"... 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."

Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation. Jan. 1, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

The original of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is in the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Text taken from "The Emancipation Proclamation," National Archives and Records Administration.

This research guide provides links to authoritative resources about the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as the political and social debates that led to its issuance. Links to sites about prominent abolitionists, Emancipation Day and Juneteenth, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, post-Emancipation and Reconstruction, and other general materials are also included. While most of the resources link to information about the 19th century, a few point to sites highlighting 20th-century events that provide a deeper understanding of the impact of emancipation on American society.


back to top The Proclamation Document


Abraham Lincoln


back to topPre-Proclamation: Slavery, War, Politics & Abolition Debate


Emancipation & Juneteenth: Two Celebrations of Freedom

Catherine Edmondston and Reconstruction (1865). Catherine's journal entries describing her thoughts as slaves are freed from family and friends' plantations in Halifax County, North Carolina. From LearnNC.


back to topPost-Proclamation: Freedom, Reconstruction, & Civil Rights


back to topAbolitionists & Freedom Fighters


back to top The 13th Amendment: Proclamation Becomes Law

Did you know? North Carolina ratified the 13th amendment on December 4, 1865.

Article 5 of the Constitution provides for the amendment of the Constitution by various means (see The Amendments Page for details). However an amendment is proposed, it does not become part of the Constitution unless it is ratified by three-quarters of the states (either the legislatures thereof, or in amendment conventions). The following is a record of each ratified amendment and the states and dates that led to the ratification. The Constitutional Timeline and the Ratification Grid may also be of interest.


back to topGeneral Resources


Especially for Kids


back to topEspecially for Teachers: Lesson Plans & Research Guides

back to topImage Credits

Header: "The Emancipation Proclamation," page three. From the National Archives & Records Administration.

"President Lincoln on battle-field of Antietam," October, 1862 / Alex. Gardner, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

"Am I not a man and a brother?" Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

"Horton Grove." Stagville State Historic Site, Durham, North Carolina.

Portrait of R. H. W. Leak. Freedom's jubilee: Celebration of the 31st anniversary of the Proclamation of Emancipation at Raleigh, N.C., January 1, 1894.,17186.

"Charlotte Hawkins Brown on her Wedding Day," 1912. State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

Shaw Hall, Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C. Era of progress and promise, 1863-1910 : the religious, moral, and educational development of the American Negro since his emancipation.,4242

Pencil (graphite) drawing of Harriet Jacobs, based on famous photo of her that is owned by Harvard University (N_86_4_1). Drawing was commissioned by George Stevenson and completed by artist Keith White of West Side Gallery and Studios, Raleigh, NC 27601, in February 1994. Original is from PhC.122, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

African-American women with spinning wheel and carder in yard of unidentified North Carolina house, ca. 1890. From the General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Professor Jacob's School, African-American, students and teacher in front of school, early 1900's, Lake Waccamaw, NC, Columbus County.
From the General Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC.

Sidebar: David Walker, 1785-1830 Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, Written in Boston, State of Massachusetts, September 28, 1829. Boston: David Walker, 1830.