in the midst of the bloody American Civil War. The Civil War, lasting from April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865, was fought on the grounds of slavery, and whether it should be legal in America. The abolitionist Northern states comprised the Union, while the pro-slavery Southern states formed the Confederacy.
After a year of grueling war that showed no sign of stopping soon, President Abraham Lincoln declared on September 22, 1862, that if the Civil War didn’t end by January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves” in the Southern rebellious states “shall be free.”
The Proclamation tied the issue of slavery directly to the Civil War but, as said by Dr. Farrish, was a “military strategy as well,” since it allowed Black Americans to fight as soldiers. By the end of the war, almost 179,000 Black Americans had enlisted in the Union and an additional 7,000+ held officer positions.
“The Proclamation also motivated the enslaved to rise up [in the South]. If enslaved laborers were rising up, fleeing, fighting back, [the North] suddenly had an ally in the South that’s helping them win the war,” said Dr. Farrish.
Though the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 was unable to completely and successfully grant freedom and equality to Black Americans in the South, it indicated the first step of progress. Until today, equal civil rights have not fully been provided, and the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation should serve as a reminder to continue pushing towards improvement.